Diversity has become a buzzword. I’m not a fan of buzzwords. I’m now in rooms with executives that use diversity the way people used to overuse organic about a decade ago. The casualness in which it’s used takes me back to my culinary days when a non-foodie would try to impress someone by inserting the word organic. And just like those situations, it’s awkward. While most of these occurrences are well-intentioned, ignorance is not bliss. And since we aren’t talking about produce, let me tell you what diversity truly is. It’s a bottom-line issue. Period.
It always shocks me to see big corporations such as Sephora and Starbucks that design diversity training programs ONLY as a response to discriminatory behavior that generates negative publicity. Just think about the savings for each company if diversity were a well-thought-out part of their business strategy and overall culture? Not to mention the damage that is done to the overall brand image including consumer disappointment and a lack of trust.
Embracing diversity without a doubt will change company culture. And in most cases, for the best! Although, most of us naturally think about race when the word diversity comes up. That’s just scratching the surface. A company rich in diversity has employees from all ethnicities, education levels, genders, religions, cultural backgrounds, economic status, and uses those differences to their advantage. The benefit of a diverse workplace is that no two people think the same, and neither do your customers. It’s smart for business.
Treating diversity like an afterthought is an act of negligence and denial. The truth is that the future is bold. It’s mixed. Bi-racial, foreign, and transgender individuals, young geniuses, and even gangsters are turning into businessmen. Some will read this and want to run in the other direction. But for me? Sign me up! Because this is what businesses look like in the future. No more all middle-aged white men setting rules and regulations for employees and customers they don’t understand. No more women pretending to support other women while trying to sabotage their success. No more keeping your assistant in a stagnant position with no room for growth or advancement. I’ll say it again, the future is bold. Forward-thinking and will not accept excuses from businesses and leaders that lack decency and basic morals.
Invest in properly training your team to handle customers from all walks of life. And I mean all walks. Thinking about a hearing or visually-impaired person’s experience with your brand will surely force you to make adjustments. How often are you thinking about your employees’ experience? What are their goals or aspirations? Their family dynamic?
The takeaway is simple. Diversify your team. Diversify your business. Or watch it die slowly.