diversityDiversity in the workplace has been a hot topic for that last 40 years. But why is diversity still such an important topic after so many years of effort? In our view, it is because earlier diversity efforts focused on it as a compliance issue to ensure that women, minorities, the LGBT community, and other groups are all treated equally and fairly. In general, the term “compliance” conjures up an image of an organization forcing people to do something that they don’t want to do.   But there is an alternative way of thinking about diversity which sees hiring for diversity and creating diverse work teams a great opportunity. From this perspective, a diverse workforce is an excellent path to a smart, productive, innovative and motivated organization and team. However, seeing diversity as an opportunity instead of as compliance requires strong leadership to think differently about their organization and role.   In the past, the leadership’s compliance-focused approach to diversity was fundamentally transactional. Organizations were required to have a defined level of representation of ethnic and gender populations to be socially acceptable. They would need X number of minorities, X number of women and so forth. This made hiring for diversity simply a transaction, like fulfilling a quota.   In this day and age, the smart companies recognize that diversity actually improves performance in an organization. In our experience, diverse environments and teams are more innovative and productive. There is sufficient evidence to support these claims.   For example, business professors Crisitan Deszo from the University of Maryland and David Ross from Columbia University studied the effect of gender diversity on top U.S. firms from Standard & Poor’s 1500 list. The team first looked at the size and gender of the firms’ top management teams. Next, they looked at the financial performance of the firms. Deszo and Ross concluded that on average female representation in top leadership roles led to an increase in $42 million in firm value.   There has also been sufficient evidence to prove that diversity provokes thought and innovation. In a 2014 study, researchers examined the ethnic identity of the authors of 1.5 million scientific papers written between 1985 and 2008. They discovered that the papers written by diverse groups received more citations and had higher impact factors than papers written by people from the same ethnic groups.   A diverse organization and team simply means that more perspectives are available and that they will enrich the decision making environment. I, however, think this is a result of previous transformational leadership, not a result of diversity.   Transformational leaders in pursuit of a compelling purpose drive rigorous efforts to find innovative ideas for moving their organization and team forward. Diverse perspectives are a key driver for bringing an organization to the next level. It’s just a small move from thinking that diverse perspectives produce better performance to recognizing that diversity is a great way to get different these diverse perspectives and, as a result, better overall performance.   If you want your organization to have diversity, don’t focus on compliance. Instead, focus on creating a culture of high performance and transformational change.   If everyone is focused on finding innovative ways to better serve their client, then people will seek out and hire diverse populations. This will ensure the development of a rich environment needed for long- term success.   Diversity can and should be a natural outgrowth of desire to be great, not just comply with regulations.      ]]>

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