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Blog Post

Benefits of Diversity and Inclusion

By Jami Dix, Senior Client Engagement Leader

Do you talk about checking that diversity box because it’s mandatory to do so? If so, you’re missing out on creativity, innovation, and better business outcomes. Research shows that diversity of thinking is a wellspring of creativity, enhancing innovation by about 20%. It also enables groups to spot risks, reducing these by up to 30%, according to Juliet Bourke and Bernadette Dillon from Deloitte.

To go beyond checking a mandatory diversity box, start by asking these three questions:

  • What diversity exists on your team?
  • How often do you hear from all voices?
  • What behaviors do you see?

What diversity exists on your team? 

Diversity is defined as, “the condition of having or being composed of differing elements.” According to the Society for Human Resource Managers (SHRM), “More and more organizations define diversity really broadly. Really, it’s any way any group of people can differ significantly from another group of people — appearance, sexual orientation, veteran status, your level in the organization. It has moved far beyond the legally protected categories that we’ve always looked at.” Our experience when conducting our diversity and inclusion class, Include, confirms that finding.

In addition to the obvious forms of diversity such as gender and ethnicity, when we ask participants what diversity exists in their organization we hear:

examples of workplace diversity

When you ask your team what diversity they see, it gives you awareness of the multitude of ways that they see differences. When someone feels different, they’re less likely to speak up and your team misses out on their diversity of thought and creativity. According to HBR, “We learned that women are often uncomfortable speaking up and are more than twice as likely to be interrupted in group dialogue — particularly in industries and organizations that are male-dominated. More recent coaching experiences reveal that men from minority groups feel similarly.” Further research shows that when you add an outside opinion, “the chance of arriving at a correct solution jumps from 29% to 60%.”

How often do you hear from all voices?

We lead an activity in Include called the NASA Exercise: Survival on the Moon. The rationale for using this activity is there aren’t many space experts sitting in the room. Everyone is starting from a similar starting point, earth!

The scenario is this: your ship crash landed on the moon 200 miles from the rendezvous point with the rest of your team. To survive the trek across the surface of the moon you must prioritize a list of undamaged items at your disposal. Participants are first asked to do this activity individually and second, as a group. Afterwards, the scores are compared to the correct answers as supplied by NASA scientists. Over 95% of the time the group scores are substantially better than individual scores.

On the rare occasions when we have an individual who scores better than the group, we ask the group what happened. The group responds, “they didn’t speak up.” When we look inquisitively at the individual their reply is “I did, but they didn’t listen.”

Listening is a key behavior that helps a leader unlock the benefits of diversity and build a more inclusive culture. According to Forbes, only 2% of professionals have had formal training in listening skills. Let’s be honest, those aren’t great stats. At your next meeting, challenge yourself to listen first, and invite the ones you hear from least to offer their thoughts.

What behaviors do you see?

Our behavior, whether we realize it or not, sends a message to those around us. The benefits of diversity in organizations will be felt when we behave in a way that invites someone in. These are called “closing behaviors” and they look like:

  • Being willing to share something about yourself first
  • Listening
  • Being curious
  • Asking open-ended questions
  • Making eye contact
  • Smiling
  • Remembering details about the other person
  • Checking in on them to demonstrate you were listening

This isn’t just soft, fuzzy, feel-good information that you don’t need to worry about. There’s a real business impact for intentionally creating a culture of inclusion. In fact, Deloitte has found that inclusive cultures are 2x more likely to meet or exceed financial targets, 3x as likely to be high-performing, 6x more likely to be innovative and agile, and 8x more likely to achieve better business outcomes.

As a leader, you have the opportunity to leverage the benefits of diversity. Start by asking your team where they see differences, observe those who don’t speak up, and choose to behave (listen!) in ways that tells someone they are included.

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