A growing body of research shows that organisations with diverse teams that work well together achieve increased profitability, are more innovative, have stronger governance and better problem-solving abilities.
In fact, a 2018 Boston Consulting Group Study found that companies with more diverse management teams have 19 per cent higher revenues due to innovation. It makes sense.
Each employee has the potential to bring to bear his or her own perspectives, ideas and experiences and these can be powerful in creating tailored solutions for a diverse clientele.
Even as companies adopt technology more rapidly than ever before, let’s remember that algorithms must be designed to, without bias, deliver bespoke solutions for diverse customers.
To do this well, organisations’ workforces, especially teams that design and execute such projects, need to be able to empathise with customers. Teams that mirror a company’s clientele are more likely to do this successfully.
Multi-generational and gender-diverse teams that include people with different political beliefs, educational backgrounds, socio-economic backgrounds, sexual orientations and disabilities, among other things, also enhance talent attraction.
Younger people we speak with often say that they appreciate diverse workplaces, seeing them as a melding of varied life experiences and individual perspectives that they can learn from. But diversity without equity and inclusion is meaningless.
Firstly, there must be an understanding that equity is distinct from equality. Equality means providing the same opportunities to all, but equity goes a step further. It involves recognising that we each have a different starting point, and policies and actions must be designed to make up for the imbalances to level the playing field.
Secondly, when it comes to inclusion, companies must take active steps to ensure that each person within the team is given ample and varied opportunities to contribute. Policies and processes must be designed to show that the perspectives of different groups of people are valued and integrated into the workplace.
A 2022 survey conducted in partnership with Slack’s Future Forum which asked more than 10,000 knowledge workers across six countries to evaluate their companies’ DEI performance revealed that nearly a third of organisations are stuck in the “compliant” stage.
Clearly much work needs to be done to connect DEI to business initiatives and outcomes, and to ensure that it’s integrated and sustainable. This calls for a systemic shift in corporate culture.
Organisations need to create with intention, a diverse workforce that capitalises on individual strengths and internalises an ongoing commitment to the process.
As a start, all leaders within the organisation must be sold on it. This requires effective communication initiatives to enhance their understanding of the merits of DEI and demonstrating the benefits with concrete examples. Most of all, they must know what’s in it for them in terms of a vision of the future.
DEI communication is vital in shifting organisational culture towards the language of inclusion, intentionality and belonging. It touches on every aspect of the organisation’s character and operations, from how recruitment ads are written to whether internal feedback channels are designed in a way that is friendly to both introverts and extroverts.
A culture of candour contributes significantly to psychological safety which is the bedrock of diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces. Each employee should feel free to ask questions, discuss new ideas, bring up concerns, and even make mistakes.
For such an environment to flourish, people need to be equipped with not only the ability to have difficult conversations constructively, but also the ability to listen to others.
The biggest complaint we get from our clients is that a lot of communication initiatives tend to come across as top-down. This does little to persuade people. Each leader therefore must learn how to embody DEI in everyday executive communication so it comes across as natural and organic. They also need to be able to coach DEI champions within each team.
To aid communication, we’ll have to dig deep. For instance, in order to communicate with empathy, people have to first be open to putting themselves in another person’s shoes. This creates an empathetic culture bottom-up which is more sustainable.
Empathy comes with many benefits. When we are able to expand our minds to include the reality of others who differ from us, we inevitably become more aware of our unconscious biases and can eliminate them more easily. To make DEI work, it’s time we moved past compliance to truly reap its benefits.
Many such tools exist in the Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) model. Working with the context of a person’s experience, NLP bypasses content. People are trained to move past differences and work with the situation at hand, focusing on the best solution going forward.
Sylvia is a qualified Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) Master Trainer. She started her business in Sydney and is now based in Singapore.