"Diversity" is a word that gets a lot of abuse in the corporate world. All too often, it's about meeting a quota rather than tapping into the energetic magic that a diverse workplace provides.
At my company, we don't have a formal diversity committee or initiative; it's simply built into our vision as a whole. Like attracts like, and the more diverse we are, the better our chances of attracting top talent from all walks of life.
I've got three main reasons for loving a diverse workplace:
1. It's a Competitive Advantage
Diversity is a great competitive advantage, particularly in Utah, which is where 90% of our employees are. Talent is tight there--you want to attract the best people and keep them happy.
Let's say we've got a kickass employee from another country who just doesn't fit the Utah box. A competitor wants to recruit them. If they go to interview with the competitor, and see mainly people who do fit the box--and if we're a multifarious paradise by comparison--how easy is it going to be to lure them away from us?
Take someone from our team as an example. She's an awesomely talented, purple-haired minority female from another state. She told me that the first time she walked through our office, she thought, "Oh my gosh, there are other women and minorities here, and people with hair colors definitely not supplied by their parents' DNA."
When she went home, she wondered if she had imagined it. She'd hated her last job, and that made her suspect that she was thinking of us more generously than she should.
She returned for a second interview, and paid close attention. Not only were people diverse, they seemed happy (more on that at the end). She accepted our offer, and we're a better organization for it.
Finally--if anecdotal evidence doesn't convince you--more and more research is showing that companies that have diverse workforces outperform companies that don't.
2. We Owe It to Our Customers
The second reason I believe a diverse workforce is superior to a homogenous one is that I feel that we owe it to our customer base, which is distributed across geography, industry and race.
We have many ESL customers, for example. If we're all white Mormon males, can you really make an intellectual or statistical argument that this is the ideal team to build the right product for a diverse small business customer set?
Diversity plays an important role in how you productize as well as how you communicate in customer acquisition and reengagement. We owe it to our customer base to be as diverse as possible, so that we can deliver products and services tailor-made to their needs.
3. It Makes Life More Fun
This may be a selfish reason, but I personally find homogenous workplaces boring. Age, race, gender, life experience, outside interests--one of our team members runs his own farm--all contribute to a sense of excitement and vitality in the office.
To encourage this, we have a tradition that you may want to consider for your own office. Every 90 days, after one of our company meetings, any employee who wants to can stand up and present a five-minute topic on a subject of their choice.
We've heard talks on everything from how to help refugees in Utah, to the history of flight, to etymological breakdowns of famous names in the Bible. It's a fantastic way to get to know one another better, and one of the furthest things from filling a quota that I can think of.
Compare that with my experience at one of my former companies, where it seemed like every employee my business partner hired was a clone of him. Not only was it boring, it lead to groupthink--something sure to stall the growth of any enterprise.
Conversely, a diverse workforce challenges my assumptions and checks my ego. It opens my eyes to numerous valuable perspectives that I would have been blind to otherwise.
In short, it keeps me on my toes. As a leader, that's where I want to be. I've come to cherish exchanges as basic as getting teased by a millennial colleague about my love of Motley Crue.
It's delightful, and who couldn't use a little delight now and then?
One Last Thought
The power of diversity can't be truly unlocked unless it finds a unified purpose. My purple-haired employee didn't just see diversity--she saw happy people.
We're happy not only because we're diverse, but because we believe in what we're doing. We're wildly different as individuals, but the values, vision and mission we fight for on a daily basis are exactly the same.