It is widely acknowledged that diversity in our leadership teams matters, that diversity is imperative for any organisation that wants to achieve and remain competitive. While the benefits are many and varied I want to draw your attention to a recent body of research ‘Diversity Matters’ conducted by McKinsey & Company.
One of the key findings from this study is companies in the top quartile of racial/ethnic diversity were 30% more likely to have financial returns above their national industry median. The authors contend, based on other studies and the correlation in this study between diversity and performance, that the more diverse an organisation is the more successful they are at winning top talent, customer orientation, employee satisfaction and effective decision-making.
While this research paper found that no organisation performed well in all areas of diversity (it is a select few who do) it highlights the ongoing demand for diversity training programs. While diversity policies and approaches are country specific, traditionally the common approach in countries such as the UK, U.S and Australia has been to adopt a single diversity program that covers all areas from gender and age, to race, ethnicity, sex, religion and disability. I contend that one of the problems with this approach is that some more visible areas of diversity such as gender, have received more focus than others, namely race and ethnicity.
A new mindset and approach to diversity needs to occur. The overall current characterisation and management of diversity is too broad, it commands greater depth; in other words a more individualised, tailored approach is required, it needs to be ‘unbundled’. Specific programmes that develop, monitor and promote ongoing continuous improvement need to be implemented. Some examples are unconscious bias training, cultural intelligence training, mentoring, or executive coaching. These programs provide greater rigour, understanding and appreciation that make real headway into changing attitudes, behaviours and outcomes.
Further to improving diversity, leaders must visibly demonstrate that they believe in the value of diversity and assert why it is a priority in a manner that influences, promotes and inspires others to also commit.
As the authors of ‘Diversity Matters’ point out “diversity matters because we live in a global world that has become deeply interconnected.” This research serves as an ongoing reminder of the headway that we have made to date in countries such as the U.S and U.K in diversity, the benefits to be gained and serves as a reminder that there is still much work to be done.