The Power of Differences

Monday, June 17 2019

It is important to build diversity into your strategy and there are great examples of both success and failures when companies attempt to do this. We’ll focus on four types of diversity: gender, ethnicity, disabilities, and age to understand how each of these can play an important role in the future of an organization.

Building ethnic diversity is a major opportunity for future-focused organizations. A workforce that is representative of your customer base is important; cultural nuance, language, and other demographic considerations count. If, for instance, you are trying to sell into a foreign market, but your employees don’t understand the local landscape, it can have disastrous consequences. For instance, Ford attempted to market in Spain using the tag line “every car has a high-quality body,” which unfortunately translated to “every car has a high-quality corpse!”

Here at home, governments are focusing on attracting economic immigrants. Organizations that capitalize on these new sources of skills will be less impacted by the labour shortage crisis. Are there accommodations that you can make to attract new immigrants? Perhaps language is a potential barrier. Often, transportation is an issue; allowing those who don’t drive to adjust their workday around public or shared transportation can be the difference between having an employee or not.

Gender in the workforce certainly remains a primary area of focus. Depending on the study or the industry there is still much work to be done to address gender disparity. Organizations are tackling it differently: some are establishing hiring quotas, while others are using mentoring programs to encourage women to apply for historically male-dominated roles.

There is widespread criticism of the younger generations’ work ethic. Whether these perceptions are correct or not, it’s worth noting that not only are they tomorrow’s customers, many of the world’s fastest growing companies are led by this younger demographic. Figuring out how to blend the wisdom of the older demographic with the needs of the next generations will be a key factor in the success of many organizations.

Accommodations for disability, whatever the reason, is not only good business, it’s the law. Understanding the unique needs of these individuals can ensure your organization has access to high contributing, committed employees. Many countries report that the percentage of the adult population with disability is in the double digits, so they are an important source of labour.

Assess your current state in each of these areas. If you are doing well in one category, determine why. Was it intentional? Be sure to celebrate what you do well. For those areas where diversity is lacking, what has contributed to this? If you’re a small company, historically dominated by one gender, with long seniority in your workforce, you won’t change your demographic profile overnight. Just don’t be caught standing still when it comes to diversity. Organizations that embrace diversity have innovative, rich cultures and that’s where the talented employee of tomorrow wants to work.