Creating a more diverse workforce is a major initiative for many organizations. Training departments are working hard to bring awareness to this topic and train our leaders in what diversity is, how to overcome biases and stereotyping, and much more. For leaders who understand that being diverse is the right thing to do, the messaging is easy. Other leaders, though, might be afraid that creating more diverse teams is a change to successful business practices. Could these initiatives jeopardize their sales and profitability? Training for this audience requires a different approach to gain their buy-in. They are going to want assurance that diversity is more than the right thing to do as a person and that it’s also the right thing to do for their business.
What Does the Research Say?
Customers Want Diversity
Your workforce should reflect the diversity of your community. Many customers don’t feel comfortable shopping at a company whose employees look too similar, and it can make it difficult to connect with someone who you think doesn’t understand your needs. Studies show that customers want to shop where the workforce is diverse. In fact, according to research by Accenture, “Twenty-nine percent of all shoppers, and still more diverse ones, are likely to switch to a retailer that reflects the importance they place on I&D [inclusion and diversity].” By increasing the diversity of your workforce, you’ll increase your customer base.
Diversity Increases Revenue and Profits
It makes sense that if you increase your customer base with a more diverse team, it will translate into more sales and profitability. Generational diversity, gender diversity, and ethnic and racial diversity all improve business results:
According to research by SAP, stores with more generational diversity can have 75% higher gross margin profits than less diverse stores.A Gallup study found that “gender-diverse business units in the retail company have 14% higher average comparable revenue than less-diverse business units.”McKinsey research found that “companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.”
Training Leaders to Think Differently on Hiring for Diversity
When it comes to diversity, most leaders want to do the right thing but don’t realize how some of their practices are harming their efforts. Here are some obstacles and solutions that you may want to consider.
Looking for Culture Fit Rather Than Culture Add
Many hiring managers talk about how they want new hires to be able to fit in with the team’s current culture — to be people their colleagues are comfortable going out for coffee with. It’s a change in mindset for them not to look for someone to fit in but for someone who is different. However, if they are serious about increasing diversity, they need to be comfortable hiring candidates who are diverse in how they look and/or how they think.
Overreliance on Referrals
Referrals are great. They let the hiring manager know that there’s someone out there who’s already been vetted by other team members — someone who is liked. Unfortunately, people tend to refer people from their social or family groups, which tend to homogenous. Over time, relying on referrals will create a similarly homogeneous workforce. Widening your search will result in more diverse applicants.
Misalignment Between Leaders and Recruiters
Who is doing the initial screening and interviewing for hiring at your organization? Do they understand the organization’s strategy for increasing diversity? Sometimes, the organization’s leaders are on board with hiring a diverse team, but the message hasn’t made its way down to the people who are doing that initial screening. I spoke to a hiring coordinator who was surprised to learn that their organization was trying to hire a more diverse workforce: “I had no idea. I was just hiring people I liked.” By aligning the messaging to everyone involved in the hiring process, you’ll see more diverse candidates.
Creating a diverse workforce has to be a concerted effort from the top down. Training can play a huge role in changing an organization’s perspective on diversity and training leaders to think differently. When your leaders have misgivings about what diversity might do to their business, you’ll need to be prepared with more than just an awareness campaign. If you can align your diversity training with the needs of your leaders, you’ll be able to make a significant impact.