Business is no longer about what product or service you can provide in a local or regional marketplace. Today it’s about competing in a global one. The internet has allowed companies that once were only able to support a local or regional area to now make offers on a global basis. Competing in the global marketplace not only means diversifying your products and/or services, but your most important asset as well: your workforce.
Some people still believe companies hire diverse workforces because it’s the politically correct thing to do. What companies are finding out though is that hiring a diverse workforce allows companies to expand easier in to new markets with a diverse client base as they are in a better position to understand the demographics of the customers they serve. At a high level, this is true, but just because you hire a diverse workforce will not guarantee you success in the marketplace. Like with any group of employees, it’s what you do with them and how you use their diversities to your advantage in the marketplace.
Diversity in the workplace at your company should not only be limited to race, gender and age, but differences of views and personalities as well. As a leader, you need to recognize these differences and align your people accordingly as it relates to their job function, whether it’s in sales, marketing, human resources, etc… You wouldn’t have someone like Donald Trump head up your HR department unless you wanted everyone fired, right? Understand your employees’ strengths and put them in positions where they will have the greatest impact.
At the same time, you need to get your diverse workforce to work together. Simply putting them in a group setting and hoping they come up with unique and uncommon ideas will not happen on its own. Without the proper guidance in a group setting they will talk about what they have in common rather than their differences. All you will get is group-think and nothing innovative will come from them. It is important to let the group know everyone’s background and who has knowledge in certain areas and to encourage them to share their unique knowledge. But take it one step further. Instead of just having the group share their unique knowledge, encourage an environment where they can debate so as to challenge the ideas of other members. Yes, some disagreements and hard feelings might come of this, but it could lead to coming up with new and innovative ideas. Ideas that could possibly change the marketplace you are in.
The landscape of the marketplace is diverse and constantly changing. You must embrace it or you will miss out on new opportunities. The same goes for your workforce. Diversity in your workforce isn’t just the “right” thing to do. It’s the smart thing to do.
—This article was contributed by Robert Driscoll, co-founder of Active Garage. You can follow Robert on Twitter at rsdriscoll.