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Why You Need Diversity on Your Team, and 8 Ways To Build It

Improving diversity is just good business. Here's how you can do just that.

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Make no mistake about it; diverse teams are just good business. Unfortunately, diversity is still an area where startups are struggling.

10'000 Hours | Getty Images

Many alarming statistics show just how common discrimination in the workplace is:

  • 61% report experiencing or witnessing discrimination based on age, gender, race, or LGBTQ+ status in the workplace.
  • 45% of workers report witnessing or experiencing ageism in the workplace.
  • 42% of workers report witnessings or experiencing gender discrimination in the workplace.
  • 42% of workers report witnessing or experiencing racism in the workplace.
  • 33% of workers report witnessing or experiencing LGBTQ+ discrimination in the workplace.

As companies learn more, these statistics will fall, and the business world will see a considerable shift in inclusivity and cultural diversity. Thankfully, you can update your thought process about team diversity once you understand how beneficial a diverse team is for your business and how easy it is to build one.

Related: 7 Characteristics of Startups Built to Weather Any Storm

Top benefits of diversity in the workplace

"It's proven that more diverse companies are often more innovative and creative because … people come from different walks of life, and we can leverage that to build better products and services and provide richer experiences," explains Duke Energy Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Joni Davis. The main reasons you'll gain productivity and a boost in creativity is that you're bringing together individuals from different walks of life. These people come from varied backgrounds and experiences and will each have unique ways to improve your products and services you're offering.

To offer some quick statistics from corporate directors:

  • 94% report that diversity promotes unique perspectives and viewpoints.
  • 87% report that diversity enhances board performance.
  • 84% report improved relationships with investors because of diversity.
  • 76% report that diversity on a board improves company performance.

See below for a complete list of workplace diversity's top benefits.

1. More is more

Bringing more people from more backgrounds and ethnicities into the workplace can result in more new opportunities than ever before. Think about it. If a company hires ten people from the same social class that went to the same type of university and have the same job experiences, then those people will likely think very similarly.

On the other hand, a group of ten people with different life experiences and diverse backgrounds from different locations and different cultures may bring in new ways of thinking and working that might benefit the business in ways it never imagined.

2. Inspiration

Diversity brings new ideas to the table. Because of this, there can be a heightened level of innovation in the workplace when you foster an inclusive environment of employees from different groups. Innovation can inspire all employees, promoting motivation and camaraderie in the workplace. This makes for a positive working environment.

3. Informed decision-making

When employees work together and become in sync, it promotes efficiency and confidence in decision-making. Decision-making from diverse workplace teams outperforms individual decision-making87% of the time.

4. Employee retention

As the business world shifts to allow Gen Z and Millenials in, it has also had to begin incorporating some of the generations' values into its hiring practices. Gen Z and Millenials value equity, equality, and environmental issues more than any generation before.

In the workplace, 32% of these two generations also believe businesses should strive to build a better society through hiring and operating practices. This means that when Gen Z and Millenials search for jobs, they apply to companies that value education, equality, and diversity initiatives.

5. Reputation

Part of attracting high-quality employees is the optics of your business. If your values and actions don't align with that of potential employees, they will likely not be as inclined to apply to open positions.

Again, Gen Z and Millenials care about company values, so promoting diversity and showing social responsibility is more attractive to those groups. It matters what Millennials think of your business because, by 2025, 75% of the workforce will consist of that generation.

Ready to learn more? Here are eight ways you can build a more diverse team.

8 ways to build diversity in the workplace

1. Think about diversity from the start

"I don't just mean racial, national, age, gender — all of that diversity is super important, we need to hire that — I mean, in addition to that, cognitive diversity which you get from all those backgrounds, but also just personality diversity," says Sheryl Sandberg.

Related: Sheryl Sandberg Shares 7 Ways to Build Resilience Into Your Company Culture As You Scale

Think about diversity when enacting company policy. To truly promote an inclusive workplace, your policies must support your mission.

Areas that deserve attention include:

  • Representation of diverse groups and minorities in leadership positions.
  • Healthcare coverage (parental leave and maternity care).
  • Blind screenings and various interview panels.
  • Gender diversity, including gender-neutral bathrooms and inclusive gender identity choices on forms.
  • Education and training to promote diversity inclusion.
  • Policies that provide clear expectations and ramifications about the behavior.
  • Giving back to diverse communities that fit with the company's mission.

2. Address all aspects of diversity

Take a second to consider what diversity means to you. You're not wrong if you think about gender, race or even religion. But, we often "overlook other aspects like age, disability, language, personality, and sexual orientation," says Nikoletta Bika.

"These are types of inherent diversity, attributes we are born with. There's also acquired diversity, ways of thinking acquired by experience," says Bika. "This kind of diversity matters too." An example of this would be cross-cultural competence.

