Ivan Joseph highlighted the importance of a diverse workforce and leadership team in his recent NSCA Business & Leadership Conference keynote, saying diversity is good for a company’s bottom line because “diverse teams bring diverse perspectives, which moves us in the right direction.”
He pointed to “tons and tons of research,” including from Harvard Business Review and Forbes magazine as supporting the premise. He notes boards with women have higher innovation and boards with diverse ethnic makeups have higher profits as a rule.
“All the data tells us over and over again that diverse teams bring diverse perspectives, which moves us in the right direction,” said Joseph. He says leaders and those who make hiring decisions must do a better job of changing the stalled-out diversity efforts that have been largely stagnant since the 1980s.
It’s important to “challenge inherent biases,” said Joseph. “They impact the way we lead and the decisions we make. Diverse teams work precisely because they’re harder. You have to compromise and work together.”
Business leaders must fight “systemic challenges” to attract and recruit talent, said Joseph. Those challenges include where you advertise your job openings, he said.
“We have to think about the way we think,” said Joseph. That includes eliminating biases of all types, such as conformity biases, halo effect biases, the horns effect bias where one bad thing poisons the well and the attribution bias, where you explain away one person’s success.
The conformity or affinity bias comes through when someone notices a person has a similar background to them so they assume the rest of their attributes are also good.
The halo effect comes into play when a person’s first impression gets applied to the rest of their work and the horns effect is the opposite, meaning one bad trait makes those considering the person for work wonder if there’s more trouble.
An attribution bias comes through in a more subtle way when those with similar backgrounds celebrate the work of those who are like them but explain away the success of a person whose background is different, said Joseph.
Celebrating Diversity Matters for Your Company
While the focus of Joseph’s BLC keynote was all about eliminating the idea of judging people based on different traits they have and backgrounds from which they come, he noted that it’s still important for business leaders to pay homage to the different cultures and experiences of their employees.
That could be as simple as an office party celebrating Diwali or a pot luck lunch featuring foods from the various ethnic backgrounds represented by the employees.
“We should celebrate the things that make us different,” said Joseph. “The longer we keep talented people, the better it is for the bottom line.”
Recently, New Era Technology managed solutions account executive Chris Turner shared some of his experiences with CI readers, noting his Asian-American heritage often surprises those who meet him in person because his name doesn’t give any clues about it.
“When someone hears that name, it’s easy not to associate it with someone that is Asian-American,” said Turner. “In the past, when I submitted job resumes and subsequently went in for interviews, I could read the surprised reactions on the interviewees’ faces.
“Ultimately, there should not be a reaction. A reaction showcases that the interviewees intentionally or unintentionally were putting me in a certain category—one I did not fit,” said Turner.
Both Joseph and Turner call out the business benefits of embracing diversity, equity and inclusion. There are proven bottom-line benefits to having a leadership team that hires people from different backgrounds.
“This industry can’t be one-dimensional if it wants to serve our customers’ increasingly global market,” wrote Turner. “If you don’t know how to deal with other cultures and diverse individuals, you will not make advances with your evolving customers.
“If we can embrace DEI within our own corporate structure, we will do well with customers, too,” he wrote.
Turner also noted that a corporate focus on diversity, equity and inclusion could yield better results in your searches for new employees.
“If your company embraces DEI, you open a completely different talent pool,” he wrote. “The integration industry frequently talks about the limited ability to find the talent needed to grow our companies. This becomes less of a problem for companies that embrace DEI in their company culture and hiring.”
Click here to register for NSCA’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Workshop for Integrators on March 25 at 11 a.m Eastern.