Gaining Strength Through Diversity and Inclusion

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.

Focus On A Forward-Thinking Company Culture

Everyone looks for some magic formula on how to succeed at work, but to be honest, it’s not all that complicated.

I remember my boss once asked me, “How are companies like Facebook and Google so successful? What do they do that we’re not doing?”

I answered right away with, “They have laser-sharp focus, are driven to achieve a goal by a very clear mission, and never deviate from that goal.”

I honestly believe that’s the secret to a successful office. Everything else, such as hiring and organizational structure, kind of falls into place if you’re focused on that vision. When companies hire someone, they look to see if that person shares that same vision. If an employee has an idea for a new feature for the platform, he or she first checks to see if it helps reach that goal.

Here are a five things that I think help separate successful offices from unsuccessful ones.

1. Following Agile Methodologies

This is an important one. After working in a traditional company that followed a “waterfall” approach, I can see that the agile way of working is just smarter. Instead of planning endlessly and guessing how long things will take, work and adjust in real time.


The biggest issue I’ve seen is resistance of adoption by certain people (usually management), possibly because it’s so new to them and so hard to comprehend. Like the saying goes: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

I’m not sure how else to explain it to managers who are against agile, other than it just make more sense for the real world.

It’s impossible to plan properly for anything in life, even outside of work, so why not start working, and then readjust as necessary?

2. Learning How To Say No

This goes back to what I was saying in the beginning. In order to stay laser-focused, you have to be willing to say no more than you say yes. This is something that every office needs to succeed.

If you want to be successful at what you do, you have to make sure that you’re doing only what’s required to achieve those goals. Sometimes it will be hard to say no, but it’s necessary.

Innovation is not about saying yes to everything. It’s about saying NO to all but the most crucial features” — Steve Jobs

3. Being Transparent

Transparency is another common characteristic of successful companies. When you stop to think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Opening up to your employees, and being transparent about what you and the rest of the company are doing is a guaranteed way to make them think that you trust them and care about them.

Doing something as simple as using employee pulse surveys to get both qualitative and quantitative feedback can help with transparency. It will provide weekly, monthly, and quarterly advice to help your organization understand its employees.

My favorite example of this is a company called Hubspot. Its known for its radical transparency, and I’m confident that’s a huge reason for its success. HubSpot shares pretty much everything its legally allowed to with all of its employees on an internal “wiki.”

4. Embracing Change

It’s important not to get stuck in your ways of doing things. This is true for simple, internal processes, and even your entire business model.

Don’t be afraid to pivot to achieve success. Companies are more innovative than ever, and competition is fiercer than ever. If (more like when) the time comes, be ready to adapt.

Using a tool to monitor competitors will help you keep an eye on what they’re doing, and how to react.

Also, customers’ needs will change over time as well. It’s important not to become complacent, and to make sure you are always satisfying them. You should be talking to your customers frequently to ask them what they want, what they don’t like about what you currently do, etc.

There are lots of ways to do this, and there are lots of incredible tools out there, but nothing beats a good old phone call.

5. Relaxing at Work

This can be a tough one to master, especially because balance is so critical. We don’t want to be too relaxed that no work is being done, but we don’t want to be too stressed that our work suffers.

But learning how to relax can be one of the most important things for having a successful office. Again, this kind of relates to the first thing I mentioned about being focused on that long-term vision, because you shouldn’t be so stressed or so anxious to finish a task. If it needs to be done that quickly, then you’re probably not thinking long term enough.

If you ever want to shake things up at the office and want to create a cool atmosphere, try using unique team-building activities to make your office’s company culture thrive.

How Are You Bettering Your Company Culture?

Is your company focusing on its culture? What are some tips and tricks that you may have to offer to improve another company’s culture?

About the Author: Jeffrey Fermin is one of the founders of Officevibe. With a goal of solving some of the major problems that still exist in the modern day workplace, he uses his knowledge to help organizations increase employee engagement.

photo credit: FastLizard4 via photopin cc