These 4 Pillars of Performance Make Diversity a Competitive Advantage

Joe Weinlick
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Companies that treat workplace diversity like a numbers game miss out on the competitive benefits of a varied talent pool. Meaningful change only happens when workplace diversity is integral to operational goals, so diversity programs should serve as a cultural framework for achieving the best results. To measure the success and impact of diversity, use these four pillars of performance as a guide.

1. Organizational Efficiency

For decades, companies reduced workplace diversity to a false image of cultural inclusion by fulfilling quotas. However, genuine diversity stems from a wide-ranging blend of workforce traits, including race, gender, age, personality, values and socioeconomic experience. Marginalizing portions of this workforce weakens organizational efficiency, producing homogenous leadership and discouraging employees from challenging the status quo.

Developing a company culture that celebrates individuality leads to a more productive team in which everyone feels supported and capable of advancement. Workplace diversity cannot thrive without social equity, which influences employee relationships, performance and engagement.

2. Transparent Recruitment

While the intent of "equal opportunity employment" is clear, interpretations often become murky in practice. Despite reaching out to diverse candidates, hiring professionals typically show positive bias toward people who share similar characteristics. In a 2016 study of workplace diversity, Harvard Business Review profiled a common tactic in which managers hired white and male peers without subjecting them to the same testing as female and minority candidates. However, female and minority managers immediately increased once all candidates were held to the same standards.

Bias is often ingrained in organizational process, making it essential to reduce practices that allow recruitment professionals to be hypercritical of diverse candidates. Harvard Business Review reported that bias in hiring and performance evaluations decreased when managers had to explain their thought processes to a panel. Homogenous recruitment teams attract homogenous talent, while accountability and diversity of leadership encourage a fair playing field.

3. Employee Retention

Even when businesses initially succeed at attracting diverse candidates, they suffer high turnover when the company culture awards uniformity. People who fall outside the core race, gender and age characteristics are less likely to feel invested when there are constant barriers to advancement and few or no leaders who look like them. As a result, companies must evaluate how they approach organizational efficiency. Are they getting results by suppressing dissent or by harnessing the talents and ideas of their diverse workforce to move the company forward?

Mentoring and management training programs are smart ways to foster inclusion, as long as these opportunities are offered equally to everyone. By making relationship-building integral to company development, businesses can accurately identify and nurture leadership talent.

4. Market Appeal

By evaluating the first three pillars, companies are better equipped to reach diverse audiences. Customers, partners and job applicants are attracted to companies that respect diverse perspectives and distrustful when those organizations don't live up to claims of cultural inclusion. However, all companies serve only a portion of the population, and choosing the right balance of workplace diversity may depend on the narrowness or broadness of the target market. The key is to build a team and environment conducive to developing ideas that meet customer expectations now and in the future.

Workplace diversity is a complex equation. Company leaders can solve this puzzle by listening to the workforce and being authentic in their interactions.

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