Lesson from Benefit Corporations: Diversity is More than Affirmative Action

Sign at front desk of New Seasons Market HQ

Sign at front desk of New Seasons Market HQ

Throughout the 20th century, businesses appeared homogenized. But as time passed, huge changes have occurred in our workforce and businesses. The people inside today's companies resemble nothing like those employees just a few short decades ago.  

The most obvious difference: You will find greater gender and ethnic diversity across most industries.

What might not be so obvious is that diversity is a major contributing factor for business growth and success. In a recent study conducted by McKinsey Group, the researchers found 10 positive economic correlations resulted when diversity is present in a company. These include:

§  Increased innovation,

§  Greater pool of capable talent,

§  More satisfied customers and yes,

§  An increase in profits.

This means that Benefit Corporations whose creed is the three P’s of “People, Planet, Profit”
need to actively embrace the concept of cultivating a diverse workplace, as people are the engine that fuels everything else.

According to research study done by Deloitte, the two most important areas that correlate with the highest performing companies pinpoint inclusion and diversity. These companies are:

  • 2.9 times more likely to identify and build leaders
  • 1.8 times more likely to be change-ready
  • 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders

Cedric Herring, a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, states “A diverse workforce yields superior outcomes over homogeneity because progress and innovation depends less on lone thinkers with high intelligence than on diverse groups working together and capitalizing on their individuality.”

Benefit Corporations don’t think of diversity as Affirmative Action. This is not just about recruiting and hiring people who reflect the growing diversity of our country and then resting on one’s laurels proclaiming the company is diverse. 

The key is the concept of INCLUSIVITY – the practices and policies that make ALL employees feel welcome and respected. (Just as our friends at New Seasons Market do as shown by the image above.)

We have heard many stories from friends who were initially excited about being given the opportunity to work for a more traditional company with little diversity.  But, these same folks quickly became disillusioned when realizing that they were the outsider, the “token” representative from a specific community, receiving little respect, support or connection with leadership or other employees. 

Diversity and Inclusion ARE NOT the same thing.

It doesn’t have to be that way.  If Benefit Corporationss are sincere about their commitment to people, they strive  to make them feel welcome-- to truly demonstrate inclusivity. Here is a great resource to help you from Entrepreneur Magazine.  And here are a few tips we have learned:

1.       Look at where you get your sources of information. Try to ensure it is balanced to incorporate diverse viewpoints

2.       Actively seek out different viewpoints when you are in meetings or problem-solving. Solicit ideas and perceptions from ALL employees.

3.       Lead by example.  Utilize positive communications, both verbal and nonverbal, with diverse employees – to create a culture of trust.

4.       Support the launch of “affinity groups,” small, informal, self-started employee groups for people with common interests, background and issues.

5.       Proactively reach out to employees from diverse backgrounds with mentoring and career growth opportunities.

6.       Check in frequently with employees reflecting more diverse communities, asking how you can improve to better support them. Listen and follow-through whenever possible.

7.       Consider offering cultural competency workshops to employees.

 And if you'd like to see if your business is ready to become a benefit corporation, just take our free 12-question "sniff" test and find out right now.