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Why is diversity important for your business?

What is diversity and inclusion and how does it benefit your business? We give you five tips for establishing a strong culture for inclusion and how to involve top management.


Diversity has been a topic for several years. Few people nowadays ask questions about why this is important. We know, from years of measuring and providing analytics from many different companies around the world, that diversity in companies brings increased financial success and attracts talents more easily. 

An international study from McKinsey shows that the business case keeps growing stronger and that companies with diversity based on gender perform 15 per cent better than other companies. If the companies also have ethnic and cultural diversity, they outperform other companies by 35 per cent. 

Companies that do not take this into account will stay behind in the battle for talents and will be experienced as old fashioned.

Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance.”

Vernā Myers,  VP of Inclusion Strategy at Netflix

Still, many companies struggle with how to incorporate the D&I and how to measure success. How can companies make this part of their corporate culture, so everyone embraces the change and takes the necessary actions?

The trend is no longer about diversity, but diversity and inclusion. D&I consultant, lawyer, and the current VP of Inclusion Strategy at Netflix, Vernā Myers sums up these two words with a more tangible visual:

 “Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance”. Discussing Inclusion is emphasising that No One should be left behind.

Reminding a seat at each table for everyone, and inviting everyone to the party and letting them dance too. We are talking about full participation and involvement, equality and nondiscrimination.

Even though companies focus on actions for attracting and retaining diversity, it is a fact that many people still do not feel included, when entering a new company. They experience being a part of a group, but still being left outside. The consequence is that many companies do not succeed with their diversity policies.

Inclusion, the top managers new diamant

Examples of lack of inclusion are many. To name a few, you can still see management teams where discussions and decisions are made outside of the meeting rooms, where members are left out and not allowed to take part before the decision is made. 

Another example is meeting rooms where people talk and share their thoughts, but for some participants, their words are not taken seriously or actively listened to. Sometimes people do not even speak their minds, as they are afraid of saying the “wrong” things or having the “wrong” opinion.

And even though some of these might be political and strategic decisions, most of the time, this comes from unconsciousness and unconscious bias. 

This makes inclusion the top manager’s new diamant. This is one of the most important areas top management can focus on and gain immediate credit. 

What can we do?

Many companies have started to create roles for Diversity and Inclusion, as a new profession. Looking at D&I positions available, this is tending to be a trend. A quick search at the job portal, a Norwegian platform for job listings among other things, shows right now 196 positions searching for diversity and inclusion.

Major changes like this must come from top management. It is a management responsibility to make sure every employee feels included at work. It is all about change management, changing values, attitudes, and ways to collaborate.

This includes all actions that will provide everyone the same prerequisites to succeed and experience that everyone has an equal place at the table.

There are of course different ways to streamline collaborations and anchor decisions. One example is to start meetings with all participants reading through documentation.

This way, everyone has the information needed to be able to make decisions. Sending out last-minute documentation may mean that not all participants have the opportunity to be prepared.

With the home office, many employees have experienced a change in our way of working together. Participation in digital meetings requires a different discipline than in physical meetings. For some it has made it easier to speak and be heard, while for others it has become more difficult.

This often has to do with the type of personality you have. From the use of different tests of personality types, we learn how people collaborate differently and have a different approach on how much and in what way information is shared before making decisions. 

People with a very extroverted personality type often act on limited documentation, planning and structure, and like to make fast decisions. People with a very analytic personality type on the other hand, might feel discomfort by not having sufficient documentation and being able to prepare and ask follow-up questions in order to make a decision. 

They might feel that decisions are made on the wrong foundation and that they have been unable to come up with their input and recommendations.

The extrovert personality type might then again be impatient by the degree of details and might lose both the momentum and drive, because the process takes too long.

What can we learn from this?

For everyone to be able to participate and feel that they are taken seriously, it is important to facilitate for this. In the example above, one action could be to send out information before the meeting, so that everyone can read through and be able to ask follow-up questions in advance of the meeting. 

While some want to read a lot of documentation carefully, others just need to skim brief information. Therefore, a solution may be to send out longer documentation, but also a summary in bullet point form for those who do not want to read everything. 

This way, both the meeting and the decisions can be more efficient and everyone has the opportunity to have their voice heard.

5 tips for making diversity and inclusion happen

  1. Implement diversity measurements in all parts of your strategic HR process, from employer branding and recruitment to succession planning.
  2. Walk the walk and talk the talk. No results are coming from talking, action is required in order to make a change. 
  3. Top management must take the lead. In order to build a strong D&I organisation, this must be set as a strategic goal and followed up with a budget.
  4. Make every person count. Make sure every employer gets a place at the table. Find a way to ensure that no one is left outside, from the coffee break, the lunch, and decisions. Not everyone can be involved in everything, but everyone should be involved in something valuable.
  5. Bring vulnerability to the table and build a culture of openness. When every “stupid” question gets a respectful answer, you grow possibilities for discussions and innovations that will never take place if people are afraid to raise their minds. 

Want to read more about how we at Visma work with diversity and inclusion? Visit our sustainability page.

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