Worldly Employees Bring More to the TableBy Jeanne Hopkins
A diverse workforce is imperative for innovation. How can you strengthen the diversity consciousness at your organization?
Stephen Covey said it: “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.”
Just because it’s against the law for your company to overtly discriminate in hiring and treatment of workers does not mean you have a diverse workplace. Diversity is about more than specific personal traits or cultural heritage, race and ethnicity. It is the composite of individual differences that affect how we think and approach problems and how we view and work with others. The Emerging Markets Project describes this composite as “diversity consciousness.”
This is no longer an option for businesses, no matter what they do or where they operate. Successful diversity does more than assemble a group of different people with differing backgrounds and experiences. It fosters an atmosphere where those differences are celebrated for the added value they bring to the team. That can be impossible to achieve if employees and, therefore, the company as a whole don’t have the requisite diversity consciousness.
Think of it as worldliness
International companies learn very quickly that it is critical to follow local cultural norms when conducting business. Do we shake hands? Do we bow or nod instead and keep our hands to ourselves? Little details like these can strengthen a budding relationship — or sever it before it even has a chance to gain traction. Even if your company doesn’t operate overseas, the global nature of today’s economy means you will be working with people different from you in more ways than ever before – at your own company and out in the marketplace.
Worldliness is an asset that can benefit your company by boosting:
- Productivity — diversity consciousness promotes willing collaboration as a way to capture different perspectives
- Creativity — new ways of thinking promote better brainstorming and more innovative solutions
- Workforce skills — employees can learn more from one another, boosting everyone’s abilities
- Employee engagement — reducing turnover
- Profitability — ability to work smoothly with other cultures facilitates business growth whether you’re moving into international markets or working with diverse suppliers and partners at home
- Brand reputation — a big plus for recruitment, since the company obviously welcomes diverse applicants
Worldly employees are more interesting and more interested. They have what it takes to keep your company moving forward in new ways. Don’t we call that innovation?
Travel makes people worldly
Forward-thinking companies are creating deliberate cultural diversity plans. This kind of systematic approach is commonly associated with large corporations. But proactively building diversity is especially important for smaller enterprises for whom creative agility is crucial.
The Emerging Market Project says, “One of the best ways to develop diversity consciousness is to get out of your comfort zone, and travel to a new place where you can experience new people, new norms, and a totally new culture.”
Past world travel is a good sign in a prospective employee and something to be encouraged in current employees. So there are two great ways to strengthen diversity consciousness within your organization.
1. Hire it in
Smart companies deliberately recruit for cultural as well as ethnic diversity. Considering the worldliness of every applicant can make a big difference in how well your growing team continues to work well with one another and how much “outside the box” creativity they bring to the company. It can also increase overall willingness to accept unfamiliar attitudes and thinking.
2. Encourage taking off to parts unknown
We all know that taking time off helps refresh and rejuvenate hard-working employees. Travel boosts those benefits because travel is just plain good for you. Employees who travel return happier and a little more “seasoned.” Every time they travel to somewhere new, they meet new people and experience new things. They are increasing their diversity knowledge. Becoming worldlier.
Travel builds character, too, because we all know that travel – especially to foreign countries – can be the definition of challenging. Greater resilience and problem-solving skills make better managers and company leaders.
The subject of sustainability is on everyone’s lips these days, but we usually think of this in terms of working to protect and support the future of our natural surroundings. The thing is, though, business have to protect and support their internal environment if they expect to have a long and prosperous future. And in today’s truly global marketplace, diversity is (foundational) to success.
By encouraging your current employees to travel more and choosing worldly candidates as new hires, you can harness the benefits of diversity consciousness to grow your business.