Benefits of diversity and inclusion practice in business

By Nirupa Shah, nirupashah@live.co.za

People are converging and circulating globally in search of opportunity and growth……

Over 150 million people live outside their country of birth. Migration of talent is not seen as a “brain drain” but rather as “brain circulation”. Historically, people gravitated towards thriving economies, but we’ve come a full circle. The new trend is reverse migration to emerging countries that show the greatest potential for growth. Growth and being relevant to market demands are the new buzz words driving the flow of people across borders. Migration and increasing use of virtual technology, has created a melting pot of diversity. Consequently, we have a diverse labor pool servicing an increasingly diverse customer base.

Whether you are a small business or a large multinational, diversity alone does not provide the competitive edge to improve business performance and motivation. Many of us believe that diverse workplaces are fraught with tensions and conflict that are counterproductive. Training programs suggest there can be no gain without pain. But is pain necessary? With the practice of inclusion, we can leverage all the ways in which we differ and are unique, to improve productivity. D&I, creates an environment of involvement, mutual respect and connection. The benefits of gaining a competitive edge are unlikely to happen without strategic or planned effort. If the quest is to employ the top person for the job, the work environment must be engineered to showcase their best selves.

Talents, skills and experiences of diverse teams’ benefit businesses by improving performance and productivity. Research into the “unconscious tensions” between people who are different confirms that it increases critical thinking and problem solving. Whether such teams cooperate or compete, the net effect is more creative and innovative ideas. The greater the variety of perspectives, the more accurate and unique the information collection becomes, directly impacting the task at hand. It promotes greater awareness of bias and better decision making. Homogenous teams by contrast are prone to group thinking and a narrow scope of ideas, that hurts the bottom line.

Repeatedly, we’ve seen evidence that companies with gender diversity in leadership outperform companies on financial metrics and those with racial diversity outperform companies on innovation. Microsoft prides itself for uniting its diverse workforce with common purpose. D&I practices led to solutions for translation of speech to sign language, transformed the experience of technology for the visually impaired and is helping autistic and dyslexic children learn. Diversity helps people innovate to meet the needs of ALL. When Microsoft designed technology for people born without an arm they not only enabled those with temporarily broken limbs to continue working but also helped busy mums, who manage life with one free arm.

 Language skills and cultural differences can open doors for a business.  Instead of being an obstacle diversity is a conduit to new markets. Diversity creates a pipeline for companies to work on a global basis and leverage a broader client-base. By employing people from multiple nationalities companies, like Apple, become more relatable to a wider customer base.

It grows your talent pool. Companies that embrace diversity attract a wider range of candidates to their vacancies. An open hiring policy increases the number of applicants for each vacancy making it possible to find an exceptional candidate. This has a domino effect with employee retention. People want to work in an environment that is accepting of all backgrounds and that promotes equality. On the Thomas Reuters D&I index, companies in the top 25% for D&I management practices were 35% more likely to exceed benchmark financial returns for their companies.

D&I improves employee performance because they feel comfortable when they “can bring their best selves to work”. In an environment where inclusivity is a priority and equality practices encourage employees of diverse backgrounds to feel confident in their ability to achieve their best, team morale soars. D&I ups everyone’s game.