How important is workplace diversity to your small business? Significant changes in market demographics and the talent required for sustainable competitive advantage make workplace diversity increasingly harder to ignore and more important than ever.
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The scope of diversity in business has broadened over the years. Today’s diversity model impacts every small business – including yours.
“Diversity is about recognizing, respecting and valuing differences … These life experiences and personal perspectives make us react and think differently; approach challenges and solve problems differently; make suggestions and decisions differently; and see different opportunities. Diversity, then, is also about diversity of thought. And superior business performance requires tapping into these unique perspectives.”Chubb Insurance Group (USA)
However, diversity is often overlooked. According to a 2011 Forbes Insight survey of 300 multi-national executives, “41% identified the ‘failure to perceive the connection between diversity and business drivers’ as a barrier to developing and implementing a diversity strategy.” (Source: Deloitte 2011)
Therefore, for companies to truly think like their customers, they must first know and embrace them; it’s an inside job.
In fact, research indicates that workplace diversity delivers marked benefits including improvements in customer satisfaction, productivity, profitability and employee retention. Communicating diversity as a core company value can distinguish your small business in a hyper-competitive market.
Bridging the Gap of Diversity and Company Culture
As a small business owner, you can’t truly address workplace diversity without first paying attention to company culture. After all, it is the lifeblood of your organization; it can make or break your company. “Products and companies are built by people,” Jean-Marc Freuler, CEO of Funding Gates explains. “In order to build the best product in the world … [you] need to get one thing right: the culture.”
Bain & Company research found that “nearly 70% of business leaders agree: Culture provides the greatest source of competitive advantage. In fact, more than 80% believe an organization that lacks a high-performance culture is doomed to mediocrity.”
Your company culture sends the general public a simple message: “This is how we conduct business.” Culture is the glue that holds everything together.
However simplistic your message may be, company culture is comprised of several moving parts; core values, routines, work environment, management structure, branding, and company goals. It tells employees, “This is a great place to work.” It says to customers, “We operate a business that you can relate to and trust.” It declares to all stakeholders, “This is what you can expect from us.”
“Diversity of thought is the end game and demographic diversity is a visible lead indicator.”Deloitte
However as you develop your company culture, consider this: what core values do you live and work by? What is your corporate mentality? Most importantly is it inclusive of everyone? Embracing diversity could be the unique and special differentiator that ushers in a more impactful and profitable future.
How to Foster Workplace Diversity and a Winning Company Culture
Fostering workplace diversity starts with your commitment and leadership – followed by actionable steps to improve your company culture. Here are three simple and tactical ways to make inroads in business diversity.
1. Identify and remedy current diversity obstacles
Solicit candid feedback from key players within (and outside of) your organization. This includes employees, customers, suppliers and your leadership team. Once you have a clear grasp of the business challenges, consider bringing in outside diversity consultants or crowdsource solutions from those your policies impact the most – employees.
While you may be hesitant of soliciting employee feedback, it could represent the one missing dynamic that is desperately needed to re-energize your company and create a winning culture everyone can support and rally behind.
2. Set expectations by encouraging ‘diversity accountability’
As a high performance small business you will be faced with an increasingly diverse talent pool. Walk the talk and maintain accountability by ensuring that diversity is a business imperative. Meet with employee-resource groups, sign off on supplier-diversity goals and incentivize cross-cultural mentoring. Gain traction by holding a senior-level team member accountable for marked diversity improvements.
If you are just getting started, recruit and hire from a diverse talent pool to attain the best and brightest new hires. Also ensure that your marketing and branding efforts speak to the diversity of your customer base.
3. Expand philanthropic endeavors in emerging markets
Send a message of support to potential customers and your local community by investing in community organizations and charities with diverse membership and goals. For example, look into funding minority-led non-profit groups, supporting rural communities, investing in women’s foundations and other areas that align with your business goals.
Focus on the opportunity of adopting a more inclusive and proactive approach to diversity across all areas of your business. Recognizing that your efforts to improve diversity in business can come as a culture shock — reward positive change and lead by example. Your employees, customers and bottom line will thank you for it.
How will you tackle diversity in business and improve your company culture? Let me know in the comments section below.
Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Visa Small Business and I receive compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, however the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s.
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