Diversity is more than a buzzword in today's business world--it's an attainable and worthy goal for any company. Today's people shop and search for work with an expectation of diversity, in both the brands they buy and the companies they work for. "Diversity and inclusion are business imperatives," says Yolanda Lee Conyers, Chief Diversity Officer at tech company Lenovo. "A diverse and inclusive workforce helps us innovate smarter and more purposefully, making better products and solutions for our customers," she says. Lenovo isn't committed just to technological innovation, but also to meeting the differing needs of its diverse customers and employees worldwide.
Research shows that diverse workplaces are more innovative, smarter, and more profitable. They perform better by spurring staff to more rigorously prepare and defend their ideas among teams with differing viewpoints. "For any organization that prides itself on innovation, you want to bring in folks who can contribute to that collective and group intelligence," says Erin L. Thomas, PhD, a partner at Paradigm, a diversity and inclusion consulting firm. "The more diversity you have in those teams, the more likely you'll get to those novel outcomes."
Diverse teams also enable greater customer reach, says Thomas. "I like to think about diverse teams as both mirrors and windows around diverse culture," she says. This means recruiting people who have their finger on the pulse of diverse customer bases, who can then be "windows" into those customers' cultures to forecast trends. "Without people in the room who are in touch with those communities, or who identify as members of those communities, you're less likely to have those insights and reflections," she says.
However, it's not enough to build a diverse team and call it a day. Every member of every team needs to feel like he or she belongs--that's where real inclusion comes in. "Inclusion is about creating a sense of belonging, acceptance, and equality for all employees," says Conyers. "Employees are then able to bring their whole self to the workplace." Not having to self-censor or code-switch means staff can direct their energy to doing their best work, "as opposed to fitting a mold or having to shape-shift in order to be taken seriously," says Thomas.
Valuing diversity and inclusion as difference makers is important, but companies need action plans for implementation. Under Conyers's leadership, Lenovo developed a four-point action plan for its Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) strategy: inclusive leadership, fostering diverse and inclusive systems, accountability goals for management, and publicly stating and standing by their initiatives. "We're focused on making Lenovo a top company for people of all backgrounds and origins to work in," she says.
"Top-down system-level change is obviously the most impactful type of change," adds Thomas, "but you don't have to wait for that at your workplace to be a beacon of progress." As the research shows, creating space for everyone leads to better results for everyone. "There are things that each and every one of us can do within our radius of influence," Thomas says.
If you're wondering how to become a difference maker in your organization, consider the diversity of your inner circles at work, rethink whom you partner with to brainstorm, and be mindful about how much space you take up at meetings. Ask yourself: Who isn't on your teams? Who isn't speaking up during meetings? And what can you do to change that?
Through diversity and inclusion, Lenovo internally creates a breeding ground for the difference makers of today and tomorrow. And, through technologies and support, Lenovo provides similar opportunities for excellence and growth to their customer base across the globe.
Lenovo is dedicated to providing the technology, services, and support Small Businesses need on their journey to make a difference. For more information, click here.