When the phrase “leveraging diversity” pops up in a boardroom or a leadership seminar, it often conjures up notions like equal opportunity, breaking the glass ceiling, or sensitivity training. But if President Obama's election ushered in a “post-racial America,” the corporate strategy of leveraging diversity can probably use an update that goes beyond merely addressing racial and sexual discrimination. Check out five perspectives on modern diversity, and how your own company's leverage strategies measure up.
Beyond Black and White – Diversity goes beyond race and the kind of EOE decision-making that dominated labor relations from the 1960s on. Diversity also means age diversity, sexual diversity, geographical diversity, linguistic diversity, and cultural diversity that often cuts across (or ignores entirely) racial lines. Diversity leverage is all about bringing different perspectives together to improve organizational efficiency. Race is only one piece of that puzzle.
Beyond Customers – Sure, ultimately it’s all about growing and maintaining your customer base. But you can leverage diversity with respect to suppliers, franchisees, overall work culture, and different levels of your corporate structure, in addition to creating more profound relationships with customers. And naturally, given the realities of globalization, diversity can be leveraged at both the domestic and international levels.
Beyond Political Correctness – Diversity is not simply some sort of “make-nice” gesture or comfortable moral imperative. Diversity can be leveraged to increase the bottom line and provide the kind of high-impact growth that will get everyone engaged from the C-level down. When diversity is a concrete business strategy, and not just a nebulous state of mind or politically correct PR tactic, it provides big-time dividends and gets people excited.
Beyond a Burden – The best organizational diversity strategy is less about red tape or regulatory hindrances, and more about freedom. A company which truly embraces diversity puts talented people where they will function best, and where they can make a difference. Diversity never has to be about slighting one group and favoring another. Proactive diversity leveraging is a “win-win” situation where all perspectives are valued and can thrive.
Beyond the Mission Statement – Diversity is never a “written in stone” mission or empty platitude. Diversity is also about adapting to new challenges, and keeping up with the diversity out there in the world, whether it’s new technology, new markets, or new cultural developments. The world changes, and for successful companies, diversity is a journey, not a destination.
Please share your thoughts on what leveraging diversity means to you and your company.