When people think about the best businesses in the world, they generally think in terms of revenue, profit, market share, etc. Although these are all hallmarks of a great business, almost every major $1 billion+ business employs thousands of employees hailing from all types of backgrounds. If you want to build a lasting and sustainable company, you have to be able to attract the best talent in the world. Most businesses will offer decent compensation and some benefits, but they all overlook a crucial aspect of developing a world-class company: inclusivity.
What does it mean to have an inclusive business?
Having an inclusive business doesn’t mean you have a variety of flags hanging in your building. It means that your business is designed and operated in a way that embraces diversity and allows everyone to feel like they belong. To do this, inclusivity has to be a core part of your business.
Inclusivity is often thought of as something that only affects the Human Resources department. However, in order for a business to be inclusive, it has to start from the top down. The leadership team and the board of directors have to be committed to making the company inclusive. They have to set the tone for the rest of the organization. Without this, there won’t be systems and processes in place to attract and retain diverse talent.
Benefits of building an inclusive business
For businesses to be incentivized to have an inclusive company, there has to be a business case made for inclusion. Here are some of the best benefits of having an inclusive business:
Attract more talent
A business is simply a collection of people working towards a common goal. If you want to scale an online business, brick and mortar business, etc, you need to be able to attract the best talent. When your leadership team and HR team hire from your own personal networks, you’ll quickly realize that your business will have a homogenous workforce. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does limit the number of diverse perspectives that can be brought to solve problems.
By being an inclusive business, you open your talent pool to a much wider array of people. You can attract top talent from all over the world, not just from your personal network. When applicants see that your business has people that share some of their same backgrounds and experiences, they’ll be more likely to want to work for you.
Once you have some diversity in your talent pool, some practical steps you can take to attract more talent include:
- Adding inclusive copywriting into your job postings
- Asking your employees to refer using their networks for roles
- Target online and offline areas where diverse people from your sector communicate
- Add incentives for referring new hires
More creativity and innovation
When you have a diverse workforce, you will also have more creativity and innovation. This is because people from different backgrounds will have different perspectives on the same problem. With more perspectives, you’re more likely to find an innovative and effective solution.
If you look at some of the best businesses in the world, you will find that they have some of the most diverse talent. For example, when you think of Amazon, you’ll likely assume they have the latest AI, voice recognition software, fulfillment software, etc. What you don’t see is their extremely diverse workforce that makes up hundreds of thousands of people.
Source: Amazon.com Workforce Data
As you can see in the infographic from Amazon’s workforce data, the leadership team at Amazon has taken a very intentional approach to recruit diverse talent for their business. In the past five years, the amount and percentage of employees from different ethnicities has improved significantly. Employees from LatinX, African American, Native American and Multiracial communities have increased in Amazon’s workforce. This provides an ample amount of diverse and new perspectives in the workforce.
Better employee engagement
In addition to more creativity, inclusion in the workforce also helps with improving employee engagement. Leadership teams in any business department know the difficulties that come with disengaged employees. This often leads to numerous harmful effects in the workplace like:
- More errors and defects in the workplace
- Decrease in productivity
- Decrease in team morale
- Decrease in employee retention
- Increase in negative customer experiences
A more inclusive workforce will have employees that feel like they can be their true selves at work. They don’t have to put on a persona or act a certain way to succeed. When employees feel like they have to put up a persona at work, it takes a toll on their mental and emotional state. Many large companies have invested in mental health stipends and this has improved employee well-being dramatically.
An inclusive environment will allow employees to feel valued and receive training and guidance that’s specific to their needs. By catering to the specific needs of your employees, they will give better customer service and improve your customer retention.
Diversity is key to having a business with international reach and operations. Most leaders understand the importance of having a global perspective, but they often don’t have the right tools or team in place to make it happen. When you expand your business internationally, you need to have a team that can understand and speak to the different cultures you’ll be working with.
For example, a customer based in Brazil will likely respond better to Brazilian salespeople, marketers, etc. There are a lot of nuances that companies miss in their international operations when they lack diverse perspectives. This can often lead to costly mistakes that could have been avoided. Companies with international personnel and diverse teams have a huge competitive advantage in this area.
A great example of a company that does this well is Neil Patel Digital. Neil Patel is known for his marketing acumen and success in delivering marketing campaigns for companies based in the U.S. As his company grew, he opened up international headquarters in places like Germany, Brazil, India, etc. Instead of using the international workforce to do work for U.S.-based companies, he leveraged the international teams to sell and market to businesses locally. This has led Neil Patel Digital to grow to over 700 employees and $100 million in annual revenue.
Better productivity and performance
An inclusive workforce can significantly improve productivity and performance in any company. A recent study from Deloitte showed that companies with diverse workforces are more likely to have higher revenue growth than companies that lack diversity. In fact, the study showed that companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have better financial performance. This can help improve every department in your business from email marketing to engineering.
This is even more pronounced with the rise of remote work and employees in tech companies. For companies that mainly have information workers like engineers, writers, etc., the geographical limitations are virtually non-existent. Instead of limiting your company to hiring American-based talent, you can open up your hiring to the global talent pool. This gives you a much larger pool of potential employees to choose from and helps you find the best candidates.
With this, you can have the best head of operations from Poland, the best engineer in Nigeria, the best salesperson in Hungary, etc. By having a more inclusive workforce, you’ll attract A+ talent that can work and thrive in your workplace. This is just another competitive advantage that can only be gained by having an inclusive and diverse workforce.
Common mistakes to avoid when designing an inclusive workforce
When building an inclusive workforce, there are a few common mistakes that companies often make. These mistakes can slow down your progress or even derail your efforts to build an inclusive work environment. Some of the mistakes you should avoid include:
Not having inclusive policies: One of the most important things you can do when building an inclusive workforce is to have inclusive policies in place. This includes things like anti-discrimination policies, equal opportunity employment policies, etc. Without these policies in place, you’ll likely find that your inclusive efforts are quickly met with resistance.
Not measuring or tracking inclusion efforts: Another common mistake is failing to measure or track inclusion efforts. You need to be able to track progress so you can see what’s working and what’s not working. If you take a look at the diversity reports of large companies like Amazon or Google, they have specific diversity metrics (DEI metrics) that they track. This includes demographic percentages, employee retention percentages and employee promotion rates. You can use custom apps or third party apps to help you track and measure your DEI metrics.
Outsourcing diversity and inclusion to a vendor: This is a mistake that many companies make when they’re first starting out with their inclusive efforts. They assume that they can outsource the work of inclusion to a vendor. Inclusion is something that needs to be led from the top down. It’s also something that should be ingrained in the company’s culture instead of trying to reach specific diversity metrics.
These are just a few of the common mistakes made when building an inclusive workforce. By avoiding these mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to developing a more inclusive work environment. This will ultimately help you attract and retain top talent, improve productivity and performance, and gain a competitive edge.