If leveraged in the right way, I have found that building and nurturing a diverse workplace can indeed create competitive advantage and push improved profitability. How? I’ll explain, but first I’ll define what I mean by ‘diversity’. Simply put, the concept of diversity encompasses attributes both inside and out. It’s not only what we can readily see upon introduction to someone new such as ethnicity, but also all the complexity within: beliefs, sexual orientation, problem-solving tactics, cultural background, life lessons learned, etc. With that in mind, here are a few reasons why I believe a diverse workplace can create competitive advantage and drive higher profits:
1. Strength in One Mind Filled with Disparate Knowledge: Some time ago I read a biography of sorts called “The Emperor of Scent”. It is based on the life and mind of Luca Turin. Luca is an incredibly interesting and talented guy, but what struck me most in reading the book was his fascination with life and subsequent interest in so many different disciplines. Ultimately, through these disparate interests he built a knowledge base which led him to discover scent as mechanistically vibration versus shape-based. This ground-breaking discovery began to fill in the gaps of long held shape-based theories. It’s in the seemingly disconnected that the most powerful connections are made. Those connections could be the means to disruptive innovation or solutions to your industry’s toughest problems. If you think of your workforce as one mind, the more you can fill it with disparate knowledge, or individuals from diverse backgrounds with diverse ways of thinking, the better suited you become to solve complex problems and drive innovation. Two engines which can drive significant profit growth.
2. Diversity Breeds Diversity: This one may sound a bit far-fetched, but having a diverse workforce mirroring that of the community provides a fluidity moving through the office doors. I’ve found with decreasing levels of that fluidity or balance, the more I’ve felt I need to shut my ‘real-self’ off and turn my ‘work-self’ on. Stepping into a monotone environment, I feel an urge to melt into the scene. And when I melt, my creativity is stifled. But when I show up to contribute in a vibrant place filled with similar diversity as the world around me, I am comforted. And within that comfort, I am inspired to bring more of myself to work every day. The diversity around me, inspires more of what makes me different to come forth. Diversity breeding diversity.
3. Know Your Client / Customer / Consumer Better: When you have a workforce that is representative of your target client, customer, and/or consumer base you inevitably become better poised to serve that base. And let’s be honest, the U.S. is becoming a minority-majority nation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2014 there were more than 20 million children under 5 years old living in the U.S., and 50.2 percent of them were minorities. In order to stay ahead of the demands, habits, and needs of the people you serve, you must have an in-tune workforce. And that means building and fostering diversity at every level in the organization.