Commentary by Keith Daly, Chief Claims Officer, Farmers Insurance®

When the word diversity is brought up, what's the first thing that comes to your mind? Race, gender, religion? But diversity these days includes much more than these criteria, especially for the rising workforce of millennials. A recent study from Deloitte and the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative found that when it comes to defining diversity and inclusion at work, millennials see the concepts through a completely different lens.

The report found that millennials, who will comprise nearly 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, define diversity as a blending of different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives - or what scientists are calling cognitive diversity. Cognitive diversity is defined as the differences in our thought and problem-solving processes, and millennials tend to view it as a necessary element for innovation.

This new definition of diversity is important not only for companies staffed by millennials, but demonstrate that diversity of thought at your business can help boost innovative and creative problem-solving. Additionally, organizations that align diversity and inclusion practices to business objectives generally have more engaged and happier employees.

Think of it this way --- it would be fairly easy for me to assemble a team of people who think and act much like I do, who have a personality like mine, and a communication style that mimics mine. In many cases, I could then have a organized consensus on just about any issue. But unless all my customers are just like me, how much could I grow my business with this homogenous workforce?

Diversity of all kinds is extremely important, and so at Farmers we embrace a diversity of perspectives. We believe inclusion draws on a rich variety of approaches and experiences and can lead to better decisions, a better organization, and a superior brand.

Some might thrive in a creative zone while others work analytically. Some might be meticulous planners while others are intuitive thinkers. Having this mix of cognitive approaches in your workplace can help stimulate creativity and spur insights that can trigger more successful decision making.

Perhaps you're a small business owner or run a larger organization, one goal for your company is to create better outcomes for your clients and stakeholders. That may be achieved through genuine collaboration among people who all see things a bit differently. By hiring employees with different thought processes and skills, you may be helping set up your business for success in the long run.

You want to strive to create an environment where people are comfortable sharing their points of view and feel that their input is valued. At the end of the day, you likely want an organization where everyone has the ability to perform. So, how do you make sure that you are hiring with these ideals in mind? To help increase diversity of thought in your office, you can do the following:

Hire differently. Starting with your job description and interview process, create a process that is designed to help identify and select people who think in diverse ways. If you want to recruit top talent, you sometimes have to shake up everyone's expectations of who you hire. You may want to consider people that have varying points of view, that are collaborative, and those who are outspoken and have strong opinions. It may be easy to bring together a team of like minded individuals, but having people with different points of view can help lead to better decisions and a better organization.

Manage differently. Encourage a task-focused climate of give and take, rather than always seeking consensus as the end goal. This type of dynamic can push your team to new levels of creativity and productivity. Aim to foster an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their views and their unique perspectives.

Think differently about promotions. Think about ways that you can reward those who think outside the box. Moving to a team-based performance evaluation framework can in some cases allow you to create and foster a culture of inclusion that empowers your people, spurs collaboration and inspires more innovation.

Owning your own business means having to be able to juggle a variety of different tasks all at once, and purposefully seeking out a diversity of perspectives may seem like adding to that large task list. But we live in an increasingly complex world, where successful companies need to connect with a variety of different audiences. Aiming for a range of cognitive approaches among the people who work for you may help your business reach its highest potential. Embrace those who offer a diversity of perspectives, and you can be well on your way to success.

Published on: Mar 1, 2017