A Pew Research Center study was recently published revealing that Americans have some conflicting ideas about racial and ethnic diversity in the workplace.
A total of 75 percent of those surveyed believed that it was important and positive to promote diversity in the workplace, while a full 74 percent also believed that hiring should only take into account candidates’ qualifications as opposed to their racial and ethnic backgrounds.
This makes sense in a country built on philosophies of meritocracy — and I think it has something to do with the fact that Americans are less likely to view themselves as global citizens in comparison to citizens of other nations.
For instance, only 15 percent to 20 percent of Americans consider themselves bilingual as 56 percent of Europeans speak two or more languages. In addition, the same Pew study found that three out of 10 Americans said it would bother them to hear people speak a language other than English in public.
With U.S. Census data showing that there will be no racial or ethnic majority in the U.S. by 2050, it means that diversity is a necessity to evolving in a business world that keeps shifting in the direction of globalization.
Clearly, there are some who worry about this development — but in truth, it’s an untapped gold mine for businesses who want to succeed. Thus, diversity and inclusion are more than just political buzzwords as s embracing them is a pathway to greater profit, employee engagement and eventually, will become key to survival.
In fact, companies with diverse genders represented among executives are 21 percent more likely to be performing above the national industry median, and 33% more likely with diverse ethnicities. Companies where employees feel their organization is committed to diversity, increase its ability to innovate by 83 percent.
Example countries such as Singapore and Malaysia with highly diverse workforces, and high rates of diversity represented in companies, rank highly in metrics such as technology-readiness, ease of doing business, and exhibit high GDP growth. Yet, the U.S. hasn’t fully taken advantage of its diversity that’s already present and is lagging in terms of trends for the future. Almost 58% of the boards in the FTSE100 have no ethnic minority presence.
In my own work, I’ve managed to identify why diversity and inclusion are so important, and the exact mechanism that allows greater diversity and inclusion to lead to greater profit: employee engagement. I’ve discovered a fundamental “Profit Formula”: Profit from any employee is equal to the person’s potential times their engagement. You can hire the best employees in the world, with all the best qualifications, but if they’re not engaged in their work and willing to work with one another, you’re not getting anything off the ground.
Companies with a diverse set of employees can activate their greater level of innovation and spur them to produce more and more. And it stands to reason that companies who foster a sense of inclusion among diverse employees can approach a problem or situation from many different angles and will motivate employees to climb the company ladder faster because they feel empowered in sharing their ideas.
When I look at hiring the right employees for a given organization, I look at those with the proper qualifications who can be engaged and who also will fit together into a cohesive whole to be managed well. One of the most consistent — and practical — failings of managers is simply lack of knowledge about people themselves and how they work together. What is inherent in mastering this is developing a team of people with different backgrounds, perspectives and strengths–moving beyond racial and ethnic diversity and considering personality, differing “soft skills,” etc.
If you’re ready to make diversity and inclusion a more deliberate part of your hiring and management process, I would suggest the following measures:
- Make a commitment to having your workforce resemble the community you operate in, and if you do international business, make sure the communities you do business with abroad are represented as well.
- Ask your existing employees for referrals — they will have a good idea in regard to culture and fit.
- Reach out to community organizations who may have ideas about where to find great diverse candidates.
- Diversity training in the workplace is critical to increase employee horizons and foster cooperation.
- Make sure employees have been properly introduced and give them opportunities to get to know one another better.
- Ensure that all employees master new skills and can use them together adequately.
- Involve everyone in communications unless conveying sensitive information.
- Modify activities when necessary so that everyone can participate.
- Actively encourage collaboration, assistance, cooperation, and “open-door” policies.
Demographics in the U.S. are changing (as they’re changing everywhere), and I would encourage business leaders to follow the lead of countries who have had more even ethnic ratios and embrace the development’s potential. Employee engagement and real profit is at stake.
Don’t leave the money on the table — don’t be the business that falls behind.
Vladimir Sidorenko is Founder and CEO of Performia CIS, an international personnel management consulting company. Created in 2001, they specialize in effective solutions to personnel problems and technology for hiring productive employees and contributing to higher profits for companies. Performia International is headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden and Performia CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) is located is Moscow, Russia.
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