The simple truth of the matter is that teams composed of people from varied backgrounds frequently enjoy better business outcomes. Numerous studies show that bringing together a variety of perspectives helps inform better decision-making and problem-solving.
People of different genders, races, nationalities, and personalities tend to bring out the best in one another when working together. This is something I have seen firsthand in my role as head of product at Savings United. Due to the nature of our business, our team is made up of people from a range of nationalities. I have colleagues from countries such as Russia, Pakistan, Spain, Brazil, Estonia, the UK, and many more. Each team member brings their own unique qualities and experiences to the table. Some are incredibly visual and creative, while others are more straight to the point and practical while retaining a high level of empathy. Everyone may have their own viewpoints and backgrounds, but the team members all work together to complete tasks in ways that would not have been possible if our team were made up of people who were totally alike.
This is why diversity is integral to me when it comes to hiring new employees. It is important for me to surround myself with smart, committed people from diverse backgrounds, all working toward the same shared goals of innovation and excellence.
Today, I’d like to explore why other leaders should also embrace diversity and difference for better business outcomes:
Diversity Is More Than a Nice-to-Have
Diversity is more than a box-ticking exercise or something to boost your brand’s perception. According to Harvard Business Review, homogeneous teams actually lead to worse decision-making and investment outcomes. The article notes that “[t]hriving in a highly uncertain competitive environment requires creative thinking,” and teams composed of “diverse collaborators [are] better equipped to deliver it.” Additional research has shown that companies with more diverse leadership teams report 19 percent higher revenues from innovation.
But my views on diversity are backed up by more than the data I’ve read. I know from direct experience that diversity assists creativity and business development. I studied in Krakow, Poland, and later went on to travel and study in different parts of Europe. Early on in my journeys, I realized the benefits of surrounding yourself with people who are not exactly like you. These are people who can help you learn and expand outside your comfort zone — and creating teams who help one another learn is a surefire way to foster a healthy, engaging, high-performing workplace.
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Teams that include a broader cross-section of people are better able to reflect the needs of a diverse client base. In an increasingly borderless world, global perspectives are required to keep your organization ahead of the pack. Your clients want fresh, nuanced solutions to their unique problems, and your team will be more likely to develop such solutions when it has access to a wider range of thinking styles and attitudes.
Diverse teams are also more adaptable. In an unstable global business environment, faster responses to changes result in more fruitful decisions. Organizations that embrace diversity can grasp market potential much more quickly, especially in the case of international products.
What Does It Take to Build Real Diversity?
The benefits of diverse teams are clear— but how to go about building such teams?
First of all, remember that diversity isn’t always easy. There may be conflict and disagreement, but this doesn’t mean relationships will irreparably break down. Rather, these moments of friction can be the moments that drive real learning and innovation, provided everyone knows how to react and respond accordingly.
Second, be aware of your own bias and work to challenge it. Hiring the best person for the job should always be the name of the game in recruiting. Doing so, however, requires actively putting aside your preconceptions regarding factors such as age, gender, neurodiversity, or educational background. A candidate may not have attended a top-flight university, but they may show their quality and suitability through other achievements. If a candidate has all the essential skills but falls outside of the profile you would normally consider, don’t be afraid to give them the opportunity to show you what they can do. This broader, more inclusive view is invaluable when looking to build a more diverse team of top talent.
Finally, if you find your leadership teams tend to be homogenous, investigate out why. What is preventing a more diverse mix of employees from rising through the ranks of your organization? Once the issue is identified, put structures in place to foster inclusion, whether that means creating mentoring opportunities, improving your flexible work infrastructure, or whatever else you need to do to remove the barriers to progress.
To sum up, creating diverse teams requires effort and consistency. Every hire must be considered in terms of their individual merit and the gap they could fill in the wider context of the team. Diversity begets creativity which begets innovation — and innovation is something every company should strive for.