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Thom Dennis, CEO at culture change management consultancy Serenity In Leadership, outlines the reasons why diversity will be good for business in 2021.
There is an increased appetite for real change following one of the most divisive and difficult years in decades. It has never been so important to get inclusion and diversity of race, gender, sexual orientation, physical disability and social differences right. Here are 10 reasons why diversity is so vital and may well be the key to healthier times in 2021.
1. Diversity increases awareness and curiosity. Learning about, recognising and respecting your own and other cultures enables people to understand different perspectives and gives greater insight into varying attitudes and beliefs. Foster curiosity to fight against ignorance and prejudice. Encourage your team to be courageous; be curious, practise active listening and demonstrate empathy for a different way of thinking and show them exactly how that is done.
2. Diversity promotes individuality. Culturally rich environments teach us that everyone is unique, and we differ not just because of our race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, physical abilities, religion, socio-economic status etc, but because of our life experience and personality. And all of those differences are what make us interesting. When we celebrate our differences, it is easier to find commonality and create a more accepting environment where people feel comfortable to be themselves.
3. Diversity creates a healthier environment. A workplace lacking in diversity and inclusion will detrimentally affect mental health and have a direct causal relationship with feelings of resentment, anxiety, anger and injustice. A business not only has to prime the engine with a diverse mix of good promotion candidates, but must ensure they have a truly equal opportunity for promotions, not just once but all the way to the executive suite for a healthy, diverse workplace.
4. Diversity is good for business. Responsible, resilient workplaces embrace inclusion, diversity and equality, having a direct positive effect on productivity in the workplace, helping businesses and employees thrive. By aligning business objectives with the meeting of human needs, companies can tap into powerful ways to facilitate change. As McKinsey’s have noted, diverse companies are far more likely to outperform their less diverse peers.
5. Diversity promotes new thinking. A diverse group of people are more likely to have ideas which are distinct from each other and diverse viewpoints allow for more creative solutions to problems. Recent research suggests that diverse companies make better, bolder decisions and are more likely radically to innovate. As a result they can gain a competitive edge by anticipating such things as trends in consumer demand and consumption.
6. Diversity unites us. Diversity brings society together and unites a range of perspectives, encourages inclusivity and equality and promotes harmony and unity. Diversity creates space for us to gain awareness, educate, integrate, evolve and include.
7. Diversity leads to better understanding. ‘Othering’ is the process whereby negative characterisers are attributed to someone because they are deemed different and are labelled as not fitting in. The opposite to that is wanting to learn about someone else’s differences to educate ourselves and to reduce our unconscious biases.
8. Diversity prevents bullying. Successful diverse environments promote inclusivity and help prevent social problems such as bullying. Power differentials are a breeding ground for othering and bullying. Active, genuine inclusion is the most effective way of eliminating dysfunctional, power-play and bullying behaviour.
9. Diversity reduces stereotypes. Understanding, accepting and embracing people’s differences will reduce stereotyping – a critical threat to diversity. Stereotyping can be unconscious (known as an unconscious bias), whereby we type cast because of assumptions or generalisations about someone which relate to their differences from others. Check yourself and your team for unconscious biases by encouraging self-awareness.
10. Diversity promotes respect. The more time spent interacting with people different to us, the stronger our understanding, acceptance and relationships become, and ultimately our respect for one another. A visible commitment to diversity and inclusion during the crisis is also likely to strengthen a company’s global image.
*Thom Dennis is CEO at culture change management consultancy Serenity In Leadership.