Diversity isn't just a feel-good initiative at companies. Today, it's part of everyday life. According to statistics released in June by the U.S. Census Bureau, Generation Z is split 50-50 between non-Hispanic whites and those who represent ethnic minority groups. In other words, the demographics of every corner of the nation are poised to change, and the savviest businesses are on board for the ride.

There's a good reason for that. Not only is inclusion the right thing to do, but research from Boston Consulting Group indicates that when companies populate their upper management ranks with diverse workers, their revenue-earning capacity jumps 19 percentage points. This phenomenon may be due to the increased innovation that emerges from a range of viewpoints.

To be sure, many organizations have already begun to adopt policies to ensure their workforce includes representation from as many diverse cohorts as possible. Yet true diversity goes far beyond merely checking a box or giving a nod to affirmative action. Take a conscious step back and realize that acceptance of diverse others is merely the beginning of a journey toward developing an inclusive business culture. To truly become a brand known for serving everyone, not just a select few, corporations must pay more than lip service to the notion of diversity.

Want to do more than merely say your company is diverse? Consider and apply these three strategies to change your internal culture and the organizational face you show the world.

1. Include all customers in your marketing endeavors.

Elon Musk's septuagenarian mom urged some of her favorite brands to use older models -- and ended up strutting the catwalk herself. Not surprisingly, the public has gotten behind her and the brands who choose to break the mold when targeting mature, stylish consumers.

Right now, you may think you're wooing every prospect. You're probably not. From people who have special needs to those in niche communities, individuals from all walks of life want to see themselves in your marketing materials. After all, if your marketing outreach doesn't make customers feel like your products or services were made for them, why would they buy them? To accomplish this, it will take more than merely choosing stock photos that contain people of color. You need to design your marketing message around inclusion.

Sephora, for example, recently ran a campaign celebrating gender fluidity. It wasn't a gimmick but a deliberate move toward diverse marketing. Before you embark on any cultural marketing, though, make certain that you seek advice from your target personas. Otherwise, your messaging could miss the mark or seem stereotyped and dated. ​

2. Position your business as a diversity educator.

Even people familiar with the basic ideas of diversity and inclusion may have trouble visualizing how they can promote these goals in their specific position. As someone in a power role, you have the opportunity and platform to guide others toward higher levels of understanding. "The important thing is not just to elevate awareness, but to actually share education that demonstrates what inclusive leadership behavior is, how it shows up in day to day leadership activities and how to embed inclusion into your team at critical moments like meetings and performance evaluation," says Denise Pirrotti Hummel, CEO of Lead Inclusively, Inc.

Many CEOs have answered this call, including a group of top executives who have committed to participation in a multi-industry diversity and inclusion initiative. Tim Ryan, U.S. chairman and senior partner of PwC and chair of the steering committee for the initiative, believes that "by sharing best-known actions and programs, we are helping to create a more inclusive environment that will encourage all of us to bring our greatest talents, perspectives, and experiences to the workplace."

Your company doesn't have to form a new group to teach the true meaning of diversity. From providing diversity programming for your workers and underwriting local educational workshops on diversity-related topics (e.g., unconscious bias), you can link your corporate name with inclusive measures. Just make sure you don't attempt this as a one-off event. Go in wholeheartedly to have a major impact.

3. Boost the diversity of your talent pipeline.

It's tough to increase -- much less tout -- your diversity if your company doesn't attract candidates from a wide array of backgrounds and experiences. If you've noticed a lack of diversity in your applicant pool, you may need to tweak your talent acquisition methods. University of Waterloo and Duke University researchers found that male-dominated fields typically used masculine-coded words in their job ads, such as "competitive" and "dominate," which made those positions less appealing to women. With that in mind, give your job descriptions or job ads a closer look to ensure that you're using inclusive language.

To improve the diversity of its talent pipeline, Carbon, a 3D printing and digital manufacturing company, partners with Kode With Klossy, a free coding camp for young women. "By exposing the Kode With Klossy scholars to frontier technology like the Carbon Digital Manufacturing Platform and shining a light on our amazing female employees behind it, we are motivating young women to be our next generation of tech leaders," says Carbon CMO Dara Treseder.

You can also strengthen your talent pipeline by implementing inclusive hiring strategies such as a "blind résumé" protocol. To do so, ask your human resources department to strip any identifying factors from all incoming résumés. That way, you can eliminate unconscious bias and focus solely on the skills of each applicant.

Becoming a more inclusive brand is becoming the new status quo. Lead the pack by getting ahead of the curve today with diversity initiatives that actually count.

Published on: Oct 20, 2019
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