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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Diversity as a Strategic Advantage

I've been recently thinking about diversity and how forward-thinking CEOs see it as a secret ingredient in achieving organizational success and business stability. What got me thinking is really understanding how a diverse work force can contribute to bottom line success.

Scarcity Produces Thought Leaders

In an era where thought leadership is scarce - can a company take advantage of diversity as a competitive differentiator?

In the purest sense, I believe yes - a company can. I believe that having a few progressive thinkers in a company does not limit it from growing. It is the opinion of independent thinking individuals that makes the difference and pushes the organization to reshape itself to a self-sustaining entity. The role of the few innovative leaders in the company is to instigate dynamic conversations among less critical thinking members of the institution. This way, the experiences of these individuals will help these thought leaders reshape their decisions to obtain the overall goal of the business based on what the work force sees and what stimulus they respond to.

Why put so much importance on what the work force thinks? I believe that soliciting opinions on a particular process yield more creative, synergistic and effective outcomes. When someone feels that their opinions are valued, they tend to have a bigger sense of accountability towards their work. In my years of managing people and teams, it took me a while to realize the importance of feedback. There are stages a person must go through in order to have the right mix of management style to bring out the best in people. And feedback or open communication is by far the most crucial element - at least for me anyway.

Workplace Appreciation Leads to Solid Business Reputation

What are the indicators at which we say a company is successful? Is it EBITDA positive? Is it market leadership? Is it a consistent increase in stock prices? Is it market demand and high customer loyalty?

I think more than the financial performance and the quality of products and services, workplace appreciation is a key indicator of organizational success. When employees start advocating how fun and exciting it is to work for a company, then it will follow that employees are also productive. I always tell my team that my mantra towards managing people is "when people feels good about themselves, they tend to produce good results". And it is no different in saying that once an employee shares his or her excitement in coming in to work - then we can say that an institution has a solid business reputation.

And workplace appreciation only happens when people from different backgrounds with less similarities meet on common ground. And once it happens, it will produce a residual effect that will solidify the business reputation as a company who values integrity and ethical business practices.

Harnessing the Power of Being Different

I truly believe that a success of an organization is through institutionalizing diversity in the work place. A company needs opinionated people talking passionately about what it takes for the organization to succeed because it harnesses the power of the human spirit. There is nothing more greater than people passionately sharing their feelings on how things can be better. The level of involvement is so much higher that the sense of accountability is no longer asked but automatically given.

Being different is rare these days. Everyone wants to fit in. When the boss says "do this", the staff just nods and follow. You don't want this in your organization - people who comes in pay check after pay check. They are wasted investments.

Even if you read all the success stories of great businessmen, they will always go back and highlight one element why they are successful. And it is - people.

People are the building blocks of an institution and diversity - just like any science textbook would say - is the composite material that strengthens the foundation of an organization.

 Diversity as a Strategic Advantage

In conclusion, can an organization use diversity as a strategic advantage? I say - yes but with caution. I think that a healthy mix of diverse people with the right skill set and the same mind set is a strategic advantage. I also think that in order to achieve this, diversity should be managed.

And when it comes to strategy, the CPG model should be ask before integrating a new entity to the existing work force. If not and if this is taken too lightly - financial and organizational repercussions should be expected.

My CPG model for managing diversity

  1. is the person Competitive in the sense that he/she has the right skill set to catch up with the same pace as the other employees are and maintain that speed consistently every day?
  2. is the person aligned with your Profitability goals? 
  3. is the person willing to Grow with the company and how fast do you think his or her Growth rate would be?
These are some basic questions modeled after the CPG elements of strategic planning. Everything must be aligned in order to achieve the desired results. 

As a closing though, let me share with you one quote from one of my favorite personality - Ms. Hillary Clinton. 

What we have to do is to find a way to celebrate our diversity and debate our differences without fracturing our communities.