The issue of workplace diversity has been an important one for many years. While the focus of diversity efforts shifts over time, and may vary depending upon the region where it’s discussed, the goal of your diversity initiatives should be the same regardless of whether your emphasis is on gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, education level, personal history, or whatever measure you might use.
What should that goal be? We can disagree about many possible goals: a discussion about equal opportunity or simply doing the right thing often leads to debates over the meaning of “equal,” “opportunity” or “right.” But the one thing all business leaders should be able to agree upon is the importance of business success.
Studies have shown that companies with strong diversity programs tend to do better — that is, show higher revenues and profits — than companies that don’t. Why could that be?
Well, for one thing, encouraging the development of a diverse workforce leads to more extensive outreach in the recruiting process and access to a broader talent pool. A company made up only of white straight Christian males (or, for that matter, bi-curious Eastern European female Buddhists) often recruits other people like themselves, and that limits the talent pool dramatically. Good employees are not defined by skin color or religion or any other features except for their skills and their ability to meet your company’s needs. The bigger your potential talent pool, the more opportunities you will have to bring in the best people, rather than just taking whoever you can get in order to fill a position.
Another aspect of the HR equation involves recruiting and retention. Companies with well established diversity policies have a leg up on the competition when it comes to recruiting. Many potential employees, especially junior ones, appreciate a company’s diversity efforts even if they are not in the main diversity target group(s) themselves. Diversity programs speak to a company’s character and its commitment to excellence rather than simply preservation of the status quo.
Of course, companies with a more diverse workforce see greater opportunity for innovation by bringing together multiple perspectives Their employees also tend to be more reflective of broader customer perspectives, which can lead to better solutions, and thus, more revenue.
Bottom line: employees are more engaged in a diverse workplace, and the opportunity to recruit the best employees and provide a workplace that enables innovation leads to greater business success.
That’s a goal we can all get behind.