By Wes Berry
Inclusion is right for all kinds of reasons; most of all, it’s a simple issue of fairness and equal opportunity. Those are reasons enough to embrace diversity. But incorporating diversity into your company can also be a significant business asset. According to many studies, including one by Dr. Sara Ellison, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, greater diversity—across gender, race, disability, age and numerous other factors—means higher productivity and profit for businesses.
During my years in business, it was a willingness to look deeper that gave us reliable, loyal employees who rewarded me over the years with more than $750 million dollars in sales. My company included over 100 employees on staff in the United States and close to 200 employees overseas. Being a valuable individual is not contingent on one’s gender, race, creed, political affiliation or anything else—not even SAT scores. I based my hiring criteria on specific character traits: focused, task-driven individuals who are willing to take the initiative.
Implementing diversity and inclusion is a basic business imperative. Honestly, it’s not only the right thing to do from a societal perspective, it’s the best thing to do from a business perspective. Here are just a few of the ways how diversity can help you prosper:
1. Diversity brings broader experience into your business. The variety of experiences that a diverse environment can provide will combine in ways that a single perspective can never compete with. Different life and cultural experiences can address issues and identify opportunities that would otherwise be overlooked. It’s critically important that these differences be celebrated and leveraged to expand the understanding that contributes to the culture of your enterprise. We are a diverse society, and no one can afford to cut off a specific group of individuals. The more diverse your business culture, the stronger and more creative your problem solving skills
2. Diversity offers wider market appeal. Because you are diverse, you can be more responsive to the entire market, offering the greater possibility for increased market share. Embracing the different groups of customers greatly widens your target audience.
3. Diversity creates a customer centric culture. Diversity even goes beyond what might ordinarily come to mind. I recently worked with Henry Ford West Bloomfield hospital, that hired outside the medical field to develop a more customer centric culture. They hired CEO Gerard van Grinsven from the Ritz Carlton hotel chain, and he truly brought a completely new culture to that hospital, offering gourmet-quality food and training the staff to perform as if they were working at a 5-star hotel. The key caricaturist of this change was that it embraced diversity in every level of accommodation from staff to patients.
4. Diversity produces a quality work atmosphere. Acceptance cuts down on pettiness, strengthens individual creativity, and leads to overall company stability.
Good business practices call out for such opportunities that include all racial, religious, ethnic, and sexual orientations as well an any other groups including political and social. As long as anyone is using a valid currency it’s just good business to include them in every level of your business. My dad used to tell me that “as long as everyone has the same color money it doesn’t matter what color they are.”
Remarkably, many businesses “talk the talk” but don’t “walk the walk.” So play it smart and embrace diversity. You’ll be doing the right thing by giving everyone an equal opportunity, and you’ll strengthen the fabric of your business in ways that others just talk about. Yes, you want only the best quality workers, but sometimes the way we measure quality is the problem. Diversity brings its own type of quality. It brings a more tolerant and understanding culture, which in turn builds a more successful business.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to minimize the importance of including those specific classifications who often face discrimination; yes, those certainly need to be the focus. However, don’t limit how you define diversity. Once you expand your definition you’ll come to realize how diversity benefits those who aggressively pursue it.
Wes Berry is a keynote speaker and the bestselling author of the book Big Things Have Small Beginnings. He has been recognized by the NAACP and other civil rights organizations for his efforts to promote diversity. His business career began in a $60-thousand-dollar-a-year failing family flower shop in Detroit, from which he built a $60-million-dollar international company with more than $750 million dollars in sales. Wes can be contacted at email@example.com or you can learn more at his website www.wesberrygroup.com.