Diversity is the one true thing we all have in common. Celebrate it every day. –Anonymous
In a rapidly changing world, leaders are constantly navigating change and trying to gain the competitive edge. By embracing people’s differences, we can help spark innovation, better understand and serve customers, and drive sustainable growth. Yet, organizations continue to struggle when it comes to building and maintaining inclusive workplaces.
It’s a systemic issue that’s not just isolated to the workplace. It’s part of a much more global conversation that’s rooted in thousands of years of feelings and experiences and cultural norms that we see coming to life every day in current events around the country.
We’re all a product of our environments and upbringings, and there are a lot of deep feelings around this topic. We get triggered in different ways when it comes up. So, what if we started honoring our differences and harnessing our energy toward building strong teams that value everyone’s perspectives, ideas, and contributions?
The benefits of diverse and inclusive organizations
When I think about being inclusive in the workplace, it means that we’re all operating as one team on an even playing field. It means building an environment where all associates feel appreciated for their unique characteristics and are therefore comfortable sharing their ideas and other aspects of their true and authentic selves.
Every single one of us is who we are because of our life experiences, and we each have a unique path that we’ve taken that gives us our own unique view of the world. Our unique view allows us to connect the dots in ways that no one else can.
When a company embraces diversity and builds inclusive teams, it allows for multiple points of perspective to be put on a problem. Ultimately resulting in more potential solutions to resolve that issue.
I’ll never have the experiences of a woman or an immigrant or someone who attended UVA. I’ll never be able to look at an issue with that very personal perspective. Diversity allows for a multitude of perspectives – all unique and valid. The more diverse our teams are the more perspectives we will have on a topic which in turn will increase our likelihood of identifying the best solutions.
Different perspectives drive growth
We should challenge ourselves to appreciate the differences of others and see them as potential drivers of change. As diversity increases so does the capacity for more creative solutions to be brought to the table. Otherwise we can fall victim to inertia brought about by complacency with the status quo.
Case in point, a few years ago I was at a meeting where everyone graduated from the same college. We all had had the same professors and were all taught the same curriculum. As we sat around the table trying to find a solution for a big problem, it quickly became clear that we were all landing on the same solution – and we were getting very stuck.
We couldn’t think outside of the box because we were all taught to think about this problem in one certain way. It was a real eye-opening experience for me. Because in hindsight, it was so obvious that if we had had a more diverse team around the table, the problem would have been resolved more quickly, more creatively, and would have resulted in a more profitable solution.
Leveraging values to build more inclusive workplaces
Inclusivity implies that we’re all on the same page and operate as one team – and that’s what Values Based organizations are all about. Values Based organizations have a defined set of values and behaviors that each associate agrees to when coming to work. They set the stage for how we behave, make decisions and desire to do business; ie: “this is what leadership looks like at our company; this is how we conduct business; this is how we define success, etc”.
These values and behaviors give us a platform to reference where, regardless of our diverse backgrounds, we’re all on the same page. No matter who you are or where you’re from, clearly defined organizational values and behaviors give us a shared compass to operate from.
Consistently referencing those values and aligned behaviors creates a better opportunity to build more inclusive workplaces. When we reference them, the conversation is no longer personal. It isn’t about you, who you are or what you believe in. It becomes about what we all believe in as a company.