True diversity is not found in numbers. It is found in people with varying backgrounds using their experience to everyone’s benefit, says Lizabeth Ardisana, CEO, ASG Renaissance.
“What we’re trying to achieve is not actually diversity, although that’s the buzzword for all of this, it’s really inclusion,” Ardisana says. “It is one thing to say you have employees who are minorities, old, young, African-American, Latino or Asian, but you have to value those differences and use them to your advantage, not just tolerate them. That’s what it takes to be successful with diversity.”
She says inclusion adds value to companies by providing diversity of thought, access to understanding other markets and a more interesting workplace.
“If no one told me I should do this, I would still seek out people who are different than I am because it would add significant value to me and my company. Until we get to that level of understanding and position, we have not truly experienced the value of diversity,” Ardisana says.
Smart Business spoke with Ardisana about diversity and its value in the workplace.
You hear a lot of talk about diversity, but do companies follow through by taking action?
Counting the number of people you have who come from different backgrounds or putting a diversity section on your website isn’t enough. It doesn’t give you the value. You have to follow the talk with action. You have to move past diversity to a level of value in order to truly have inclusion.
Does that mean you need diversity in promotions as well?
Absolutely. You can’t just talk about it; you have to do it from the bottom up. If you’re going to embrace diversity of thought and diversity of ideas, you must also embrace it at the senior management level. Otherwise, you are not valuing it. If you’ve never promoted someone of a different background, you would be sending the wrong message to the rest of your company.
How do diversity and inclusion benefit companies?
First, you have to accept that an innovative and creative business is going to be a more profitable business and that new ideas, new capabilities and new markets all add profitability. Diversity of thinking comes from a diversity of backgrounds and cultures and that creates more new ideas and more innovation.
Additionally, if you have a reputation for being an interesting and creative place to work, it attracts better overall talent. We’re all in a race to get the best talent and you have to make yourself attractive. Look at the companies that post one job and get hundreds of applications. These companies have a reputation for innovation, for being fun and interesting. If you look at really successful companies today, they have a significant amount of diversity, or inclusion, in what they do.
Are workplaces becoming more inclusive?
It is improving. One thing that’s dramatically improved is companies are valuing age and experience, combining older employees with employees who are young and aggressive. This creates unique opportunities when they are blended together.
Diversity has to be looked at as broadly as possible and some of it is simply awareness. When I started my company, I looked around and thought about how all the people in this department look alike and all the people in this other department look alike but they don’t look like each other. We hire people we’re most comfortable with and don’t think about it. We weren’t getting the benefits of diversity and inclusion so we consciously started to think about it and took actions to practice it, and it has made a huge difference in our success as a company.
Lizabeth Ardisana is CEO at ASG Renaissance. Reach her at (313) 565-4700 or email@example.com.
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