If you were to believe whitepapers and press releases, you’d think every company is bending over backwards to diversify their teams. While the business world is making strides in the right direction, workplace diversity is still years away from where it should be.
You should stop thinking about diversity as a buzzword. Instead, think about it as an ethos. One that can even get you an increase in profits. A study from McKinsey showed that companies with a diverse group of executives could expect a 15-35% increase in profitability compared to those that do not. Once your company starts leaning into diversity, you can expect that to be reflected in your bottom line.
Embracing diversity is deeper than adding a few team members. Diverse policies should run up and down your business. And there’s always the potential to miss a couple spots along the way. Here are 5 elements of diversity that you might have skipped over:
1. Your Supply Chain
Diversity doesn’t begin and end in your office. A diverse company is one with diverse employees and teams. It also has diverse partners, clients, and suppliers. Your supply chain is a crucial part to the success of your business. And it’s an element that often goes unconsidered. While there may be a number of businesses looking to diversify their vendors, doing so can prove a challenge. Even setting aside diversity concerns, keeping track of every supplier is often a full-time job or much more.
The process of supplier diversification is a complex task that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Luckily, supplier diversity vendor management systems such as Certifiably Diverse have been founded to help navigate it. Certifiably Diverse’s platform provides tools to source new diverse suppliers, manage existing supplier relationships, keep up with diversity certification and compliance, and provide comprehensive reporting. Maintaining a diverse supply chain may be a monumental task for some businesses, but new supports are cropping up all the time to help.
2. Geographic Variation
Diversity is often thought of as a question of “who,” but questions of “where” can be just as impactful. Geographic diversity is integral for businesses of all sizes, and it means different things as the scale grows larger. For megacorporations, geographic diversity is reflected in the number of offices a business has in different cities and countries around the world. For smaller operations, that kind of reach may not be in the cards just yet.
Small businesses should instead focus on a kind of local diversity: does the makeup of your office reflect the breadth of the city it’s in? Jeff Mazur, Executive Director of tech accelerator Launch Code, stresses the importance of situating your company near public transportation in order to ensure that your employees will be able to make it to work — no matter where they’re coming from. Your city is as deep and rich as any other, so make sure that your team members aren’t all just situated in the same few neighborhoods. Make your office as dynamic as its location.
3. Diversity of Age
What are some of the words people commonly use to describe great companies? Agile? Nimble? Maverick? Perhaps just plain “young”? In any case, these descriptors reflect a bias towards youth not uncommon in many sectors today. Even if some companies like to lean young, others can skew the opposite way: too great a desire for “veteran” employees can lock young professionals out of your office just as easily.
Every business would benefit from having workers of all ages on staff. New perspectives are just as vital as the ones that have been refined over years of work. You must ensure that striving for a certain image won’t get in the way of hiring a truly diverse workforce. It’s the quality of the work being done that matters most.
2020 saw the 30th anniversary of the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a landmark piece of legislation guaranteeing the right to fair treatment for disabled citizens and workers. Even with an achievement like that in the rearview mirror, there still remains much progress to be made: according to the Brookings Institution, only 40% of working-age Americans with disabilities are employed, compared to 79% of the general population.
A statistic like that should force the question: are you doing everything you can to promote, protect, and accommodate disabled people in your workplace? Even if you are following all of the laws, rules, and guidelines, put in some extra effort to promote disabled voices in your workplace as well. With such a large proportion of the population living with disabilities — many of them invisible — paying careful attention to what your workers have to say can be invaluable.
5. Background & Perspective Diversity
As a business leader, it’s incredibly tempting to surround yourself with “yes” people. Anyone who shares your perspective or echoes your ideas will always be easier to promote than someone who pushes back. Taking this too far, though, can turn your workplace into an ideological vacuum without your even realizing it. If you want to break this cycle, you’ll need a big chunk of conviction to back you up.
Take a step back for a moment. Inventory your own beliefs, ideas, and goals. Ask others how they perceive you — maybe even take a survey or two. Use this information to create an intellectual profile of yourself, one you can measure against during interview and recruitment. You need to hire employees that are a good fit for your company culture. But you should consider applicants that challenge your way of thinking. The stronger and more varied the perspectives that make up your business are, the stronger your business will be.
Diversity may have been on a lot of people’s minds in 2020, but just thinking about it is not enough. Businesses need sustained efforts to make their workplace more diverse, beyond simple number increases. Lean into diversity — the effects will be well worth the effort.