Photo by Devin Avery
“Yes, I agree it’s a major opportunity but very concerned of how that’s going to be received, people may feel threatened.”
I’m paraphrasing, but basically that was the reaction we recently received when discussing diversity within organizational make-up as part of a broader strategic recommendation.
The kicker is this concern didn’t come from leadership, but rather a diverse advisor to the company.
The exchange really got me thinking about how important it is to change the mindset of fear in order to engage in real conversation. Through real dialogue we can drive real change; the lifeblood for innovation that businesses need to grow.
More importantly when thinking about this moment of post George Floyd/Covid, it sure feels like dialogue is exactly what’s needed. A new way forward, a next normal for how businesses should operate, based on real change, not just cool Instagram posts.
Last month I touched on the subject of real change and I’m encouraged to see that a number of companies have launched initiatives and committed investments totaling more than $130M to address diversity inequalities.
But initiatives by their very nature ultimately end. And therein lies the problem.
Diversity should not be an initiative. It should be a lived experience.
So long as we treat diversity at an arm’s length, as something driven by “someone else” or an “effort” with an expiration date, we’ll never unlock its true potential.
And by diversity, I do mean a full diversity: diversity of ethnicity, of gender, of sexuality, of religion, of political persuasion, point of view and perspective.
Diversity inequality has and will always be intertwined with access to opportunities.
I’ll argue that there is no greater gage of this access to opportunity than the level of diverse representation in a given industry, especially representation in leadership and C-suite positions. A fact that a number of companies have (not so subtlety) recently been called out for.
But what is the actual ROI of this kind of diversity?
According to a Boston Consulting Group study, companies with above-average diversity management teams had 19% higher revenues as a result of the increased innovation that diverse teams create. If you are in an industry where innovation plays a significant role in success you need to be paying attention to the makeup of your company, especially as younger generations look to align with companies that represent their values (a recent Deloitte Study found, 74% of Millennials attributed higher innovation to organizations with a culture of inclusion).
But is not just about innovation, revenues and a happier workforce… ultimately is about better connecting with your customers.
Recently while on a run, I was listening to a podcast and stumbled upon an episode of Short Wave called the importance of black doctors. The episode was about research from Dr. Owen Garrick, CEO of Bridge Clinical Research.
In his study, Dr. Garrick looked at the preventative health impact that black doctors had when treating black male patients. The results were significant.
Black doctors were anywhere from 20 to 26% more successful at getting black men to acquire preventative health services and 58% more successful in getting them to avail themselves of cholesterol screenings than non-black doctors.
When you account for the role that preventative health services play in extending life expectancy, the magnitude of these results is self evident (especially considering that black men’s life expectancy is 4.5 years less than white men).
But the reasons for this unique dynamic are very interesting.
According to the study, black doctors were better able to engage in conversation about the non-medical items, which built rapport and trust with the patients that ultimately led to better medical results. In other words, nothing to do with medical proficiency or quality of care from the doctors but everything to do with relatability.
Ultimately this is what diverse representation does: it provides an organization the cultural IQ to best understand its consumers, build trust and drive better results over time.
And that is exactly why we don’t need to be shy in having the discussion about diversity within organizational makeup; employees and customers are counting on it.
Having the Inside Be Like the Outside is a business mantra my partners and I live and drive in our consulting practice. At the heart of any business is the need to connect with consumers and build brand equity. If the inside of the organization doesn’t reflect the reality of its consumer base, the less likely that organization will be able to achieve the right connection and equity over the long term.
Not sure where to start? No worries, we’re here to help.