There’s a lot of conversation around diversity in the workplace—diversity of ethnicity, experience, age, gender identification, sexual orientation, education, and geography to name a few. The more diverse the workforce, the more creative. Though diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) is trending, it is still largely misunderstood. Many organizations view DEIB as checking a box. If they have a supplier diversity program, they think that’s enough. The complexity of challenging a company on this issue is untenable for a small company interested in providing products or services. It looks good in an annual report, but lacks true commitment to using and supporting diverse small businesses. There’s security when working with a diverse pool of small businesses; the corporation isn’t held hostage to one supplier. Intentionally seek diverse suppliers. Search for WBE, DBE, and MBE companies asking them to apply to be a supplier. Give their applications real consideration. Take time to get to know them and find ways for them to work with your company.
When it comes to hiring, most organizations are focused on filling a position, period. They look for someone with experience in the industry or the position, someone who has the skill set. Most leaders don’t realize the value of actively seeking candidates who are different from themselves. This is something that should be intentional. Hiring with diversity in mind is not second nature; it requires focused attention.
When everyone in the C-suite is upper middle class, white, heterosexual, college-educated, and male, there is the danger of everyone thinking alike because they come from the same types of experiences, backgrounds, and belief systems. New and different ideas don’t show up because their frame of reference is too similar; it can be impossible to see beyond what has always been done. This stands in the way of creativity, which is the foundation for longevity and relevance. The world changes; companies need to keep up with those changes. If they don’t, their blinders can prevent them from adapting. Many companies have failed because of these blind spots.
Companies should also seek to diversify their entire organization. The staff should reflect the broader community. Problem-solving is more effective when there are diverse viewpoints. We need to engage the experiences and ideas of a variety of individuals to gain the best solutions. If your staff is too homogenous, the solutions will tend to be consistent and usual. That doesn’t necessarily provide the busi- ness with better solutions. Since hiring with diversity in mind is not automatic, consider adding it as a requirement in your hiring pro- cess. Don’t dismiss a candidate because they don’t look like what you think of as qualified. Ask what they might bring to the company be- yond the task at hand. It’s worth the time and energy to expand your viewpoint. A lack of diversity can also make it difficult to sell to a broad spectrum of prospects. When your staff resembles the greater community, your company can have a better understanding of what matters to the greater makeup of your audience. Assuming you know your target market without surrounding yourself with people who resemble that market is dangerous and shortsighted.
Leadership that doesn’t appreciate how the diversity of staff, sup- pliers, and clients is best for business is missing out on invaluable resources; they must believe and understand that having diversity throughout an organization can help the company realize its goals and improve longevity. Different is better when leadership agrees there is value in hearing from people with different viewpoints and experiences. Creativity comes from curiosity. Curious people invite different views and ideas. Just checking the box doesn’t serve anyone. In the long run, checking the box will likely hurt everyone.
Diane Helbig is a business advisor and trainer. She is the author of Succeed Without Selling and the host of the Accelerate Your Business podcast. Learn more at www.helbigenterprises.com.