Diversity & Inclusion is one of the hottest topics in the corporate world at the moment, and it’s easy to see why. Although these initiatives were once considered “nice to have,” they’re now being seen as a vital part of the business case, with significant effects on a company’s bottom line. Research conducted in 2017 found that companies with the highest rate of racial diversity brought in nearly 15 times more sales revenue on average than those with lower rates, and companies that were seen to embrace gender and racial diversity experienced greater customer loyalty. What these powerful statistics show is that when companies invest in diversity and inclusion practices, the payoff can be significant.
Traditionally, diversity and inclusion has connoted outward characteristics like race, ethnicity and gender, but today, professionals in these areas are increasingly seeing that impactful diversity efforts have the potential to go far beyond those categories alone. In my roles as a leader in corporate social responsibility and well as diversity and inclusion, I’ve taken a hard look at a variety of other areas where diversity can be observed, as well as how hiring and talent development managers can tap into those areas in their day-to-day roles.
One key area that we look at is diversity of experience. Surely, relevant work and life experience can be crucial to one’s ability to be successful in a new role. However, individuals who bring a variety of experiences outside of the norm can be leaders of innovation and creative thinking within a new role. For example, imagine an individual looking to join an internal communications role. A communications and human resources background would of course be helpful, but why not consider individuals who have worked, perhaps, for non-profit organizations or political organizations? These individuals would likely be able to bring insights about employee communication, organizational efforts, and more.
Cultural exposure is another area of diversity that D&I professionals should not lose sight of. In an increasingly globalized economy, considering where individuals have traveled and worked (or where they were born, grew up, or studied) can be an identifier of a diverse area of thought that they can bring to the organization. While this area isn’t always one that’s listed on a resume, it’s a topic worth broaching in a hiring setting. It can also indicate an appetite for personal growth, an interest in new people and ideas, and can help bring forth candidates who may be suitable for new global company endeavors.
Another area of diversity is in one’s style and approach. When putting together a team, I tend to look for people who have strengths in different areas. Together, their balance of strengths and weaknesses often means they are more prepared and can easily adapt. Some individuals are great at addressing large audiences, while others work well in small groups or one-to-one. Some carry themselves in a buttoned-up way that can reflect organization and attention to detail; others carry themselves in a more relaxed way that can be valuable in developing personal and business relationships. In terms of approach, asking questions related to problem-solving in the hiring process can be a solid indicator of how someone will take action within your organization. Do they prefer tried-and-true practices, or testing and learning? Looking for individuals who bring different styles and approaches to the table can help build out a team that will be ready for anything.
While we shouldn’t discount diversity in the sense of gender and race – acknowledging that many industries still have a lot of work to do in these areas – we must recognize that diversity encompasses a number of other areas, too. And gaining a variety of points of view within your teams will not only help you build a team with a variety of strengths, it will also create an environment of unity, innovation and creativity.