“Diversity” is defined as the condition of having or being composed of differing elements, for example the inclusion of different types of people (such as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization.

In the last few years, the term has received much airtime in the business world as people come to realise just how un-diverse many of our companies, groups and communities are.  

While it is human nature to gravitate towards sameness – we instinctively understand people who are just like us – it isn’t conducive to success. After all, if we all had the same background, world view and approach to problem solving, we would not achieve anything new.

The power of diversity in the workplace

Sure, it’s about being inclusive and treating people equally – no matter their age, race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation –  but it’s also about much more than that. It’s about creating a workforce that is broad in its experience, ideas, insights and problem-solving abilities. And if your business communicates with people at all (which business doesn’t?) then it’s about ensuring that you talk to each of your customers in the most appropriate manner.

When you think about it in these terms, diversity really can become a key differentiator.

A real-world example

We recently hosted a webinar (which you can listen to here), during which we presented the results of our 3rd annual proposal management survey (which you can download here). One of the questions in the survey touched on this issue, and we asked our panellists to comment on the importance of diversity in Bid teams.

Zena De Kasha, Senior Manager of Bids & Proposals North America at Insight, said: “I have worked in all sorts of teams over the years, and it’s clear that men and women have different strengths, viewpoints, ideas and insights, which all help in problem solving. You definitely want a range when it comes to age, too.”

Amy Singer, Head of Bid Management, Americas at Hitachi Vantara, agreed saying “it’s important to include younger people in your team because technology advances so rapidly that the way we talk about things in business has to become much more youth-oriented. Having younger people on the team gives you a fresh perspective and allows you to have a wider view of how your solutions are impacting your customers.”

Other benefits of diversity

Jennifer Fonstad is a serial entrepreneur and veteran venture investor. Last year, she authored a brilliant article on the competitive advantage of diversity, published on TechCrunch. As she says, “We are only just beginning to understand all of the unique ways in which diversity drives competitive advantage.” She then lists what we know so far:

  • Diversity builds beneficial networks: A balanced and diverse leadership team brings new networks into a company that can be used to attract talent, build business relationships and sell products.
  • Diverse leadership brings the right skills at the right time: Studies show differing leadership styles in an organization bring essential qualities that matter as a company grows — aggressive, action-oriented approaches tempered by collaboration, listening and tolerance, for example.
  • Diversity provides insight into the customer: Most companies sell into an increasingly diverse customer base; mapping experiences, perspectives and networks internally to better mirror customers drives increased sales.

In her article, Fonstad shares how a 2015 McKinsey study found ethnically diverse companies were more than 35% more likely to outperform their industry counterparts. Even more significantly, each 10 % increase in racial and ethnic diversity on the senior executive team yielded on average a rise of 0.8%in earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT).

What's your approach to diversity?

It’s clear that building a diverse business is advantageous, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Are you prepared to admit that something needs to change and to implement the changes required?

The good news is that there are many resources available to you, including from Thomson Reuters and Great Place to Work.

Or you could go the route that many companies are following and appoint a Chief Diversity Officer.

Further reading: