Whenever I’m having discussions with clients they often ask me to describe diversity and how it pertains to business. My answer to them is: “It’s like investing in the stock market!” If you’re an investor and your broker suggests that you diversify your portfolio, what would that mean to you? If you said spreading your money amongst different sectors, i.e. technology, energy, real estate, stocks, bonds, etc. you would be correct. Now my question to you is why? Why do you need to diversify? If this were a question on an exam, you would probably hate me if I were your professor. You see, if you answered, “to protect your money” I would mark it wrong for this test. You don’t diversify to protect money, you diversify to make money with hopes of minimizing loses while you’re at it! If you want to protect your money, wrap it up in plastic, dig a hole in your backyard blindfolded so that even you don’t know where it is, bury it, and forget about it. This is of course unless you’ve made so much money that you feel you don’t need anymore. If you own a business you can’t afford to think you’ve made enough.
The concept of diversity works the same way. Like investing in the market, you diversify your workplace to make money and this is how it works. As human beings of different races, colors, genders, religions, and other demographic traits, we possess different perspectives and experiences. Many things like the environment we live in, media, culture, and personal values to name a few dictate these perspectives and experiences. But, in America some of the most influential contributors to our perspectives and experiences are the demographic traits I stated earlier. Race, color, or sexual orientations are the attributes, which makes us different from each other and affects the way we will experience the world.
All of this makes the individual person, an individual sector within the workplace. So when Debbie comes to work and she isn’t performing at her best because she’s sick or going through a traumatic life experience, John who’s not affected by these things and feeling he’s at the best stage of his life, comes through and makes up for Debbie’s lack of performance. When John is not performing at his best, then someone else with different life experiences and perspectives makes up for him. This is why it’s important to find talent from all walks of life. The value in our demographic differences is that we’ve experienced life differently and therefore will have different perspectives. If your workplace looks and thinks alike, eventually that homogenous sector will have a downturn in its performance. It will run out of fresh ideas and new perspectives causing your organization to loose its relevancy in its sector. Has your company made enough money not to be concerned? If not, maybe you need to diversify.