Diverse organizations perform better.

In a report titled “Why diversity matters“, McKinsey examined data from 366 public companies in Canada, Latin America, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The report’s findings were that “Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.”

In addition, the report noted that for every 10% increase in racial and ethnic diversity on the senior executive team, earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) rose 0.8%.

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And according to McKinsey, “More diverse companies, we believe, are better able to win top talent and improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision making, and all that leads to a virtuous cycle of increasing returns.”

While McKinsey’s findings are important, we shouldn’t put all of our eggs in the diversity basket. Diversity and inclusion (“D&I”) must be considered together.

Diversity & Inclusion (D&I)

In a SHRM article titled “6 Steps for Building an Inclusive Workplace”, Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, president and chief executive officer of SHRM, says, “We often forget the ‘I’ in the D&I conversation. The challenge is in having a culture where all employees feel included. It’s a major investment to bring talent into your organization, so why bring them in if they’re not happy when they get here? You’ve got to get the inclusion part right.”

That SHRM article makes the following analogy for D&I:

  • Diversity: Selecting people for a chorus who have different backgrounds, vocal ranges and abilities.
  • Inclusion: Ensuring that the different voices are heard and valued, and contribute to the performance.

In other words, it’s not good enough for a chorus to have a diverse and world-class group of singers. The singers must feel comfortable being themselves, and know that they can speak their minds and be heard.

In a Deloitte survey of 1,300+ full-time employees from companies across the United States, 80% of respondents state that inclusion is an important factor in choosing an employer. In addition, 72% stated that they would leave or consider leaving a job for one that has more inclusive aspects.

Inclusion is a particularly important consideration for millennials. The survey found that 30% of millennials have already left a job to find a new employer with a more inclusive culture.

According to Deloitte, employees rate the following aspects of a job with high importance:

  • Feeling comfortable about being themselves
  • Feeling comfortable speaking up and expressing opinions
  • An environment that provides a sense of purpose and impact

On the flip side, only 12% cited a diversity of demographic groups as a reason they left a previous job. In addition, employees seek inclusion in everyday experiences, more so than one-off initiatives or programs. 

According to Deloitte, “Seventy-one percent of those surveyed said they would prefer an organization with leadership that consistently demonstrates inclusive behaviors over an organization that offers numerous initiatives.”

Educate leaders about inclusion

Inclusion spreads in a top-down fashion, beginning with senior leadership. As such, formal training needs to be provided to executives and managers.

In the previously referenced SHRM article, Dianne Campbell, vice president of global diversity and inclusion at American Express, states, “At the end of the day, it’s the leader who’s on the front line with our employees. It’s the experience that the leader is creating that is going to make or break your D&I initiatives.”

American Express provides training for people at the vice president level and above. The training covers the basics of inclusion and includes small-group discussions on how to foster inclusion within the company.

Diversity and inclusion statements

Progressive organizations have created diversity and inclusion statements to capture their commitment to D&I. These statements are similar to an organization’s mission statement, but focus specifically on diversity, inclusion or both.

IBM is a good example. The “IBM Diversity & Inclusion” page states:

“We strive to continually lead with our values and beliefs that enable IBMers to develop their potential, bring their full self to the workplace, and engage in a world of inclusion.”

IBM provides numerous resources on this microsite, including a page titled “Inclusive IBM,” which features an employee, Ella, who joined IBM in 2014. The page states, “Working at IBM, Ella is able to be herself every day, while building on IBM’s history of an inclusive diversity culture.”

IBM also provides a brochure on diversity and inclusion, which opens with a greeting from Ginni Rometty, Chair, President and CEO of IBM.

Stanford University has an interesting example: a page listing their “Provost’s Statement on Diversity and Inclusion.” The page answers the question, “Why is diversity important?” and provides details on their commitment to IDEAL: Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access in a Learning Environment.

According to Stanford, “We strongly believe that a diverse student body needs to learn from an equally diverse faculty. We are excited to see the growing diversity of our undergraduate and graduate students, which reflects more and more of the dynamic nature of our country and our world with a broad range of geographic, racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, cultural and educational backgrounds.”

The link between leadership and people is irrefutable.

Success story: diversity at Evite

In a Medium post titled “On Diversity: Building a 60% Female Tech Company,” Victor Cho, Evite’s CEO, detailed the company’s approach to diversity. 

According to Cho, women make up:

  • 60% of total employees
  • 63% of managers
  • 57% of directors and above
  • 40% of technology and product employees

The representation of females in these categories far outpaces other technology companies. In fact, Cho notes, “We have built a truly balanced tribe that has bucked the overall market trend and puts us well beyond the top 10% of diverse companies as reported by Diversity, Inc.”

 Cho credits the results to a decision-making framework called TIDE: Target, Ideation, Decision, Execution. The basis for the TIDE framework is divergence. According to him, “When you combine a divergent process for problem solving with a diverse employee base you will be blown away by the creative ideas that stem from alternative opinions, experiences, and world views.”

In addition to the TIDE framework, Evite takes a unique approach to hiring, looking beyond individual skills. Evite looks for the potential to elevate the people around you, something they call “Energy Accretive.” Their hiring methodology naturally leads them to hire a more diverse group of employees.

Finally, while some companies shy away from having open conversations about diversity, Evite invites just the opposite. They’re comfortable having uncomfortable conversations, which they find tip the interview pools in the right direction.