If I told you there's a way to outperform your market and boost earnings without slashing costs or investing in new technology, would you be willing to listen? 

Set aside whatever you're doing, because I can do just that. Check out some of the key findings from a McKinsey report, Diversity Matters:

  • "Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians."
  • "Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians."
  • "In the United States, there is a linear relationship between racial and ethnic diversity and better financial performance: for every 10 percent increase in racial and ethnic diversity on the senior-executive team, earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) rise 0.8 percent."

Diversity in the workplace is undoubtedly the right thing to do. However, we live in a world of "business cases" where everything must be cost-justifiable--and diversity is a huge competitive advantage that many organizations never realize.

Here are a few practical thoughts to help you attract and hire a diverse workforce and, to help you unlock their potential. First, let's start with building a diverse bench (including diversity of thought):

1. Revamp your recruiting materials and messaging.

Design recruiting collateral with diversity in mind. This includes photos, locations, and cultural components that are reflective of your diversity aspirations.

Comb through your materials for any unconscious bias. Often, websites and marketing materials are filled with subliminal suggestions that lead candidates to formulate the wrong perception of your organization.

For example, if your job descriptions are packed with verbiage that suggests you'll need "x" years of experience to be successful, it could discourage those who are younger or older from applying.

2. Try not to rely on referrals.

Finding qualified candidates is getting tougher. A referral can be a much-needed lifesaver. However, if you're already struggling with diversity, referrals usually don't help.

Ever heard the saying, "Birds of a feather stick together?" The same goes for candidate referrals. It's not always the case, but usually the referrer and referee share commonalities. 

3. Make sure your interviewers showcase your diverse workforce.

The knee-jerk reaction is to rely on those who've always interviewed or to include those with the most senior titles in the department--which may still work. However, when you take a look at the numbers, the odds aren't high--especially when considering gender. 

  • Via Catalyst.org, while American women are close to 45 percent of the overall S&P 500 labor force, they hold only 26 percent of the executive and senior-level officials/manager roles, just 21 percent of the board seats, and less than six percent of CEO positions. 
  • Among the top 100 venture capitalist firms, only eight percent of partners are women. 

When you introduce additional factors like race and color, the numbers are even lower. 

Make a point to create diverse interviewing panels that are representative of the world we live in (different genders, ages, races, and professional backgrounds). Not only does it showcase your diverse workforce, but also a diversity of thought. Having more perspectives in the room increases the likelihood that candidates connect to and relate to your organization. 

4. Build benefit packages that attract diversity.

This could include various retirement savings options, leave, vacation and educational opportunities. It's important to put yourself in your candidate's shoes and (regardless of religious affiliations, age, or sexual orientation) construct packages that accommodate diversity and different stages of life. 

Alright, you've hired a diverse group. Here are a couple of quick thoughts to maintain the momentum. 

Bonus tip: Put someone in charge of diversity.

Successful companies like Apple and Google understand that if you're going to make progress in this area, you have to make it a priority and you have to assign ownership. If you don't have the luxury of hiring a "VP of Diversity," then make sure it's baked into someone's job description.

Make sure diversity metrics are added to your company's key performance indicators and progress is measured. It might be scary at first, but the only way to see sustainable change is to hold someone or some department accountable.

Bonus tip: Encourage everyone to weigh in.

I've been in meetings before where I was terrified to speak up and due to the fear of seeming incompetent or being judged, held back questions and ideas. Not only did it appear as if I was disengaged, but usually someone would ask the exact same question five minutes later. 

It's to a team's own detriment to have a homogenous train of thought. Don't let groupthink negate all your efforts to build a diverse workforce. Make sure you advocate for diversity by encouraging employees (on all levels) to contribute.

Published on: Dec 27, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.