Driving Financial Performance with Diversity

In this era of rapidly evolving digital disruptors, advanced technologies and greater connectivity, business leaders need to question current business strategies and models if they want their organizations to thrive.   

The business case for establishing a diverse workforce has been proven by a multitude of studies published by McKinsey, Catalyst, Harvard Business Review, Deloitte and more. The evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that diversity positively impacts business value.   

I believe that true diversity in the workplace is an invaluable asset. It has the capacity to foster innovation, cultivate human potential and generate greater financial returns. As a strong advocate for diversity within my teams, I’ve discovered that bringing individuals together with different backgrounds and perspectives to solve a problem yields better, more informed solutions.  

So, in today’s world, it’s not so much a question of whether your organization should build diversity but of how to support growth through diversity. 

Shift to a Pro-Diversity Culture 

Companies and organizations that recognize the importance of diversity and reflect it in their work culture will realize operational and financial benefits. A recent study that examined 1,069 leading firms in 35 countries and 24 industries found that cultures in which populations, leaders and workers believed in the intrinsic value of gender diversity – as opposed to viewing it as an obligation – experienced better market valuations and productivity.   

Creating a cultural shift to diversity is crucial for building a competitive advantage in today’s marketplace. A pro-diversity culture attracts a wider range of talent. A survey by Glassdoor found that 67% of job seekers consider workforce diversity when evaluating a job offer.   

research roundup by Catalyst revealed that organizations with strong “diversity climates” experience:  

  • Lower levels of employee turnover 
  • Greater employee job satisfaction, trust and engagement 
  • Enhanced team decision-making 
  • Better team performance 
  • Excellent reputations 
  • Fewer instances of controversial business practices, such as fraud 
  • Stronger corporate social responsibility practices 

Promote Gender Equality 

This year’s International Women’s Day 2020 campaign theme of #EachforEqual emphasizes that “equality is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue” and “gender equality is essential for economies and communities to thrive.”  A McKinsey Global Institute report estimates that closing the gender gap in the workplace would add an astounding $28 trillion to the global economy by 2025 – a 26% increase. Clearly, as women gain greater financial independence, businesses, economies and societies are going to grow and prosper.    

2017 report from McKinsey showed that companies in the top 25th percentile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21% more likely to earn above-average profits. Plus, they had a 27% likelihood of outperforming their peers on longer-term value creation. Another study that analyzed 12 years of data on Fortune 1000 companies revealed that women-led companies produce three times more returns than S&P 500 enterprises.  

Despite the evidence that women make real contributions to the bottom line, a significant gender gap lingers in the corporate world. Companies in this era need to approach female employment and empowerment as a sound business strategy.   

Be Strategic About Building Teams 

It is imperative to be thoughtful when establishing teams. Leaders of winning sports teams are very strategic and outcomes-focused when building their rosters – it’s critical to get the right person into the right position. They must ensure they can work together cohesively. This is how it should be when building business teams.  

The International Women’s Day 2020 campaign theme is based on the idea of “collective individualism.” Research published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior supports the theory that teams with a diversity of traits (individualism) who work well in a collective setting (collectivism) will achieve better outcomes as a team. 

Diverse teams help foster meaningful innovation. Bringing together leaders and team members who can leverage unique perspectives are more likely to solve problems more efficiently and create solutions that meet customer needs. Looking beyond specific skill sets to consider a variety of backgrounds, mindsets and values will promote the formation of well-rounded teams that drive diversity in thought and ultimately, company growth.  

The key thing to keep in mind is to maintain a safe, inclusive environment that allows individuals to feel comfortable enough to speak up and share their thoughts and ideas. Be mindful when building teams – you want that individualism, but it’s just as important that everyone supports a collective setting by listening, being respectful and having the desire to learn from others.