Workplace Culture

Why Is Diversity More Than a Buzzword?

By Staff Report

Mar. 17, 2015

Dear Mingle and Melt,

There is no more supposed to having a diverse workforce than there is to having a diverse customer base. I know of no organization that deliberately limits its customer base by selling its products or services to a single demographic. Why would your organization restrict its talent pool, particularly at a time when it has been widely suggested that, “The war for talent is over, and talent won.”

As to how or why behavior to the contrary could occur in America, the “melting pot” as you put it, this proud American genuinely believes that, on most matters, we usually get it right — eventually. Like most of the world, getting our various tribes to appreciate the value inherent in our differences — be they skin color, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation — is a task that’s taking longer than it should, both in the workspace and beyond.

At the time that I entered the professional workforce, there were still clear, narrowly defined dominant cultures within just about every organization, and people pretty well knew where they stood, or sat, based on where they went to school, what they looked like, what their accent or native tongue was, and whether they wore pants or a skirt. Slow as it may seem at times, we are making progress, real progress. Witness the fact that today, the CEO’s of IBM, PepsiCo and General Motors are women; the duly elected two-term president of the United States is black; the CEO of Apple, the most valuable company on the planet, is openly gay; and the CEO of Microsoft, his competitor, is Indian-American. These are not mere happenstances overseen by an unthinking board or electorate.

As for diversity in relation to business outcomes, thanks for the question. I would first point you to a piece by Ekaterina Walter in wherein she references and summarizes serious work done by Forbes, the Harvard Business School, McKinsey and others on this very subject.

Second, I can tell you that the work we’ve done over 15 years in researching and writing the “Contented Cows” leadership book series suggests in no uncertain terms that companies whose leadership practices make them exceptional places to work (for a wide swath of the population) have a nasty habit of out-innovating, out-hustling and out-earning the competition by a wide margin.

Don’t resist the inescapable logic of harvesting the best ideas and efforts of a diverse workforce. Either get with the program, or prepare to be left behind.

SOURCE: Bill Catlette, co-founder and principal, Contented Cow Partners.

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