It was this day in 1492 when Christopher Columbus first reached the island of Guanahani in the Bahamas. We’ve come a long way since then, and people now largely recognize that he wasn’t the first to discover the Americas. In fact, many places in the United States now call this holiday Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead, including Alaska, Minnesota, Oregon, and Vermont, as well as several large cities in different states.
In any case, Columbus’s arrival marked the beginning of big changes to come in America—changes that brought both greater ethnic diversity and, unfortunately, a hierarchy that strongly favored the European newcomers. These effects are still quite evident today. The descendants of those European settlers—especially the male ones—have held a societal and business advantage for centuries. But studies are showing that greater diversity and inclusivity are better for companies’ productivity and success.
Diversity Fosters Innovation and Strengthens Teams
People are starting to wake up to the awareness that there is no place for racial inequality in our modern society. Along with other inequalities based on gender, age, sexual orientation, or disabilities. A homogenous environment where everyone looks and thinks the same is no longer a desirable environment, and this is just as true for businesses as anywhere else. The Wall Street Journal remarks that “diverse and inclusive cultures are providing companies with a competitive edge over their peers.” Why? Because a variety of backgrounds and perspectives makes for better creativity and innovation, and happier organizations. It helps a company avoid complacency. Moreover, diverse company teams are better able to connect with their similarly diverse market demographics. For example, women make or influence up to 80% of all purchases in the U.S., so it isn’t surprising that having them on your marketing team can bring better sales.
Racial Diversity Congruence
According to the Academy of Management journal, the most productive organizations are diverse along the whole spectrum of company roles. Racial diversity congruence—having corresponding representation between upper and lower management—seems to be a key factor in a company’s productivity. This study found that companies with lower congruency between management levels were less able to absorb information, make good business decisions, and obtain a competitive advantage. If you can’t get your diversity congruence balanced just right, though, it’s more important to have racial diversity in upper management. Tech firms with a more racially diverse upper management than lower management out-performed those who had more diversity in lower positions and less at the top.
There’s More to Diversity Than the Way People Look
It’s also good to remember that diversity goes beyond the obvious categories like race and gender. It’s also about experience, education, geographical background, cultural differences… Team members who bring different perspectives and outlooks make a stronger overall team. They might think of things that would otherwise be overlooked, or bring new ideas that would have never blossomed in a more homogenous workplace.
More Ways Diversity Drives Success
There are so many ways that companies can benefit from a diverse workforce. Here’s a quick list:
- Employees feel more welcome and safe
- Greater employee satisfaction, retention, and job security
- A larger net skill set
- Enhanced productivity
- More insights and innovation
- Improved communication skills among the team
- A more inviting atmosphere to attract additional talent
- Broader perspectives on customers’ needs
- A healthy community that encourages growth
How to Make Your Organization More Diverse and Inclusive
Aside from hiring a bunch of new team members, what can you do to make your company more inclusive and diverse? You can start with simple things like making sure your work setup is as accessible as possible to the employees you already have. Then, consider looking into other nuanced ways you can bring out the diversity in your organization, like some of these tips Microsoft suggests. From blind hiring to team experiences that celebrate different cultural traditions, there is something that every organization can do to become more inclusive.
And speaking of celebrating culture and tradition, enjoy the rest of your Monday holiday, however you like to look at it.