July 18, 2022
Employee Diversity: the Importance, the Challenges, the Benefits
On just about any social platform, hiring managers are only a couple of scrolls away from a conversation about employee diversity.
Is it always positive? No.
But do we need to have these conversations? Absolutely.
From Startups to blue chips, employee diversity isn’t just a buzzword or a nice-to-have, or a target to shoot for in 10 years time – it’s a must-have for any business that wants to thrive. And it’s a must-have right now, not later down the line.
We all know that, while pushing for DEI is often paraded publicly by organizations, rarely do we see any real figures or evidence. Let’s put aside the politics, the personalities, and the parroting.
Let’s get real and talk about why companies must ensure employee diversity if they want to become the best in their space.
To put it bluntly – the benefits of employee diversity are no longer up for debate.
The benefits of employee diversity
McKinsey’s 2020 report on DEI boldly states that “Diversity wins”. And it’s startlingly clear that it does.
The most gender diverse companies financially outperform the least gender diverse by 48%
The most ethnically and culturally diverse companies are 36% more profitable than the least diverse
How is this incredible performance possible? It’s actually quite simple – and totally makes sense when you think about it.
Diverse employees serve diverse customers. Different experiences in a business will align at some point with the shared experiences of customers. These perspectives are beneficial to the customer base, which builds a lasting relationship, but they’re even more beneficial to the company itself.
True innovation comes from new perspectives. If your employees are all men of similar ages, similar neurotypes, and similar abilities – their perspectives will be echoed back to them with every interaction at work. Their solutions will be broadly the same. Conversations and ideas, too.
Creativity and innovation can easily stall when everyone’s on the same page, every single time – with no healthy challenge.
Silos of thought.
But if you add in new brains with novel ways of thinking, different abilities, genders, life experiences – suddenly, the old problem of creative stagnation evaporates. And problems you never even knew about are identified.
This can transform a business overwhelmingly for the better, reflected in the remarkable performance of diverse organizations compared to those lacking any real DEI effort.
The best of the best, in any field, are also the most diverse. Sports teams, research teams, software developers, product designers, musical acts, TV writing staff – you name the endeavour, and diversity improves the result.
Diversity is not a result of their success; something they could only afford to engage with once they’d become the best. Success itself is the result of their diversity.
Companies who embrace and champion employee diversity are more profitable in every way because of this vast well of experience and talent. Best of all? The most diverse companies enjoy better employee engagement, happiness, and trust.
Key benefits of employee diversity
Proven impact on bottom line
Boosted innovation and creativity
Alignment with customer values
Better employee engagement, trust, and retention
The truth is, most of us already know that diversity is good for business. HR departments and informed teams are actively pushing for it.
So why isn’t change happening faster?
Employee diversity challenges
There are lots of challenges that companies face on employee diversity. It’s pretty complex stuff – but by far, the biggest are:
Measurement and goal tracking
Company culture gets a lot of blame (and rightly so if it’s toxic), but in most cases, leaders and HR just want what’s best for the company and staff. Without having access to the information or insight they need to make a decision, all they’ve got to go on is intuition.
But that intuition is often biased.
Educating and informing decision-makers and leadership is the first real step towards change – but only if we can check our biases at the door. And what about measurement and goal tracking? Without the right plan or the right tools, we’ll only ever be guessing.
1. Overcoming bias
To get this right, you’ll need processes, data, training, and tools. Here’s what your roadmap could look like:
1. Check your pulse
What’s employee diversity like at your organization today?
2. Use employee data to predict and counter bias.
Are certain groups reprimanded or praised more often?
3. Document, track, and target bias
Proactively follow up on issues and track the progress to resolution.
Give teams the knowledge and tools to combat bias.
5. Invest in tech
Use employee engagement tools and HCM tools.
Read our full article on how to overcome bias with HR data.
2. Engaging and informing leadership
Once you become aware of bias and know where you stand on DEI, you can make a compelling case to leadership that more needs to be done.
Start by highlighting the key benefits and industry benchmarks against your own data – showing any disparity with your key competitors.
If there’s a solid case, then getting sign-off should be straightforward – and if you also come armed with a plan, you’ll really have decision-makers listening.
3. Set goals and measure success
Your organizational goals are different from every other company, but you still need to set and benchmark your goals.
Let’s say one of your goals is to have gender-equal leadership within two years. You need to know the current mix and hiring pipeline to establish whether you need to diversify your candidate pool. You need to measure at key milestones: after six months, a year, and after each significant hire.
Using this data, you can present the results of your efforts more effectively. This gives you a better framework and sense of accomplishment as milestones are achieved – and importantly, it keeps leadership on board and in the loop.
What employee diversity really means to the world
DEI means so much more than money. It has a wider importance to culture, civilization, and human improvement that will echo through the ages.
The mark it will leave on the world is far more substantial than higher profit and growth for one organization: it’s better for everyone, everywhere.
Humans are deeply flawed, but we have the capacity to recognize this and improve ourselves. There’d be no need for DEI in an ideal world, but history, politics, and the remnants of ancient ideologies resonate throughout our cultures.
DEI is just a small step towards a world where, maybe one day, who you are is valued over what you are – and where opportunity is truly equal for all.
Don’t you want your company to embody that value?