Fostering diversity in your workplace is key to running a smart, innovative, and productive company. But diversity in race, religious creeds, and sexual orientation is only part of what a successful business needs.

Your company needs to allow employees to be themselves--unique individuals with a range of perspectives, talents, and skills that help them accomplish great things. If you are looking for a polished, rigid employee who can be easily typecast into a specific role, you're going about hiring and running a business all wrong.

Rob Goffee, professor of organizational behavior at the London Business School, and Gareth Jones, visiting professor at the IE Business School in Madrid, write in Harvard Business Review about how developing conformity hurts companies.

Goffee and Jones studied a range of businesses that support "self-expression, individuality, and diverse experience" in their employees and leaders. Workplaces that support individual authenticity have higher employee engagement, they found, which in turn improves the customer experience, drives creativity, and helps create a pipeline of leaders growing within the company.

As a leader, you have a workforce of diverse people with specific talents and skills. But are you truly capturing and utilizing all of that talent? If you pigeonhole employees into tight, specific roles, you force them to rely on their weaknesses, resulting in unengaged employees who produce subpar work.

The unfortunate truth at many companies, Goffee and Jones write, is that much of the staff's unique personal differences have "been polished out of existence by the professional leadership development processes of the organization." 

Conformity is highly detrimental to the creative, innovative minds who want to build and invent--the very type of people you want at your company. It results in an organization where no one wants to rock the boat, or pose tough questions about how the company accomplishes its goals.

If this sounds like your company, Goffee and Jones urge you to change things. Let go of rigid roles and foster a culture where people are allowed to express what makes them unique. Make your company a place where you trust your employees to speak their minds and achieve company goals their own way using their strongest talents and passions. 

Published on: Nov 13, 2015