The benefit of diverse perspectives for the best return for your company
I am finding that in today’s political, social and economic climate, companies need to ensure that their workplace culture has a sustaining and measurably diverse workforce. When I use the word diversity, I am not only referring to cultural diversity, but also to a rich diversity of perspectives at the decision-making level. While attaining strong diversity in leadership has a well-documented return on investment (ROI)*, many companies remain challenged by the necessary culture shift that is needed to sustain these numbers.
While there are many tools available to help build diverse teams, my favorite tools come from the fast-growing field of neuroscience, which can be applied to recruitment, retention, and conflict resolution. These tools are specifically used to support a feeling of belonging by all of the employees in a company. How well employees feel like they “belong” in the company, where they spend the majority of their day, deeply impacts retention and ROI. The specific ways we use neuroscience with our company clients, is by helping them build their company vision, and then supporting the implementation of that vision. We do this by addressing the conflict patterns of the management team, while also supporting meaningful actions that bolster their company vision. The vision creation plus meaningful steps are grounded in the ability of our brains to develop new habits (neuroplasticity). Defining and implementing these new habits and tools into your company can help companies see ROI results. In addition, many company leaders report that employees’ overall feelings of positivity increases and that the leaders themselves feel like they have the tools they need to make meaningful positive changes in their company.
By building even one of these tools into your company’s current reporting systems, you can have a measurable impact on retention, as well as supporting more indirect impacts, such as creating an environment where a diversity of perspectives are incorporated into a business strategy decision.
- Systems first. The first step here is for the owners or c-suite (leadership teams) of the company to make a commitment to diversity, and then to start building some of the systems or processes that will reflect this commitment’s success. Utilizing existing software and reporting tools by adding one or two additional data collection points can make a huge difference. For example, an easy first step is to add the following language to any job description for your company: “Our company is committed to having a diverse team.” That may then lead to the question, “Now, how do we do this?”
- Hiring. Create a detailed checklist of core values and leadership traits your company seeks in all of its team members, and then use the checklist in the hiring process in addition to job-specific questions. For example, we love the three leadership traits of being growth-oriented, vulnerable and open-minded to help our clients screen applicants. These great traits come from an excellent book on building company systems, called Traction by Gino Wickman. Other tools include personality tests or using internal factors that help see the applicants as contributors to the broad diversity of perspectives of the company.
- Retaining. Make sure your company employees are asked at least twice a year, “Overall, how satisfied are you with your employment with our company?” and ask them to rate their satisfaction on a scale of 1-5, in addition to a follow-up question to learn more about their rating. If you ask this 1-5 question using an online form like Google Forms or SurveyMonkey, you will have a great data set to inform your company as to how well you are building a culture of belonging for all of your employees. As an added benefit, the tool may offer a chance to address any critical issues facing your employees, which may not have been otherwise known about. Owners of smaller companies may simply take employees to lunch or coffee to check in.
These are just three of many, many tools that are freely available. It is important to emphasize, that for diversity to be sustainable, a significant commitment to diversity as one of the core values is necessary. This choice shifts the burden to the company’s leadership to scrutinize past efforts related to employee recruitment and retention under a new lens.
* The Sodexo Corporation is one of many examples of how an organization exponentially increased its return on investment through D&I (Diversity and Inclusion) initiatives. For every $1 it has invested in mentoring, it has seen a return of $19, according to Dr. Rohini Anand, the company’s Senior Vice President and Global Chief Diversity Officer.
The Medici Effect, explains how a diverse team has a far better chance of generating unlikely idea combinations that can be truly groundbreaking, because people from different cultures and backgrounds approach any given challenge from different perspectives. A study of 28 teams found those that were heterogeneous solved complex tasks better than the homogeneous teams. They noted the diverse teams exhibited a higher level of creativity and a broader thought process. (Henley Management College, UK; Ford Germany)