Diversity: For Employee Engagement Or As A Selfish Act

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Posted by Sean Ball

June 25, 2014

DiversityWhether it is used to boost employee engagement or viewed as a high-level initiative, every Human Resource leader or manager at one time or another has been pushed to deliver on diversity. 

Here at Yoh, it is one of our values and it is taken very seriously. We have a Diversity Council that meets regularly to discuss how to continuously improve the level of diversity within the company and to address diversity related issues. 

Diversity efforts are measured and reported to senior leadership. In every formal meeting, one of the first two agenda items is diversity (safety is the other).

While it is not uncommon for companies to promote diversity, this level of effort supporting diversity isn’t common. Most companies would rather devote their resources toward providing more value to their customers, cutting costs or expanding their revenues. These are valid efforts for any company and must be done to keep those companies healthy and growing. However, focusing on those efforts at the expense of diversity either at the corporate level or as hiring manager will make the company and you less successful.

Throughout my career, when diversity has come up in a conversation people will acknowledge that it is a good thing. But I have found that most hiring managers support it for one of three reasons:

  1. A moral obligation- It is just the right thing to do.
  2. An altruistic act- Diversity supports groups of people that have been ignored or discriminated against.
  3. Going along- Some can’t think of a good reason not to be diverse. So they just follow the crowd.

While I agree with the first two (they used to be my primary reasons for supporting diversity), they do not paint the complete picture of the value of diversity. In my opinion, once corporations and their hiring managers understand the total value of diversity, it will stop being nice-to-have and start being demanded. That is when it becomes a selfish act. At that point, diversity is no longer just about how it benefits others but about how it specifically benefits you.

To understand how diversity benefits you, first you have to know what it is. We often think of diversity in terms of what we can see (gender, race, age, etc.). But these are only indicators of the diversity we really need. It is what we don’t see that matters. In the business world, diversity is most beneficial when you have a variety of experiences among your workforce. These can be work experiences, like military service or an international assignment. These can be cultural experiences gained through being born in another country/region or due to religious or racial heritage. These can be physical experiences related to the use of mobility equipment or having different eyesight (such as being color blind).

Those various experiences lead to different perspectives on any challenge that comes up. In turn, those perspectives lead to a variety of potential solutions or improvements. The more choices you have when dealing with a challenge, the more likely you are to make the best decision possible.

So whether you are trying to provide greater value to your customers, cut costs or expand revenues, a diverse workforce is going to give you more (and potentially better) options than you would get from a homogenous, like-minded team. This is my primary motivation for having a diverse team. Diversity gives me and my company the best chance at being successful.

This blog was written by Sean Ball. Sean has fifteen years of management experience in various industries ranging from retail, software to staffing (six of the fifteen). He is currently a member of the Day & Zimmermann Diversity Council.

Topics: Leadership & Management

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