Do you know what “diversity” really means and why it’s important to your business?
Diversity is a buzzword that’s thrown around a lot. But what does it really mean and why is understanding it key to doing better business? “Diversity is important in today’s world and in the marketplace because our society is changing quicker than ever before,” said Dr. Rhea Ingram, Dean, College of Business, Auburn University at Montgomery. And while we often think of race and gender when we talk about diversity, it’s broader than that. Diversity includes all differences, both inherent and acquired. “You have to consider cultural and geographical differences, age and experience differences and diverse political opinions too. All of these things together represent true diversity,” said Sheron Rose, the Chamber’s Vice President, Community Strategies.
In a business context, fostering diversity is an important way to achieve better understanding, and that’s key with the global nature of business today thanks to advances in technology and transportation that are making the world seem smaller and smaller and pushing a variety of people closer together. “We are living in a global society; you have to do business from that perspective,” said Rose.
This means clear communication is crucial to better outcomes. “Understanding differences can bridge gaps and result in improved corporate reputation, higher employee and customer satisfaction, marketplace growth and more creativity and innovation,” Ingram said.
As Ingram pointed out, your business’ image can benefit from a commitment to diversity, and an increasing number of people make decisions based on more than just traditional factors like price, quality or service. “Our investors and our community at large, particularly millennials, are basing decisions, whether investment, employment or purchasing, on a company’s stand on diversity and inclusion,” Rose said.
Making diversity a priority is also valuable from an innovation and productivity perspective. “Research has shown that diversity in your team leads to diversity of thought,” Ingram said.
Creating a diverse workplace is as much about environment as it is hiring choices, according to Ingram. “In order to enjoy diversity, companies must create and cultivate a culture of inclusion and respect, where people enjoy and relish differences, and companies must hire individuals who are able and willing to understand differences and be able to effectively manage these individuals,” she said.
Promoting and embracing diversity is not just for major corporations. “Small businesses can have worldwide reach these days, and they need to know how to be responsive to their customers, who can be anywhere now,” Rose said.
She also stressed that the concept isn’t just for businesses. “Good diversity across every aspect of society increases quality of life in any place, and that in turn is important from an economic development standpoint,” Rose said. “So it comes full circle.”
2017 DIVERSITY SUMMIT: GET IN THE KNOW
The Chamber’s annual Diversity Summit helps member businesses comprehend the concept of diversity and the role it can play in their day-today operations and decisions. Sheron Rose, the Chamber’s Vice President, Community Strategies, explained the motivation behind the event. “We always strive to meet the needs of our community, and this event is a part of that,” she said. The Summit highlights the impact of diversity on your business and its bottom line, as well as its influence on your recruitment, retention and more. “Having our business community and community at large more informed on these issues contributes to a more well rounded community,” Rose said.
This year, the Summit is on September 26 and features keynote speaker Rosanna Durruthy, Head of Global Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging at LinkedIn. Durruthy’s primary role is finding the right ways to empower LinkedIn’s employees, members and customers. She stressed why work like hers pays off. “Diversity goes beyond outward things and means the things that matter to us as individuals,” she said. “It’s about understanding the ways in which our differences manifest and how they affect how we relate to the world and to others. Understanding this helps us understand the needs and wants of our workforce and customers in a manner that lets us all be successful.”
Her title includes “belonging,” and, according to Durruthy, it’s a key word. “We add ‘belonging’ to diversity and inclusion because it’s crucial for employees,” she said. “If they don’t feel like they belong, they go elsewhere. For any business, it is a pivotal differentiation context.”
Durruthy also shared how attention to all of these points pays off. “Research shows that businesses with more diversity prove to be more innovative in solutions and services for customers,” she said. “They retain employees better, and these employees are more satisfied and therefore loyal and have the desire to really connect with the mission of the company and work hard to further it.”
She’s excited about the chance to speak in Montgomery, a place where she sees opportunity to embrace change. “Montgomery is really growing and changing,” she said. “There are benefits that can come from changes.”
In addition to Durruthy’s talk, the event promises something for every type and size of business, including continuing education credits. Rose believes the value of participating is clear. “I believe attendees will gain a deeper understanding of the goals and objectives of diversity in business, and I hope they leave with a commitment to take back the best practices that they’ve learned,” she said.
A FEW FACTS:
A recent report published by the Association of Chamber Executives, “Embracing the Challenge: The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Imperative for Chambers of Commerce” contains a wealth of information, but a few of the report’s findings really stand out:
- Demographic change is driven by natural growth, not immigration.
- The number of businesses owned by immigrants is increasing.
- Cities and regions that support and promote diversity do better economically.
- Diverse and dynamic epistemic communities are key to regions adapting to new economic and demographic realities.
READ THE FULL REPORT AT ACCE.ORG.