Diversity leads us to consider new perspectives, think outside our routine and norm, and in many cases, make better decisions. A report by Cloverpop showed that companies with the most diverse teams, including diversity of age, gender, geographic location, and more, made better decisions 87% of the time with high statistical confidence.
These new ways of thinking and decision making often lead to high financial returns, as well. Studies by McKinsey show that companies in the top 25% for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to see financial returns greater than their respective industry medians. In comparison, those in the top 25% for gender diversity are 15% more likely.
Currently, many workforces are lacking in diversity, which causes us to miss out on the benefits of a well-rounded team. However, you can overcome this common pitfall with a more intentional, aware leadership approach to diversity.
Building effective diversity initiatives
As a leader, you have an opportunity that others on your team may not have - you can make changes that lead to a more diverse, inclusive team. While it may sound simple when focusing on the upside, creating truly effective diversity initiatives can be complicated.
As wonderful as diverse teams can be, they may also face more conflict, especially while others adapt to having so many other perspectives represented. The benefit is that decisions can be more well-rounded since the team has a chance to consider a more comprehensive array of factors as people from other backgrounds offer their feedback. The downside, though, is that they may disagree more, especially when they have different perspectives. When your team doesn’t know how to manage conflict effectively, tension can build beneath the surface and make it nearly impossible for everyone to collaborate.
However, this should not be a reason to avoid pursuing true diversity. Instead, it means that your diversity initiatives should also include some form of conflict management for your team so they can begin to communicate empathetically with one another. You can learn more about how to handle conflict on your team by checking out our full-length blog post.
Design the diversity initiative that will best suit your team’s needs. Consider who is missing from the table and set goals to find and hire people that help fill empty spaces with a new perspective. Most importantly, make sure this initiative focuses on supporting and encouraging your existing team members, as well.
Support the existing diversity on your team
You can’t have an effective team without supporting the diversity that’s currently on your team. Doing this involves making sure your team is supported in an inclusive, equitable way.
Here are a few ways to support your team’s existing diversity:
Make the appropriate promotions
Invite diverse feedback
Encourage a culture of empathy
This means exploring your own potential implicit biases that may be preventing you from giving promotions where they’re deserved. For example, research from LeanIn.oOrg and McKinsey & Company that women are less likely to get promoted to management positions. Another study shows that while women negotiate as often as men, they are more likely to be turned down for raises.
Reflect on current employees, their backgrounds, and their current roles and salaries. Do individuals’ roles and pay match their abilities and contributions? Are there individuals who aren’t being paid as much as others in comparable positions?
Being aware of areas in which promotions and raises may have lacked in past years will help ensure that you and your team make the best, most equitable decisions in the future.
Allow everyone on the team to voice their opinions and seek out the views of those who are underrepresented, especially for more significant decisions. This will ensure that you’re maintaining some sort of balance, even if you may not currently have a well-balanced team.
Not everyone on your team will have an easy time working with people who have different opinions, perspectives, and ways of working. This can lead to tension if not managed properly. Learn more about how you can establish a culture of empathy on your team for effective communication and collaboration.
Provide the right resources
As your team diversifies and practices inclusivity, everyone must have access to resources that ensure they’re moving in the right direction. While most may be onboard with the changes, it’s important not to underestimate the bias that may linger within many employees. One of the best ways to combat this is with the appropriate education. Discuss diversity and bias in diversity openly in meetings so employees can engage in dialogue, require (and pay for) diversity or bias training for employees, and gift everyone with books that discuss these issues. The most important thing to remember is to not avoid the discussion just because it may be uncomfortable. Understanding where your team stands regarding this issue will help you know what you need to work on most moving forward.
Here are a few additional resources to help you get started:
Diversity brings an appreciation for different backgrounds and perspectives, allowing room for new ideas, well-rounded decisions, and deeply thoughtful discussions about complex issues. While it can seem challenging to seek out the right people and be more intentional about hiring diverse, well-rounded teams, the benefits are unparalleled. Not only will it boost your company’s financial success, but it will also encourage a more empathetic culture that recognizes and appreciates everyone’s unique strengths and perspectives, rather than boxing everyone into a traditional, uninventive mold that leads to internal frustration and a decrease in team effectiveness.