Getting Beyond the Cliché of Diversity & Inclusion

I’m often asked, “How can I help my organization to become more diverse?” I’ve found that many companies fall into a rhythm of hiring people and working with suppliers that they know and trust, and are often times already within their networks.  Sounds like a pretty good plan for success, right? It can be, but it may not help you uncover competitive advantages needed for long term growth and sustainability. 

Mario NMSDC diversity event

By expanding outside of your existing network to hire new employees and engage with partners and suppliers, you gain access to a larger pool of talent, ideas and solutions that your customers will want to tap.

We’ve pulled together 8 tips to create competitive advantages that focus on the workplace and employee engagement, beyond the usual clichés on diversity and inclusion.

1. What is Your Culture Code? Do You Live By It?

Every organization develops a company culture whether they mean to or not. Why not be intentional about the culture that forms around you? A culture code is simply a guideline for what a company stands for, and more importantly, why they exist. A culture code that reflects your commitment to diversity is a fundamental step for writing this value into your organization’s DNA.

2. Recruit and Hire for an Inclusive Environment

Once you’ve created your company’s culture code, be intentional about hiring people that align with your culture while also bringing a different perspective to the mix. One of our core values is a “pioneering mentality;” we want our employees to bring new ideas to the table and challenge our status quo. We want them to take risks and make mistakes, and also learn to accept responsibility and embrace their mistakes as an opportunity to learn.  Hiring employees that challenge the way we think and do things is how we continue to innovate and grow.

3. Embed and Embrace Diversity in Employee Development

Start by laying out the basics that you want every employee to learn as they get started. This sets expectations and creates an environment where employees are empowered to own their career path and development. While a culture code provides a strong foundation, ongoing development keeps us sharp and different.  Providing these tools and support are a big step to get you on your way to sustainable and consistent growth.

4. Encourage Ideas and Curiosity

Make it easy for your employees to not only share their ideas borne from different perspectives, but also take action and affect change.  Give them the autonomy to see a problem, ask questions, create a solution and turn their idea into reality.  Growth requires the ability to change and bringing in new, curious talent and challenging ideas facilitates it.

5. Promote Healthy Conversations & Disagreements

This one is really important, and it’s not easy.  In order to foster an environment where employees are constantly bringing new ideas to the table, it’s critical that they feel safe to challenge each other. Having someone question processes that have been in place for years can be challenging. It’s important to meet these challenges with open arms and closely evaluate new ideas. This creates healthy growth driven by your employees.

6. Diversity in Customer Service

Another one of our core values is to “find a way” and it’s at the root of everything we do. Our customers expect us to be a resource to help them innovate and solve problems they’re faced with in an ever-changing environment.  The employees providing service to these customers are in the best position to apply their expertise to address these needs.  Encourage them to tap into their different experiences and mindsets to pull those ideas to the surface.

7. Engage with Diverse Suppliers and Partners

Working with diverse suppliers and partners has a similar impact to your business as hiring new employees who bring different perspectives and ideas to light.  These partners can leverage the experience they’ve gained in the markets they serve to help you find innovative solutions to the business problems you face.

8. Mentorship Opportunities

Once you’ve built a community that shares your belief in diversity, it’s time to expand your reach.  Actively seek opportunities to mentor other organizations and suppliers on how you got this far. Not only do you have the ability to help these organizations to navigate uncharted waters, you can help them implement changes that will have lasting effects on their growth and success. 

There you have it!  Start small and start internally and then expand your reach to suppliers and mentoring other diverse organizations.  Don’t forget to ask for feedback from your organization to determine tweaks to your efforts.