Q: How does diversity, equity and inclusion help a business?
A: We are hearing the words diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) more lately as recent events have rekindled conversations. DEI efforts have been present in organizations for years, but we are still lacking understanding and strategy. Diversity is a broad term and includes race, ethnicity, culture, language, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and others.
Many years ago, I was part of an initiative to recruit, select, onboard and retain diverse candidates. Traditional HR models had not been adapting to meet diverse candidates’ ways of communicating, relating to others and gaining trust.
Once candidates are recruited and hired, a strategy needs to be developed to support their development and make sure they are included and given opportunities. Almost 100% of the employees who left the organization reported that it was due to lack of mentorship, deep relationships, opportunities and being included in majority circles. Similarly, the employees who stayed in the organization had been recruited by another diverse employee who mentored them and opened doors. They arrived knowing that there were people in the organization they could relate to.
DEI is an important piece of an organization’s intelligence and innovation. I have conducted research on foreign physicians and their ability to lead successful teams, innovate and create change. Diverse individuals bring a different lens and perspective. The more diverse the team is, the more mental frameworks one can pull information from. Multiple sources of information generate more possibilities not only for the team and the organization, but ultimately the clients. At the same time, the team acquires more cultural intelligence, the ability to adapt and adjust in a diverse and global environment. It also improves individuals’ ability to analyze complex situations.
Moreover, diverse teams propel innovation. By accepting new members from diverse backgrounds, more possibilities are generated. When you travel to other countries or even rural areas with fewer resources, you can’t help but notice creativity everywhere. Embrace diversity, equity and inclusion to foster cultural intelligence, creativity and innovation.
Marcella de la Torre teaches courses at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.