The business world has broadly speaking, placed a renewed value on diversity in the workplace over the last several years. While this change is a good thing, it’s also vague and often misunderstood. What does it mean for a company to be diverse? How do you know when you’ve done it?
In this article, we examine the overall concept of workplace diversity. We also look at the relationship between advertising, and the overall structure of a business’s workforce.
The question posed by our title ventures into “chicken or the egg,” territory. Do diverse businesses produce diverse advertising? Or do businesses that want to diversify their workplace begin by making all of their public-facing messaging more inclusive?
The answer will, of course, vary from company to company. Both dynamics exist. Diverse companies typically produce higher revenue partially because they know how to appeal to a wider audience. In other words, they know how to make their ads inclusive enough to appeal to everyone.
However, when businesses want to diversify, they often start by looking at their ads and web copy. These are the most public-facing aspects of the company’s communication, and many rightly assume that this is a good place to begin strengthening their appeal to talented individuals of every background.
It sounds a little like a loaded question, doesn’t it? Like it’s problematic to even pose it that way.
I wasn’t going to say anything, but as a matter of fact, it does.
It’s ok. Speak up if something is weighing on your mind. Diversity matters in a general social sense for obvious reasons. People deserve equality of opportunity. It even makes sense from a purely pragmatic perspective. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase, cut the cake like you don’t which piece is yours.
Even if you aren’t particularly concerned with the well-being of others (and we know that you are) you should try your best to make a fair world, because an unfair one could wind up being dangerous for you.
But business is all about the bottom line and to that end, diversity is also beneficial. There are many ways you can improve your business outcomes by diversifying your staff.
Your business caters to people of every racial and cultural background. While your customers won’t know how diverse your staff is, they may feel it in how you present yourself to the public. If your team is only made up of people from the majority group, you may have a harder time producing public-facing content that appeals to anyone else.
It’s small stuff. Maybe diversity within your team translates into more diverse casting for your ad images. Maybe it just influences the type of language you use in public-facing copy. Even subtle changes may resonate with people who aren’t used to seeing themselves reflected in the companies that they do business with.
Meet Gretchen. Gretchen, twenty-six years old, is a freshly minted MBA. She has several years of experience but is looking to leverage her degree into a higher-paying position. She’s not worried about finding a job. She knows she is a strong candidate. She’s more worried about finding a position that will be a long-term fit. A place where she can move up the ranks and build toward a future.
She’s considering an offer from Company X. They were willing to pay her the most money. But there is a problem. Gretchen is a black woman. As she studies up on leadership at Company X, guess what she doesn’t see?
Black women. Now, we know what you’re thinking: Gretchen is a smart, enterprising young woman. There’s no reason she couldn’t be the first. Become the change you want to see in the world and all that.
Maybe! But why she should take that risk, when Company Y, just down the road has several women, and black Americans installed directly in their company leadership?
Their offer isn’t quite as high, but she knows that she has a future there.
People in minority groups may be used to coming into spaces where they don’t see themselves reflected in others. That doesn’t mean they prefer that experience. Find ways to emphasize that you appreciate diversity, and you open your business up to talented people like Gretchen.
Studies show that diverse work environments tend to be more productive. This may owe partially to the points we have already discussed. The wider net you cast, the more talent you attract. The more talented your workplace, the more productive you will be.
Many experts think that there might be more to it than that. Diverse workplaces simply feel different. People are more comfortable opening up and putting their ideas forward. This improves the workflow not just for your minority group hires, but everyone else as well.
It’s important to keep in mind that there is no such thing as a “diverse person.” Diversity, by definition, is simply a matter of variety. You can’t make a “diverse hire.” You can implement diverse hiring policies. Think about inclusion not as a question of attracting an individual, but rather as a matter of restructuring your business to broaden its overall appeal.
Diversifying your business is not an objective with a start and finish date. It’s a philosophy that includes everything from what words you choose on your website, to who you hire.