According to a February 2015 McKinsey Report, companies with gender, ethnic and racial diversity are at least 15 percent more likely to experience greater financial returns – above their national industry medians. This is because they understand the significant relationship between profit and diversity. These forward-looking organisations also realise that it is often not enough to employ from the minority, but that they must be able to manage the minority’s interest vis-à-vis the majorities. They also realise that it is important to give everyone equal chances of rising within the organisational hierarchy and with equal decision-making rights.
Today, recruitment into various departments brings together a blend of employees from different cultures, generations, backgrounds, races, genders, religions, and with varying needs, thinking styles, among many others. Although organisations stand to gain a lot from this diversity when various experiences are brought together to advance their corporate course, it does not come on a platter. Organisations and their employees must consciously seek ways to capitalise on the diversity within the workforce to improve employee capabilities and advance the organisation.
In a Harvard Business Review article titled, “Great Leaders Who Make the Mix Work,” Carlos Ghosn of Nissan Motor Company said: “When I see that women do not have the same opportunities as men, it touches me in a personal way.” He shared a story about how prejudice against the minority affected his own family, his mother specifically. When she was younger, his mother – then a brilliant student – had wanted to become a doctor but her family of 8 children did not have enough money. So, the money for her education was dedicated to the male children because it was believed that “the girls would instead have to marry.” This has fired up his conviction never to hurt someone based on segregation.
This same bias extends to Nigeria where corporate culture still lacks diversity, especially a strong representation of women in top roles in big corporates. According to a Mckinsey report on diversity titled “Women Matter Africa,” published in August 2016: “In the private sector, Africa has more women in executive committee, CEO, and board roles in companies than the average worldwide. Numbers vary by industry and region – not surprisingly – and are much lower in industries that traditionally rely on men for their workforce (heavy industry, for example). Yet women are still under-represented at every level of the corporate ladder – non-management and middle and senior management – and fall in number, the higher they climb. Only 5 percent of women make it to the very top.”
It is important to recognise diversity and inclusion not only as metrics for growth, but as assets. However, it is also important not to only have it written among organisational values, it is essential to bear it in mind in all your dealings. Truthfully, when organisations have imbibed the culture of enhancing diversity, it will go a long way in reflecting whether an organisation and its staffer members truly consider diversity an advantage, not a burden.
Although it is important for the management of any organisation to realise the benefits of diversity to their organisation, the onus is also on the staff to admit that they will achieve more when they overlook what differentiates them from the next person, and instead focus on how to maximise their differences to work together in harmony to accomplish corporate goals. Here are two ways to maximise differences for personal and corporate growth and development:
Remove the Veil
Assumption is the lowest level of knowledge. You do not want to be caught in that trap. While it might be easier to judge other people and their circumstances based on assumptions, it is expedient to take a conscious decision not to do so. Instead, weigh the various arguments possible—back and forth—and never conclude on any matter or anyone based on hearsay. Always give people the benefit of the doubt. Desist from hastily generalising. Remove yourself from the biases and sentiments that tend to becloud your perception.
In a number of cases, the challenges at the workplace have a lot to do with how we communicate – how we read meanings. It is important to be careful when reading meaning to non-verbal communications. Remember that people hold beliefs, attitudes and values that might be the direct opposite of yours. They have as much right to their values, views and opinions as much as you do to yours.
Better working environment
When employees work in an environment that allows them to share experiences and interact on a more personal note within and outside their various teams, they tend to more quickly distill facts from assumptions, superstitions and sentiments. It is this kind of environment that enables them to acquire the important lessons of life without being cornered by the limitation of fallacies. It is in this kind of environment that workers do not cover their differences; instead, they show and talk about them.
From time to time, organisations and various managers must agree to bring together members of their different teams to work. Such engagements would help them to learn more and correctly about others with whom they work in the same organisation but might have reached certain unpalatable assumptions about. While bringing forth different ideas, greater inventiveness and grander success and helping to improve the profit margins of the organisations, such team interactivity would promote a system where workers can freely learn, un-learn and re-learn from one another.
As any organisation increases its human capital, so does its tendency to employ workers from more diverse perception and background increase – especially if the firm embraces the enhancement of diversity as a value. However, any organisation that cherishes its future and is desirous of enjoying the limitless possibilities and advantages of a diverse workforce, would institutionalise measures to emphasise the strength in everyone – whether in the majority or not.
Article wriiten by – Osayi Alile, CEO ACT Foundation