diversity in the workplace

5 Competitive Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace

By George Dickson on June 23, 2016

Building a diverse workforce isn't just beneficial; it's a major factor of success in the modern business landscape. Organizations that seek, celebrate, and embrace diversity have several very real advantages over their competitors.

It's not just about building a heterogeneous workforce, though. In order to truly benefit from the myriad advantages diversity in the workplace offers, it's important to understand diversity's many strong points, and how they can help your organization grow.

1. Diverse competencies

Each employee brings a set of skills to the organization. By its very nature, a diverse workforce provides a diverse set of competencies.

What makes that so valuable?

A homogeneous workforce often suffers the disadvantage of a narrow skill set. While that narrower list of competencies may be perfectly suited to the current goals of the organization, it's not going to remain that way indefinitely.

What's more, a homogeneous workforce is not just an abstract future disadvantage an organization may face down the line.

Many homogeneous teams are already missing out on huge windows for growth by failing to recognize opportunities for innovation that might drive their organization forward.

The broad set of skills and perspectives of a diverse team provides a greater chance at achieving breakthroughs like new products and services, new markets to address, or new approaches to existing markets — just to name a few. 

2. Diverse perspectives

One of the greatest advantages of a diverse workplace is the host of perspectives it provides. 

There are often countless ways to solve a problem, but without varied perspectives, most of those solutions aren't always obvious, or even visible. The more diverse perspectives you can focus on overcoming a particular challenge, the more likely you're going to land on a brilliant, creative solution.

That's not all.

Many of the world's most successful organizations are already aware of this. Research conducted as part of Forbes InsightsGlobal Diversity and Inclusion: Fostering Innovation Through a Diverse Workforce found that 85 percent of surveyed companies with over $500 million in revenue either agreed, or strongly agreed that "a diverse and inclusive workforce is crucial to encouraging different perspectives and ideas that drive innovation." 

The tricky part about innovation is that it's hard to see coming.

The multitude of perspectives a diverse team provides can have a great impact on the organization's ability to visualize and capitalize on innovative concepts.

3. Diverse candidate pool

This may be one of the most simple, but overlooked benefits of diversity in the workplace. By hiring diverse candidates, an organization has its pick from a much larger pool of highly talented individuals than an organization that isn't.

That's a huge advantage.

Expanding the top of the hiring funnel to include a more diverse set of individuals will almost certainly improve results down the line. 

Attending career fairs and choosing candidates from your alma mater might seem like a good idea — you're already aware of the values that institution works to instill in its students, and as an alumni, they're likely in line with yours.

The problem with this approach is that there are a huge number of qualified candidates who didn't attend that school, or who aren't even recent graduates of any school. Don't miss out on them.

How do you do that?

Think globally, and think inclusively as you develop your hiring process. There may be a perfect fit waiting for you in the most unlikely place.

In their article "Rethinking Diversity Recruiting," hiring platform WayUp's team explains that "...diversity is composed of so many factors that a quick glance may cause you to overlook a diverse candidate." 

When hiring for diversity, remember that diversity in itself is a very broad term, with many connotations. It's incredibly hard to pin down. The key is considering those myriad connotations as you work to diversify your team.

4. Diverse culture

Hiring for cultural fit is a popular strategy for organizations, but there's a point at which it becomes a barrier to diversity, and growth.

As Celia DeAnca explains in her Harvard Business Review article:

"We might be creating a situation in which companies will be very diverse in appearance, but intrinsically homogeneous. They will be hiring the same profile of people even though they might have very different backgrounds. Thus the company will appear diverse — but we know that appearances can be deceiving."

Continually hiring similar candidates isn't a culture building exercise  at best, it's simply culture maintenance.

A truly diverse organization will develop a diverse culture, and a diverse culture provides a sturdy foundation that is the basis for thriving within an ever-evolving business landscape. 

Diversity and inclusion help strengthen that foundation with every hire, but once again, the key is to look at diversity from a broad perspective.

5. Diverse market

An organization with a diverse workforce has a huge advantage when addressing constantly evolving markets.

A major element of effectively addressing a market is building a relationship with the people within it. This is particularly important for companies who deal in retail and consumer goods. In their Deloitte Review publication, Alison Kenney Paul, Thom McElroy and Tonie Leatherberry explain that:

"Leaders of retail and consumer goods businesses, in particular, will need to take steps to understand and create affinity with an increasingly multicultural and multifaceted consumer base."

The benefits don't start and end with retail. Organizations of all types can benefit from access to an expanded customer base.

As the shape of the market changes, it takes a broader view to see its various movements, and a diverse workforce can help give an organization the perspective it needs to participate.

In conclusion

These are just a few of the countless benefits of diversity in the workplace. In this modern business landscape, it's absolutely crucial to embrace diversity early on, and into the future.

If you're ready to take the next step toward building a stronger culture, check out our latest guide:

The Leadership Survival Kit

Written by George Dickson

George Dickson

George manages content and community at Bonusly. He's dedicated to strengthening organizational cultures through thoughtful leadership and frequent recognition.