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How Diversity and Inclusion Helps Teams Thrive

July 1, 2021 • Leadership

2020 accelerated the conversation around diversity, equity, and inclusion. It was a year where a health crisis, an economic crisis, and a racial injustice crisis all intersected and forced leaders to ask—and answer—tough questions. Diversity has always been a driver of business outcomes. Now it’s up to each of us to become change agents and turn our good intentions into meaningful action to help our teams thrive.

Let Diversity Be Your Superpower

Through the years, I’ve been asked time and time again what it was like to break into a traditionally male-dominated field as one of the only female sports agents. How did I do it? What were my greatest challenges? Was it hard to compete?

Of course, it wasn’t always easy being one of the only women in my industry. It took determination, thick skin, and grit to succeed. But what I always tell people is that being the only woman in the room also gave me an edge.

I was able to show up in a different way than the agents I competed with.  As a former college athlete, I understood the mindset, the discipline, and the preparation required to succeed.  But I also found it easy to connect on the relational level, not just with my prospective clients, but with the family members and support team around them. What made me different helped me thrive. It helped my agency thrive. It helped my clients thrive. That is why I continue to see diversity and inclusion not as a trending buzzword, but as a real opportunity.

What makes you different is your superpower. Own it. Embrace it. Bring it to the table. Because when you do that, you not only elevate the room you are in today, you also fling open the door for anyone who comes behind you.

Diversity Creates An All-Star Roster

Just as an NFL team drafts players with specific talents and skillsets to boost their team’s performance, diversity can add new skillsets and fill in gaps in your workforce. Having a diverse workforce will bring new insights and experiences to help your team thrive. Your diverse, all-star team will be able to come together to solve problems more quickly. They will also connect more authentically to an increasingly diverse customer base.

Diversity Boosts Performance

As I mentioned in my own experience as one of the only female sports agents of my time, diversity gives you, your team and your clients an edge. By broadening the diversity of your team, you will also improve company performance. Research shows companies in the top quartile of ethnic and cultural diversity were 33% more likely to outperform companies in the bottom quartile. Let your team’s diversity be your company’s superpower.

Diversity Improves Decision-Making

Diversity also improves decision-making. Better decision making means better profitability. Ensuring your team includes diverse perspectives and backgrounds will enable you to identify and mitigate potential risks as a team. It seems a new advertising misstep presents itself every week for a case study on the importance of including diverse insights in the development process. A famous example of an advertising campaign that failed the authenticity test is the 2017 Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad that led to Pepsi’s lowest consumer perception in nearly 10 years.

Inclusion Helps You Sustain Peak Performance 

While developing a diverse workforce is vital to creating a team that thrives. An inclusive environment is the key to sustaining it. An inclusive workplace will help attract top talent, boost employee engagement, and retain employees.

How to Create an Inclusive Workplace

For younger job seekers, diversity and inclusion in the workplace aren’t a preference. They’re a requirement. Gen Z and Millennials now make up nearly half of the U.S. workforce. Members of Gen Z are more racially and ethnically diverse than any previous generation. They are also on track to be the most well-educated generation (PEW Research Center). In a recent Monster survey, 83% of Gen Z candidates said that a company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is important when choosing an employer.

To sustain a diverse workforce, you must make sure your company culture creates a safe space and promotes inclusivity, while staying true to your mission, vision and the customers your serve. Encourage diversity of thought and beliefs to make all feel welcome. Define what inclusion means for your company. Then ensure that mission is demonstrated throughout the corporation from hiring to management practices, to your executive board, and more.

Create opportunities for employees to connect and develop interpersonal relationships. If you work inside of a larger company, consider establishing employee resource groups that can help foster belonging. Teaching employees to be relational rather than transactional will create an engaged workforce and amplify results through connection.

According to Forbes, another great way to foster an inclusive environment is to look for seminars and a more diverse range of speakers to foster a culture that is authentically diverse. If you are booking speakers for your conference, check out the Speaker Equity Assessor to get a holistic evaluation of the diversity of your speaker lineup. Visible role models are an important part of moving the needle forward. Representation matters.

Another step toward inclusivity is to learn to embrace discomfort and engage in important dialogues and continuous learning. Training on Unconscious Bias and Implicit Bias will help educate your team, build a framework to tackle challenging conversations, and inspire them to thrive together. D&I efforts can’t be viewed merely as a HR function. Leadership must buy in, create the metrics, measure the progress, and be accountable for the results.

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