As we keep on the path to an ever more globalized world, different cultures around the globe are more frequently put into contact with each other, each bringing unique ways of looking at things – and everyone can learn a thing or two from someone from a different background.
This is also true in the corporate world, where cultural inclusion in the workplace is paramount to a successful company. Culture and diversity are two of the most important trends in the modern-day workplace, leading to increased revenue, a happy workforce, and a positive company-wide reputation.
However, diversity isn’t simply a matter of hiring diverse candidates simply to meet quotas and boost public perception – it needs to be done thoughtfully and purposely. As Reverend Jesse Jackson once stated, “Inclusion is not a matter of political correctness. It is the key to growth.”
But don’t just take his word for it. This is backed by research: In a study from 2018, McKinsey found that companies with gender diversity in their management teams were 21% more likely to be profitable, while those with ethnic and cultural diversity were 33% more likely.
With that being said, here are some of the many benefits of cultural diversity in the workplace.
4 Benefits of cultural diversity:
Positive effect on the bottom line
The most obvious benefit that diversity is in increasing the amount of money that your company is able to bring in. That’s right: Diversity has a sizable impact on the bottom line.
This coincides with DiversityInc’s recent poll of the 50 most diverse companies. The public companies polled were on average 24% more profitable than the S&P 500 and, while only consisting of 7% of the Fortune 500, they made up 22% of its total revenue.
Janina Kugel, former Chief Diversity Officer at Siemens, can directly attest to the effect diversity can have on the bottom line. “Diversity strengthens our innovative capacity, unleashes the potential of Siemens’ employees and thereby directly contributes to our business success.”
Throughout the globe, companies such as Siemens are seeing the tangible benefits that come with employment of a diverse staff. Even still, diversity remains alarmingly low, especially in the tech industry. But this is a mistake. More company-wide diversity equates with greater adaptability to markets that homogenous workforces wouldn’t be able to access otherwise. This means your company will be able to more easily spot gaps in the market and have better planning, development, and execution to gain access to these newfound opportunities.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and leading diversity thought leader says it best: “We are building products that people with very diverse backgrounds use, and I think we all want our company makeup to reflect the makeup of the people who use our products.”
With new perspectives among the workforce, cultural diversity also opens up greater interactions with different communities. New doors are opened, with a heightened ability for organizations to grow and thrive within them.
Diverse workforces are also better able to give you insight into other countries – for example, the ever-burgeoning Chinese market – and have a better chance of meeting new or changing consumer behavior in these markets.
Blending skill sets increases innovation and creativity
Moving on from direct effects to the bottom line, diverse workforces also increase the general innovative and creative outputs from your workforce – which as a side bonus, also has a positive effect on profit margin.
Diverse employees bring diverse skill sets from their specific upbringing: their personal experiences, talents, and personalities. With these skill sets, they can come up with out-of-the-box solutions that others might not have thought of.
On the flipside, workforces without cultural differences will more commonly try to solve problems in the same ways because they have similar backgrounds. Being similar means less discussion, and the whole company suffers for it.
Homogenous teams may seem easier to work with – there is a certain comfort to working with people who are just like you after all – but diversity breeds competition, leading to healthy rivalries that work to optimize company processes for heightened efficiency.
As the Harvard Business Review writer stated, “By breaking up workplace homogeneity, you can allow your employees to become more aware of their own potential biases — entrenched ways of thinking that can otherwise blind them to key information and even lead them to make errors in decision-making processes.”
With different minds working together, there is more potential to solve problems and avoid these inherent biases. This means that companies with diverse workforces are more likely to perform to their highest potential.
This is also backed by research, which shows that opinions from colleagues regarded as diverse were much more effective. One study even showed that people were much more likely to consider conflicting opinions from someone regarded as different over someone with a similar background to them – even if they say the same exact thing!
“Unconscious perceptions govern many of the most important decisions we make and have a profound effect on the lives of many people in many ways,” said Howard Ross, Founder of Cook Ross Inc. “Unconscious patterns can play out in ways that are so subtle they are hard to spot.”
Because they are subtle and sometimes hard to fully quantify, many companies choose to invest their resources in other areas, ignoring diversity and inclusivity in the process. While it takes a conscious, team-wide effort to instill such an environment, the benefits can manifest in myriad ways – nearly all to the overall benefit of the company.
More diversity means a happier team
Employee happiness is imperative for a well-functioning business. A happy employee is a loyal employee, who will often work harder to increase the brand image.
Inclusive businesses attract talented, ambitious, and globally-minded individuals who appreciate the opportunity to grow within such a company. This also has an effect on the bottom line, as happier employees often equate with a high retention rate as these team members choose to stay with a company that promotes cultural inclusion.
Working with different cultures can also be personally and professionally enriching. Bonding over cultural differences can help people become more globally minded and break down preconceived prejudices or biases.
The sharing of experiences can result in each employee gaining a greater sense of camaraderie, increasing their general sense of happiness working for a company that promotes such inclusivity.
Pat Wadors, Chief Talent Officer at ServiceNow, has long advocated for diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. With years of experience in the field, she knows firsthand how diversity can cultivate a sense of belonging for employees – ultimately increasing the general happiness of the workforce.
“You may not know what it's like to be gay or Latino, but you probably have friends or family who do,” she said.“When we listen and celebrate what is both common and different, we become a wiser, more inclusive, and better organization.”
Building a positive company reputation
Being able to boast a positive reputation online is crucial to succeeding in today’s digital era. Diversity and inclusivity also play a role here: one of the best ways to build up a positive brand reputation is through employing a workforce with people from different backgrounds.
Companies that recruit and encourage individuals from a wide range of backgrounds generally gain a reputation for being a good employer, meaning that talented people will line up to work for you, making the recruitment process a walk in the park.
Because diverse workforces are able to draw talent from a wider base of recruits, the workforce itself will tend to be more qualified. This has an effect on your company’s reputation among its clients, who will see that your workforce is highly qualified and give your company rave reviews in online spaces or even recommend you to other clients.
Theresa J. Whitmarsh, Executive Director of the Washington State Investment Board, puts it bluntly: “If you exclude 50% of the talent pool, it’s no wonder you find yourself in a war for talent.”
Simply put, the perfect employee is out there, you just have to cast a wide net to attract them – and to do this most effectively, diversity and inclusivity should remain at the forefront of any recruiting strategy.
Wrapping things up
To close this article, I’ll leave you with a beautiful quote – not from a diversity thought leader – but from retired NASA Astronaut Frank Borman: “When you're finally up on the moon, looking back at the earth, all these differences and nationalistic traits are pretty well going to blend and you're going to get a concept that maybe this is really one world and why the hell can't we learn to live together like decent people?”
When you put it like that, it sounds so simple. Diversity and Inclusivity are more than catch-all phrases in the business world. In 2020, if you’re not prioritizing diversity and inclusivity in your workforce, you’re missing out on vital opportunities for your company to succeed.
Talview recently organized a webinar on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equality in Recruitment during Black History Month with diversity hiring and recruiting experts, Keirsten Greggs and Torin Ellis.
You can access the webinar here.