Corporate culture is all about the attitude a company takes. Nowhere do you define your business more clearly and publicly than in your attitude toward diversity and inclusion. It’s not just a matter of taking a public stance, though that helps. It’s about the way you engage with and motivate both employees and customers.

A Stronger Business Through Diversity

It’s a truth we’re not all comfortable facing, but business is still dominated by the same small elite it has been for hundreds of years – a group that is white and male, and that tends to recruit more of the same. Deloitte research shows that we’re struggling to change this – while 71% of businesses aspire to be inclusive, only 11% manage it.

But recent research has shown that a more diverse business isn’t just good for the people being hired or for society at large – it’s good for the business doing the hiring. Research by the National Centre for Women & Information Technology has shown that the presence of women within a team increases the group’s collective intelligence, while Gallup research has shown that teams are often happier and better engaged under a female leader.

There’s also a more directly obvious factor to consider. Without a wide range of perspectives, varying with gender, race and background, you will never understand customers from different backgrounds. Without a diverse workforce to provide diverse insight, you are limiting the scope of your customer base. Embracing diversity within your business lets you reach more people beyond it.

Values on Parade

A strong sense of values and purpose are essential tools in galvanizing your workforce and drawing strong customer support. Focusing on diversity and inclusion gives you a chance to not just talk about your values but live them, and in an area that matters to millions of people.

It’s something that Gap and Levi Strauss showed in taking a stance over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. By standing up for LGBT rights they took a firm stance on diversity and inclusion. It was an act that could have affected their profits, making the stance more substantial and meaningful. And because it was reaching out to an often oppressed group, it highlighted their values.

By standing by their values, Gap and Levi Strauss gained a lot of public praise, motivated the parts of their workforce who shared their values, and galvanized customers in support of their brands.

How to Encourage Diversity and Inclusion

It’s not enough just to say that you support diversity and inclusion, as shown by the gap between 71% aspiring to it and 11% achieving it in the Deloitte survey. So what can you do to make a more diverse and inclusive business culture a reality?

An important step is to vary your recruitment pools. If you always advertise in the same places then you’ll always get the same people. Consider advertising jobs in newspapers, magazines and websites that target different readerships, such as women, Hispanics, and the LGBT community.

Take time to listen to diverse voices. What are the challenges facing different groups within your business? What stands between them and joining your company? Don’t just listen passively but seek out those opinions so that you can gain insight into how to improve.

If we act passively, waiting for employees from different communities to come to us, staying silent as we wait for them to speak up, then may never take the chance. Many have been shown again and again that employers aren’t interested. We must be the ones to reach out if we want to make our companies more diverse and inclusive, and to reap the benefits that brings.

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