Jun 01

Diversity Isn’t Just Ethnicity: Your Organization Needs a Holistic Approach

In today’s market, diversity is vital to staying competitive. While that’s widely accepted, the diversity conversation often focuses solely on ethnicity — despite the fact that diversity encompasses much more than race or ethnic background. A holistic understanding of diversity highlights the importance of providing opportunities to all individuals who are underrepresented in a particular field or industry.

But a diverse company shouldn’t be so simply for the sake of diversity — a company’s diversity contributes to its overall success. To succeed is to innovate, and to be truly innovative, companies need clear perspectives from a variety of voices. At its core, innovation is the process of making something better — more cost-efficient, higher in quality, or delivered at faster speeds, for instance. Innovation means providing a better and more rewarding experience for all compared to the alternatives.

By including the perspectives of individuals from traditionally underrepresented groups or populations, an organization will gain access to valuable perspectives into the challenges its customer base is trying to overcome.

Therefore, when an organization’s corporate culture embraces holistic diversity, its inclusiveness leads to transformational innovation.

Keeping Diversity at Your Company’s Core

Through observation, I’ve realized that underrepresented groups within a company, function, industry, or geographic area live with the distinct awareness that they’re different. When diversity isn’t valued, that chronic awareness of being “something other than” the norm can feel like operating within tight constraints — they might have a seat at the table, but they may not feel like they have the opportunity to speak up as much as the majority does.

However, when holistic diversity is a part of company culture (and that representation increases), different perspectives serve as ingredients to approaching problems differently, which drives innovation.

If your organization hasn’t already created a holistically diverse culture, you can take steps forward with these four tips:

Develop an inbound recruiting strategy.

Inbound recruiting means building awareness of your company and the opportunities it provides its employees. Create engaging content — rather than generic job ads — and customize it for the types of individuals you’re trying to attract. For example, if you’re trying to attract a more diverse candidate pool for engineers, write a blog post about the shortage of female engineers to demonstrate the improvement you’re seeking.

The content should meet people where they are, such as social media sites; ultimately, it should aim to educate candidates on your company’s mission and culture, helping them see where they fit in.

Establish sample projects as part of the interview process.

Create sample projects for candidates to complete to gauge the diverse perspectives they bring to the table. Many recruiters believe sample projects are too cumbersome and may cause applicants to move on. However, colleges require individuals to put time and effort into their applications — it should be no different when recruiting new hires for your company.

The key is to make sure your employer value proposition is compelling enough for candidates to want to invest the time (hint: see inbound recruiting above). Candidates will see you value their perspective, and you’ll see the benefits of a fresh viewpoint in action early on.

Sample projects for inspiration:

Create case studies of the company’s diversity.

Outline case studies with clear metrics on each success the company has enjoyed due to its holistic diversity. Sharing these studies with key leaders will help build additional buy-in, and showcasing them in the recruiting process will further highlight the company’s employer value proposition. These studies will serve as hard evidence that the company is committed to attracting all voices and gives credence to the diverse perspectives of its employees.

Steer clear of the words “diversity” and “inclusion.”

Don’t sprinkle the words “diversity” and “inclusion” throughout your company’s literature, and refrain from saying them when interviewing prospective new hires. Besides the fact that these words have many different associations, they also serve as reminders to the underrepresented that they are “something other than,” and suddenly, the environment doesn’t feel so inclusive.

A company that’s serious about diversifying its workforce will show it through tangible examples and stories that are a part of the corporate narrative — not solely display it in a diversity statement at the bottom of the company’s website.

True commitment to diversity is more than just adding job titles, positions, and surface-level programs to diversify a company’s image. On the contrary, holistic diversity is a corporate character trait that should be woven throughout the organization’s culture. Organizations owe it to their candidates and employees — and to themselves — to start weaving it into their culture today.

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