Raise your hand if you have heard any of these phrases: “Diversity is good for business.” “It’s the right thing to do.” Or “diverse teams are more profitable than non-diverse ones.” These are all excellent sentiments with backing business cases on why investing in diversity is so key, but they miss the biggest reason = it is a massive liability if they don’t. When companies choose to not properly and intentionally focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), they set themselves up for future failure.
New talent is looking different every day, yet board rooms and leadership overall remain the same. This is short sightedness at its best. This problem becomes more magnified when we learn that economists point to 2045 being a tipping point for this country. The U.S. population is estimated to be 24.6% Hispanic, 13.1% black, 7.9% Asian, and 3.8% mixed race. The percentage of white Americans is expected to fall under 52%, as per Brookings Institution fellow William Frey’s analysis—and a younger generation of minorities and mixed-race people will make up the difference. In younger age groups, minorities will outnumber white Americans this decade itself. 1
Porter Braswell, the cofounder and CEO of diversity hiring startup Jopwell says organizations are openly discussing this problem now more than ever. Braswell states, “The diversity challenge is something that’s going to exist forever,” he says. “My belief is that by 2040, because people know a diverse workforce is good for business,” he says, “that they understand if they want to sell products to this new demographic, they better have people in [positions] of power that understand that demographic.” And if they can’t keep up? Talent will find its way elsewhere, he says.
It is important that executives understand cultural relevance because being able to anticipate diversity will be vital for survival. So, being proactive not reactive is critical to a business’s survival. Its why Noah built the ark before the rain came. “If there’s an unwillingness to revamp the culture to meet the needs and desires of this changing workforce, then those companies are going to be left behind,” Braswell says. “Talent is going to shift over to a lot of these smaller, more disruptive, more nimble companies.”
Tools like attracting and retaining talent is inevitably key to sustainable success. But I urge leaders and key influencers on the need to inspire those under and around you. Great leaders give people something to believe in – not something to do. Below are GSM Consulting’s tips for tackling problematic diversity & inclusion concerns in the workplace.
Lead with Inclusion – Everyday:
I often tell my clients one of the most effective ways to improve the work culture is for leaders to practice inclusion. The reality is there is no diversity without inclusion. If minorities of color are brought into a work environment and their opinions are being overlooked or excluded, then companies are only perpetuating the problem. Management that establishes respect, values all employees, and makes equitable decisions will undoubtedly prosper the most. Its building a “we before I” type of culture that will foster trust with the staff. Think plural rather than singular. Equally, people who lead with compassion and curiosity form stronger and more genuine bonds with their team. Remember this thought – employees do not leave their job; they leave their managers.
Understanding your unawareness:
Managers often tend to hire people who remind them of themselves – self-fulfilling prophecy. This tendency harms diversity and inhibits team performance. When we hire people just like us, it reduces innovation, limits growth and perspectives, and increases the probability of conflict with team members with opposite profiles. The only way to think about talent inclusively is to embrace people and team members who are different from you. Realize that keeping the status quo will never move the needle.
Whether in meetings or other work settings, take the opportunity to share the stage with your colleague(s) who are of different races and backgrounds. To create impactful and meaningful change, we must accept people not just tolerate. It is about celebrating people and acknowledging their talents.
Become better at looking around the corner:
Junior and Mid-level managers are told to develop professionally each year during their annual reviews. However, my question for executive leadership is how are they developing and improving year after year? Learning and practicing DEI is a great solution because it enables you to become more people centric. The ability to see talent before others see it while unlocking human potential is crucial to running a high-performance team. Challenge yourself to recognize potential because the best managers are great talent agents.
We often look for talent going to the same well using the same approach – the “best candidate” will be the best fit. This strategy unfortunately undermines efforts to boost diversity and hinders creativity. It eliminates celebrating the adversity in diversity.
One of the biggest mistakes that managers make when they evaluate talent is overrating the importance of their resume, hard skills, and expertise. The World Economic Forum predicts that 65% of today’s jobs will no longer be around in 15 years. 2 This means that leaders should not put as big of an emphasis on the current educational curriculum, which is primarily designed to prepare people for present, rather than future jobs. Companies may not be able to guess what those jobs will be, but workers will be better prepared to do them if they have soft skills like emotional intelligence, drive, and learnability that are too often overlooked in the hiring process.
Lastly, I will share with you one final piece of advice – stay consistent. A SHRM report recently noted that 41% of managers are “too busy” to implement diversity initiatives. We cannot avoid these uncomfortable conversations. If people and companies are committed to DEI as they say they are, understand your barriers and reduce them. The reason why diversity is a journey is because we must unlearn things that we have been taught our entire lives.
Non-diverse leadership often lack confidence, ability, or lived experience to work in this space. It’s no knock on their good intentions but it is difficult to design policy with no frame of reference. As Mark Wiseman, Senior Director for BlackRock points out an issue facing diversity is “most CEOs get execution is a bigger challenge.” 3 Being able to bring purpose to life sometimes means working with a consultant or outside agency to help with your organization’s blind spots. Issues first need to be faced before they can be fixed. I am encouraged seeing the level of engagement from leaders on their desire for these changes. When we are united and committed to adapting, becoming an ally, and a change agent, together we can overcome these hurdles.
1. Fast company 2. Business Harvard Review 3. business2community