I learned about the advantages of diversity very early in life. Back in grade school in the 1950s I attended Roosevelt Elementary in New Rochelle, New York, which was a predominantly Jewish school. In junior high Roosevelt merged with Lincoln Elementary, which was about 95 percent black. (It’s now called Albert Leonard Middle School.) Being in that diverse environment taught me so much about people—how to connect with them, respect them, and appreciate them.
I loved having friends from all different backgrounds. In the classroom and on the basketball court, I learned first-hand how people outside your own group could bring amazing talents and valuable points of view to your team. My classmates ended up electing me president of the student body in both junior high and high school. That’s when I began learning about leadership and development first-hand.
Diversity Leads to Better Results
Fast forward to 2022. These days, diversity and inclusive leadership are big topics in leadership circles. In fact, recent research cited by the Harvard Business Review shows that 93% of leaders consider diversity and inclusion a top priority for their organizations. That’s a good thing, because welcoming people of different national origins, races, abilities, genders, religions, and the like is not just a nice thing to do, it’s also a smart thing to do. According to research by McKinsey & Company, racially and ethnically diverse companies outperform industry norms by 35%. That’s not surprising. A diverse workforce is more likely to explore new markets and create products and services that appeal to a broader range of customers.
Diverse organizations are more likely to attract and retain top talent, too. According to a survey conducted by Glassdoor, 67% of job seekers said a diverse workforce is important when considering job offers.
Diversity Creates High Performing Teams
On a team level, embracing diversity improves results, as well. That includes diversity of ideas and opinions. Many people think that if a group working together allows differing viewpoints, it will lead to disagreement—which they look at as a bad thing. Yet conflict in groups can be a good thing—as long as discussions stay focused on the issues and don’t get personal. One of the big upsides of disagreements is that they often lead to breakthrough thinking and innovative ideas.
Ask yourself these questions to see if you are a leader who makes the most of people’s differences:
- Do you believe everyone has something to contribute?
- Do you ensure that everyone in your group is heard?
- Do you actively seek different points of view?
If you answered no to any of these questions, it’s possible you believe that all the brains in the organization exist in your office. If that’s the case, you’re missing out on the benefits of diversity.
At our company we have a fundamental belief that NO ONE OF US IS AS SMART AS ALL OF US. That’s why we encourage everyone to speak up and share ideas. Again and again, we’ve seen how team collaboration and idea sharing produce the greatest results. Around here, we believe that one plus one truly is greater than two.
Don’t Miss Out on Diversity
Multiple generations with diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences make up workforces in today’s global economy. If your organization is not taking advantage of this diverse talent pool and customer base, it’s not going to have much impact around the world.
Make sure you’re putting some energy into diversity and inclusion in your organization. As I learned in grade school, when you connect with, respect, and appreciate people from all walks of life, you’ll be amazed how much you can accomplish together.