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Companies perform better if they’re more inclusive: Take these 3 steps to increase diversity

The business case for diversity and inclusion is more powerful than ever

Companies perform better if they’re more inclusive: Take these 3 steps to increase diversity
[michaeljung / Adobe Stock]

As a South American female engineer working in the technology industry, I understand the power of diversity. I know the impact that different opinions and fresh points of view can have on a company’s ability to innovate and capture new opportunities.

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There is a growing body of research that supports this concept—that diversity is key to building the most efficient and successful teams. One study by Gartner revealed that a highly diverse environment can improve team performance by up to 30%. Diversity can also lead to better decision-making and higher profitability. In fact, according to McKinsey & Company, the most diverse companies outperform their less diverse peers by 36% in profitability.

Diverse and inclusive team members don’t just bring a variety of backgrounds, cultures, and experiences to the table, they also bring new approaches to problem-solving and greater levels of engagement. Here are three ways organizations can create a more inclusive work environment and enable their teams to perform better.

1. Actively recruit diverse candidates.

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Diversity begins with the hiring process. That’s obvious. But it’s not easy. Companies can’t simply wait and hope that diverse candidates walk in the door. They must make an effort to build a base of candidates from diverse backgrounds and draw from that base continuously. You can begin by expanding your campus recruitment program to include schools outside of the mainstream.

By making diversity an integral part of the hiring process, your organization can gain access to a much larger talent pool. This increases the probability of hiring the best people and builds high-performance teams with a more effective set of skills and knowledge.

A common problem in hiring is the propensity of managers to fall into the trap of pattern recognition and lean toward candidates who are similar to them. To avoid that trap, it’s important to involve multiple people from different backgrounds—including different genders, ethnicities, and ages—in the interviewing process and give them a chance to have a conversation with the candidates. Getting a consensus among different people in the organization is the best way to find new employees who will boost diversity and advance your business.

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2: Create channels (and the right environment) for honest feedback.

Many managers offer a casual “How’s it going?” at the start of most meetings. But you won’t often hear answers—not honest ones, anyway. If you want to know how workers truly feel, you have to give them opportunities to speak openly, without fear of repercussion.

Some people are outspoken and other people, because of their personalities, cultures, or backgrounds, are more reserved when it comes to voicing their opinions. You’ll never know what’s really going on at your company if you only hear the outspoken people. That’s why it is critical for managers to create other ways for employees to share what they’re feeling or experiencing. A good way to do this is through one-on-one conversations in which employees are encouraged to ask meaningful questions and speak their mind.

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This kind of inclusive environment is crucial for promoting greater trust and engagement, and ultimately for boosting team productivity and performance.

3: Think and talk about diversity—and mean it.

Inclusivity is just what the word implies. It starts with a conversation that includes everyone’s views. It’s not a policy written by executives and delivered in a group email. Talk to your staff and learn what is important to them. Initiate a discussion about diversity and maintain it. This is important. Don’t ask once and go away. Keep talking about inclusivity and listening to all viewpoints. Offer regular updates on the topic so workers are assured that inclusivity is an ongoing process at your company.

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Sustaining the diversity conversation will go a long way toward creating a greater sense of belonging among your employees. This sense of belonging can bring substantial benefits to your bottom line. The Harvard Business Review reports that a high sense of belonging can result in a 56% spike in job performance, a 50% reduction in turnover risk, and a 75% reduction in sick days.

FINAL TAKEAWAY

Nurturing inclusion and diversity is not just the right thing to do—it’s the best thing to do for companies that want to get ahead and stay ahead. The business case for diversity and inclusion is more powerful than ever, as it consistently proves effective in enabling greater access to talent, more productive employees, and higher levels of innovation.

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Jackie Olson is Vice President of Sales and Marketing – Americas at ams OSRAM.

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