The role of diversity & inclusion in driving business transformation
As human beings, we have an inherent ability to adapt. Unlike animals, we have the flexibility to eat almost whenever we want to, the ability to learn from changing environments, manufacture tools and use them… And we are still evolving.
One can then intuit that humans quickly adapt when it comes to transforming organisations. In the ever changing environment of today with respect to customer behaviour, technology and policies, adaptation and transformation of businesses are key to an organisations’ survival. Why then do organisations face uphill challenges while undertaking transformations? Why did many pioneering companies such as Kodak, Blockbuster, Xerox and Yahoo fail at transforming their business? While not all reasons may point to a lack of diversity and inclusion, many fall under the purview of these companies’ inability to respond and adapt to changing environments.
Creating an inclusive, accepting, diverse and supportive company culture is the key to better business performance. Diverse teams create an environment of constant innovation and creativity, which form the plasticity needed to survive in today's world of rapid change. This article examines the effect of diversity and inclusion that helps drive business transformation.
Most companies today have some form of focus on D&I. Implementing strategies for transformation include technology and innovation-centric initiatives, process re-design and new ways of working that promote psychological safety, empathy and listening. Despite doing all the right things, it’s the limited experiences of people implementing changes, that become barriers to transformation. These include resistance to change and rigidity in ways of working.
To be able to respond to evolving global changes and competition companies need to become agile, adaptable and flexible. To use D&I effectively in transforming a business, leaders at the top need to recognise the need to do things differently across all aspects of the business, in other words, change towards D&I starts right at the top with leaders becoming champions for using D&I as a transformation driver. Some key areas to focus on are –
- Culture built on diversity practices that ensure safety, empowerment and non-discrimination. When people are empowered to have each other’s back and freely say things when they see them and are heard without bias, the organisation opens itself to transparency.
- Product development that nurtures innovation and creativity with team diversity that includes engineers, artists, designers and people close to customers in sales, marketing and support teams. These cross functional roles, when included during ideation phases of product design, bring diverse perspectives to new product development, feature enhancements, product feedback and improvements.
- Inclusive hiring practices. Hiring people with diverse experiences, who have worked in different business verticals and geographies, examining problems with multiple perspectives, bringing diverse ideas to the table and coming from different cultures.
- Focus on value creation for the entire business ecosystem comprising employees, customers, partners and suppliers. By including the diversity of stakeholders and representing it in every system, the policies and practices of an organisation can bring about impactful results during any transformation that impacts any stakeholder in the ecosystem.
- Diversity in data, tools and techniques where insights are derived from data across the business ecosystem. New tools are constantly evaluated with transparency and openness to how their adoption can impact productivity and improved techniques to find optimal ways of working with due consideration.
When people in an organisation engage, connect, and are heard and included, the feeling of belonging and a sense of purpose aligned with organisational needs, brings about rapid and effective business transformation.
When D&I is part of an organisation it helps to
- Infuse new skills, experiences and talent that would otherwise be missed in a homogeneous workplace.
- Inspire innovation with people of varying backgrounds, experiences and working styles collaborating together, growing ideas and innovation exponentially.
- Have happier employees who feel supported, comfortable and confident in their ability to make a difference at the workplace.
- Develop a progressive culture that is more open to change, capable of adopting new ideas and seizing new opportunities.
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