In January, Goldman Sachs’ CEO David Solmomon made a significant statement at Davos, the World Economic Forum gathering of world leaders: “We’re not going to take a company public unless there’s at least one diverse board candidate, with a focus on women.” The Wall Street leader isn’t the only voice calling for more diversity and inclusion (D&I) in business. Last fall, California Governor Jerry Brown championed a bill requiring all publicly traded companies with principal executive offices in California to have at least one woman on their board by the end of 2019, with a hefty fine for violations to the law.
The shifts noted above signal the mindful diversity and inclusion that’s happening in all parts of the world. Companies see that a strong D&I program supports ideas and innovation, is more reflective of the audience and customers they hope to reach and is just plain good for business. Diverse and inclusive cultures provide companies with a distinct competitive edge over their peers, say multiple reports from HR advisors like Deloitte, McKinsey, Bersin by Deloitte, Boston Consulting Group and Catalyst. It’s also a powerful edge for organizations in recessionary times. A robust D&I initiative is essential because it’s the right and smart thing to do, but it’s equally important that it reaps financial rewards.
I’ve been fortunate to work with companies that emphasize talent and individuality over sameness, who celebrate differences in age, experience, race, nationality, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and perspective. I’ve seen the advantages of recognizing diversity first-hand. After all, we’re in a global business that relies on multicultural awareness. In the mobility industry, it’s absolutely critical to understand and value the infinitely diverse perspectives that our clients and their employees bring to the table. By amplifying and leveraging the diversity in our own workforce, we create a mindful resource for understanding an individual’s complexities and satisfying their needs.
Accomplishing a massive goal like this can appear to be a daunting effort; requiring sweeping policy changes and cross-organizational collaboration to raise the bar on this objective. To integrate D&I standards throughout the organization it’s important to begin with a purposeful plan, get buy-in from all levels, and show commitment through real and sustained action. That’s the biggest and best picture.
Each of us can play a part and make changes where possible, in our corner of a company. All it takes is to build a connection with the people around you. Start the conversation by letting people know you’re interested in the things that make them unique and let people in on what makes you different. The goal is to create a safe, non-judgmental environment where people feel free to open up about what’s important to them. Next, take action! Celebrate what they value, and leverage what makes them unique.
We must be part of this transformation, because our future workforces are changing. CNN Money notes that the millennial and Gen Z generations are the most diverse in history: only 56% of the 87 million millennials in the U.S. are white, as compared to 72% of the 76 million Baby Boomers. And Glassdoor’s research revealed that nearly 70% of job seekers seriously weigh a potential employer’s workplace diversity in their career decisions, with more than half of current employees looking to their workplaces to increase diversity.
Other than the effort and investment it takes to develop one’s process, there’s not much downside, and there are many advantages. One of the biggest is retention, as people realize they’re being seen and recognized as individuals, and the company knows what competencies and perspectives they bring, and wants them to be present in the organization.
If your company has gained a reputation as a savvy D&I employer, it’s also a terrific way to attract new employees, especially as jobseekers look for companies that match their values and beliefs. It’s not an easy undertaking. Diverse teams must be led properly. Good leaders are aware that there is broad and deep value in such a commitment – socially, productively, organizationally and financially – and that it grows a strong pipeline of future leaders well-positioned for global business. As Todd Rose, author of The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness says: “When an organization makes the decision to value the individuality of its employees, it is not only the employees who win—the system wins, too, and wins bigger than ever."
Tony Bosco-Schmidt, PMP, PSM
Vice President, Global Client Finance Cornerstone Relocation Group