Have a skim over any corporate Twitter feed and you’re likely to encounter a healthy dose of diversity messaging. While few are doing anything as disastrous as Pepsi’s recent faux pas, much of what appears is little more than a box-ticking exercise with no real substance behind it. For me, this represents a huge missed opportunity – and one that threatens the strategic success of any brand. Diversity is good for your business because it increases the pool of experience you have to draw upon, inevitably creating opportunities in the process. It’s impossible to build a successful brand without embracing diversity: of people, of ideas, of approach.
Here are four reasons why diversity should be elevated above the fluffy world of CSR and given a primary place in your business strategy:
It has true commercial value – Diversity, by which I mean differences in values, opinions and culture, is critical to the commercial success of any business. The only way to fulfil your commercial vision is to translate it into messages that are as diverse as your client base and your talent pool.
You need it to survive and prosper – You need people behind you to achieve your goals – but they will only stand with you if they feel that they are valued and respected for their thoughts, opinions and differences. Where many companies fail is in their determination to make every employee the same – instead of celebrating their differences and deriving value from them.
The default isn’t working – As Grayson Perry explores in his book The Descent of Man, white, middle class men have always been the corporate default. But as the marker skews in favour of disruptive and challenger brands, this default is outdated and can seriously stunt business growth. People who are similar to each other can come up with a good solution or idea – but they can’t deliver a great one. Diversity encourages healthy conflict, which in turn is the starting point for innovation. A lack of diversity leads to the classic echo chamber effect that is all too common on many people’s social media feeds. If you surround yourself with people who see the world the way you do, you will never have a fully rounded perspective on things and will struggle to create anything with impact.
It gives you values – and helps you define them – As a vocal advocate and champion of values-led business, I believe values have a significant part to play here. Companies that lack values need people to align around something else. But often, that something else is a superficial characteristic like gender, class or educational background. Those that want to celebrate diversity have to dig deeper to unite their tribe, establishing a stronger mission and set of values that employees genuinely buy into, such as ethical beliefs or a shared vision of what success looks like.The problem many organisations are facing when they begin to tackle diversity is that they are looking at it from the wrong perspective. For too long, it has been part of the HR remit, and not even on the strategic HR agenda, but often lumped into CSR. As a result of this tokenism, much of the training and resources are based around the sticking plaster approach of unconscious bias rather than the deep-seated values that should be empowering diversity. As a result, training attendees can often feel that they are being browbeaten with examples of where they are falling short rather than meaningful insight into how they can rethink – and ultimately adjust – their behaviours and ways of thinking when it comes to diversity.
This is where our approach differs. We believe that by having people with contrasting personalities and values working alongside one another, businesses create something much greater and richer than they already have. Our diversity workshops have been devised using a unique approach that avoids all the pitfalls of stereotypical team building tactics and instead focuses on helping people discover and express individual responses in a space where they don’t feel pressured to follow the herd.
Rather than concentrating on buzzwords like unconscious bias, we look at how differences of opinion prompt discussion and debate that leads to innovation and gives your brand a competitive advantage. We also help people appreciate the importance of strong management and leadership when it comes to embedding new behaviours – including the motivational impact values-led leadership can have on teams. The goal is to help people embrace diversity in a way that helps build and reinforce the brand’s values – and delivers true ROI to your business.