Successfully nurturing an organisational culture of diversity and inclusion creates a competitive advantage

25 August 2021

Rightly so, the topic of diversity and inclusion is nothing new. But to what extent does the inclusion of diversity drive organisational culture and change strategies?

Yes, diversity and inclusion reaches further than ethnic and language-driven diversity. 

Simon Sinek beautifully explains that diversity is about perspective which is something that each individual brings to the table (yes, literally, of an organisation) because of their unique life experience. He goes on to say that diversity is about learning to work with people who are unlike you.

Over the past couple of years, our own practice has grown both in terms of staff complement and client base (including international organisations with a local footprint). Which is why we are committed to spending time on defining our goals as it relates to diversity and inclusion. 

It is necessary for organisations to empower their teams to interact effectively with diverse stakeholders and customers to deliver value that resonates with them, all while being mindful of the differences that exist. 

Nurture a culture that celebrates and leverages diversity

We explored a few of the contextual differences in cultures in a recent article that was published by Bizcommunity. Ultimately, the aim is to nurture an organisational culture that is more diverse and inclusive in every aspect of what we do. In turn, this shift in focus reveals tools for innovation and clears stumbling blocks in the way of collaboration.

InternationalHub created an informative video about an approach for organisations to facilitate work effectively in a cross-cultural environment. These three steps can just as easily be applied to a diverse team in one organisation as it can be applied to multinational organisations.

  1. Recognise – increase the organisation’s awareness about the differences that exist among the team. As Simon Sinek says in the video: “Start by being curious about the differences or the ways in which other people are unlike you.” 
  2. Respect – appreciate these differences. The value for organisational culture lies in being able to leverage the perspectives that come from differences, whether in terms of personality, life experience or cultural background.
  3. Reconcile – apply your knowledge and cultural empathy to rally the team around a common goal or outcome. Simon Sinek describes it as working together for a cause, whether that be an organisation’s vision or a specific project’s outcome. People with different perspectives bring a cause to life.

Embracing, instead of ignoring differences, broadens the scope of what teams can achieve

When diversity and inclusion is done well this particular inclusive organisational culture has the potential to lead to measurable, meaningful performance.

David Rock and Heidi Grant’s Harvard Business Review article said that diverse teams are smarter. Essentially, they are smarter because they function differently to achieve two of the most notable outcomes:

  1. Performance-driving benefits: These include increased innovation, profitability and teams with better problem-solving skills. 
  2. Gaining new insight, emotional intelligence and professional development: In other words, teams are more inclined to being open-minded and understand the value of learning continuously. To quote Rock and Grant: “Working with people who are different from you may challenge your brain to overcome its stale ways of thinking and sharpen its performance.”

Diversity should be more than a public relations campaign, if at all

Understandably, diversity and inclusion sometimes sounds like something to be marketed to cement an organisation’s commitment to the cause or to attract diverse talent into its staff complement. These efforts to showcase the extent of an organisation’s diversity and inclusion efforts often translate into highly visible and polished campaigns to influence opinion. 

These campaigns might place employees on the spot who do not wish to draw attention to themselves and might even separate them from the group without the overt intention to do so.

When diversity and inclusion is treated as an aesthetic feature of an organisation, the organisation misses out on the competitive advantage that comes with nurturing a culture in which diversity and inclusion is engrained. 

We’re inclined to believe that diversity and inclusion is celebrated much more organically, and less for the sake of window dressing, when organisations apply true effort into nurturing an inherently diverse culture into its core values.