You should also be aware of the fact that diversity can lead to conflicts among your team, so you have to prepare for this eventuality. "For example, psychologists are more likely to associate with other psychologists and engineers tend to communicate better with other engineers," adds Bika. "Age differences or socioeconomic backgrounds might undermine open discussions and team spirit. Addressing all aspects of diversity will ensure no one is left out and that team members work better together."

Now you're aware of the types of situations you'll encounter as you chart your course for a diverse teamwith new demographics. Plan to create a customized-diversity-vision for your company. More importantly, you can construct a more inclusive company culture by implementing a zero-tolerance policy for harassment and by building proper accommodations for those with physical impairments.

3. Improve your recruiting strategy

Even though you've made diversity a part of your culture, that's all for naught if you can't attract a more diverse workforce. The first place you need to start is by stepping up your recruiting practices by:

  • Rethink the language you use when posting jobs. For example, masculine-type words like "ambitious" and "dominate" are often less appealing to female job seekers.
  • Offer appealing workplace policies. Employees strive for flexibility and being able to achieve a work-life balance.
  • Use a personality assessment. This tool will help you "measure candidates' personality traits, motivations, and skills."
  • Cast a wider net. Instead of relying on the same recruiting pipelines, expand your search by using third-party websites and online job boards. You may even want to look for talent at trade schools and community colleges. You may need to provide relocation packages, however, to expand the potential talent pool.
  • Overcome unconscious bias. First, take Harvard's Implicit Association Test (IAT) to become aware of these. From there, use strategies like "two in the pool effect" or blind hiring.
  • Use technology. Have more phone screenings, diversity recruiting software, and artificial intelligence to shortlist candidates based on qualifications.
  • Work with partners. Either create a diversity council or work with organizations like the National Black MBA Association, National Council of La Raza, National Association of Asian American Professionals, National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), and Hire Heroes USA.

Related: 9 Ways to Recruit the Best Talent for Your Startup

4. Celebrate employee differences

Companies like AWeber achieve this through the workplace with diversity awareness training and events. Hope Bear, Chief People Officer at AWeber, adds that they've also established a "monthly team meeting to openly and honestly discuss diversity topics."

Other organizations such as Bak USA hosts events where employees can share their different backgrounds and traditions. They also have dedicated spaces for meditation and prayer.

5. Stop and listen to your employees

"One of the greatest skills of a leader is the ability to actually listen to the team," writes Sekinah Brodie. "Many companies fail because team members feel undermined, ignored, and dismissed. When you better understand employees' experience, you can effectively meet their needs. Different perspectives and including a variety of people can only help bring out the best in a product or service. When you decide what type of culture you want, listening to your team will help to cultivate that."

There's no right or wrong way to go about this. It can be as simple as chatting with your team during breaks or having an open-door policy. You could even hold more town hall-style meetings that encourage overall employee engagement.

Related: How to Listen to Your Employees Better so You Can Improve Your Business

6. Provide leadership development opportunities

"Employ a range of formal and informal professional development tools, such as mentoring, coaching, and education opportunities," suggests Molly Brennan. "Regularly evaluate internal talent to ensure that employees of color are in the leadership development pipeline."

Other opportunities would be having your team attend networking events or industry conferences. Besides potentially learning new information or skills, it gives them a chance to expand their network. Also, ask if they would be interested in sharing this further information with the rest of your team. Taking the reins of a meeting can help them develop key leadership skills like preparation, communication, and delegation.

As you conduct your hiring process, it will likely become more common for applicants to ask you what growth opportunities are.

If your company has a DEIleadership team or courses that embrace diversity by teaching about topics like gender diversity, ethnic diversity, minority groups, equal opportunity, and microaggressions, you are more likely to attract Millennial and Gen Z job seekers.

7. Improve your own leadership skills

Working on your empathy and self-awareness are already skills you should be sharpening as a leader. Leadership skills are especially necessary when building and leading a diverse group. For example, understand the challenges that your employees are experiencing.

Listening to your team will be the start of something beautiful if you are not already taking advantage of this leadership growth-hack. You may need to find ways to empower your employees — and this is one action you can take. Another example would be to know the pronouns an employee prefers.

Related: 10 Popular Myths About Leadership and How to Overcome Them

8. Evaluate your efforts

Finally, take the time in your schedule to see what efforts worked and what didn't. The easiest way to do this would be soliciting feedback from your team — online surveys are an option. However, I also consider exit interviews to see what areas need to be addressed and fixed.

The importance of diversity

Promoting diversity in the workplace is essential. It shows the values of your company and supports equal opportunity. In addition, creating a diverse environment provides the platform for all to grow.

Diverse teams will bring broader ideas and new perspectives to the table. Your new diverse employee groups will also be more productive and much more desirable to work for. Still not convinced? Having various teams helps you retain top talent, strengthens your brand's image and boosts profits.

In short, diversity is just a solid business concept all around, for everyone in any business. A great way to achieve your new team is by successfully navigating your thoughts and actions into the awareness of being more inclusive.

Looking to learn more about building a good company culture? Explore Entrepreneur's Company Culture Resources here.

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