February 4, 2013
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How important is workplace diversity to your small business?
Significant changes in market demographics and the talent required for sustainable competitive advantage make workplace diversity increasingly harder to ignore and more important than ever.
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The scope of diversity in business has broadened over the years. Today’s diversity model impacts every small business – including yours:
“Diversity is about recognizing, respecting and valuing differences … These life experiences and personal perspectives make us react and think differently; approach challenges and solve problems differently; make suggestions and decisions differently; and see different opportunities. Diversity, then, is also about diversity of thought. And superior business performance requires tapping into these unique perspectives.” – Chubb Insurance Group (USA)
However, diversity is often overlooked.
According to a 2011 Forbes Insight survey of 300 multi-national executives, “41% identified the ‘failure to perceive the connection between diversity and business drivers’ as a barrier to developing and implementing a diversity strategy.” (Source: Deloitte 2011)
Therefore, for companies to truly think like their customers, they must first know and embrace them; it’s an inside job.
In fact, research indicates that workplace diversity delivers marked benefits including improvements in customer satisfaction, productivity, profitability and employee retention. Communicating diversity as a core company value can distinguish your small business in a hyper-competitive market.
Bridging the Gap of Diversity and Company Culture
As a small business owner, you can’t truly address workplace diversity without first paying attention to company culture. After all, it is the lifeblood of your organization; it can make or break your company. “Products and companies are built by people,” Jean-Marc Freuler, CEO of Funding Gates explains. “In order to build the best product in the world … [you] need to get one thing right: the culture.”
Bain & Company research found that “nearly 70% of business leaders agree: Culture provides the greatest source of competitive advantage. In fact, more than 80% believe an organization that lacks a high-performance culture is doomed to mediocrity.”
Your company culture sends the general public a simple message: “This is how we conduct business.” Culture is the glue that holds everything together.
However simplistic your message may be, company culture is comprised of several moving parts; core values, routines, work environment, management structure, branding, and company goals. It tells employees, “This is a great place to work.” It says to customers, “We operate a business that you can relate to and trust.” It declares to all stakeholders, “This is what you can expect from us.”
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