Need to grow your customer base? Diversify your offerings. Looking for a safety net for investments? Diversify your portfolio. Want your marketing campaigns to succeed? Diversify your staff. That’s right, a diverse staff could be the key to reaching more customers.
According to Adrianne Troilo, Managing Director, Administration for the American Society for Engineering Education, a mix of employee backgrounds leads to results that can resonate with a much wider audience.
A snapshot of the U.S. population shows a broad and rapidly changing composition of potential consumers. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that by the year 2024, there will be no single demographic majority. It also says that 20 percent of all Americans will be affected by a disability, and five different generations will be active in the workplace. In order to communicate an effective message, it is important that the people crafting that message reflect the intended audience. Including a mix of background, heritage, experience and education into a team has immense benefits.
How can my company diversify?
Diversity has been an important topic in nearly every industry for some time now. Trumpeting it as a strategy has become commonplace for companies; however, putting it into practice can be a little more difficult. There are a few reasons for this, including misinterpretation of the definition, an adverse attitude toward the goal or just a basic inability to grasp the concept. What it boils down to is creating a staff that includes varying backgrounds. Assembling a diverse staff should be a goal for any company that serves a wide customer base.
Is there a checklist?
No, and that is where most companies get hung up. Troilo says that organizations limit themselves by trying to hire specifically for diversity purposes. Varying work experiences, education levels and ages within a team can work toward accomplishing the goal the same way as race and gender do. It is up to you to decide how much diversity is required to maximize your group’s potential.
The best way to diversify is to enter the hiring process with an open mind and commitment to finding the candidates that best fit your needs regardless of their background. For example – don’t limit your hiring process for a sales position only to people with sales experience. If you interview someone who is engaging and charismatic, but has spent years in marketing, he or she might be the right hire for the sales team. Same goes for education, while an Ivy League degree looks great on paper, maybe someone with a high school diploma and years of experience will relate better to your customer base. Opening the door to all types of applicants will give you access to a wide variety of people with (wait for it … ) diverse backgrounds and experience.
What if I am not in a position to make a lot of hires now?
Honestly, you are probably closer to your goals than you realize. Diversity doesn’t have to come from the outside. Evaluate your current staff and see how teams and pairings can be designed to increase diversity within those groups. Shake things up. Who knows, maybe Jane from accounting has some ideas that that sales team might benefit from hearing.
Once I build a diverse team, then what?
It’s time to put your money where your mouth is. Step two is all about inclusion.
“If diversity is the mix, inclusion is what makes the mix work,” Troilo said. “Inclusion is the deliberate act of welcoming diversity and creating an environment where all different kinds of people can thrive and succeed. Diversity is what you have; inclusion is what you do.”
Just like with any plan, there should be some form of short-term and long-term goals and a reasonable strategy for success. Developing the team is important, but the plan for that team is paramount. Create a culture where everyone feels comfortable and is encouraged to add their opinions and share input. It won’t happen overnight; however, establishing a work space that invites insights from everyone will eventually generate big returns for your company.
Adrianne R. Troilo is the Managing Director for the American Society for Engineering Education. The information for this blog is based on Troilo’s presentation at the 2019 Associated Equipment Distributors Summit.
Take a look at our other blogs about company culture as well as hiring and retention: