compound

I tell you where the money is in culture! Diversity means serious profit…or loss if it is done badly.

Personally I have always been fan of physical training and fitness. As time goes by it becomes a bit more difficult (or maybe it becomes easier to find excuses…) and I keep the comfortable habits, but not the challenging ones which can lead to shockingly embarrassing, but awakening moments.

One day I was having my delicious protein shake carefully prepared in a fancy shaker with motivational text and picture on the side (even though I have not trained for a while) and the love of my life asked me: do you think you are a fitness fanatic if you drink a shake but you don’t train at all? 

I went through a wide range of emotions in a few seconds, none of them were positive or friendly though. But she was right. Sometimes we think we do something right by picking an easy part of a process and we lie to ourselves thinking we do our best.

This is a very similar example to what happens with diversity…companies seem to think that employing the best of the best from all over the world means diversity. Technically it does, but it is not far away from my ‘fitness fanatic‘ attitude. It is great, but it is just a part of the process. Diversity simply means the acceptance of differences. It does not mean that they maximise its potential, indeed, they might be preparing for disaster.

What companies are looking for is inclusion which is a stage where members feel valued, respected and they fully utilise their potential to create synergy.

Companies go through different stages…the very minimum should be that they comply with legislations and they accept the existence of differences. Later on they realise that diverse staff means more diverse customers and they can use their insights, too…The next level is when people are not divided by their differences, but they build on them! The best ones reach the top of the game, the competitive edge which is the innovation! When you can combine the wide range of knowledge you have in your organisation you will end up with the best and unexpected solutions!

I do not talk about only different nationalities…culture is more than that…we belong to many different cultures at the same time let it be your profession, hobby, gender, age, favourite music or way of dressing. You share a common system of values, features and preferences within that group. Some of them are more visible from outside, some of them influence your behaviour more than others and some of them influence other people’s behaviour towards you…

If you are a leader, you are almost like a football coach...we tend to like people who are similar to us, but that doesn’t help us leverage our business. We need people who can complement each other and us. If you have only goal-keepers in your team, that is very safe but not very efficient. If you have the best of the best but they do what they want, you will have a big mess. But if you understand their strengths and weaknesses and you can synchronise their game, you are on your way to become a champion! 

So where is the money here? Some people like facts and figures, here they are:

According to the McKinsey Quarterly in the top 25% of executive boards diversity was 53% higher than in the bottom 25%.

  • Companies with more women in their senior management outperformed the ones with no women.

  • According to Cisco if a diverse team is managed and trained well, they produce results 6 times higher than homogeneous teams.

So what happens if you don’t manage diversity well:

According to the Corporate Leavers Survey more than 2 million employees leave organisations due to perceived unfairness and lack of engagement. The cost of this just in the USA is more than the combined revenues of Google, Goldman Sachs, Starbucks and Amazon. As for loss due to legal issues and bad reputation, that is on top of this amount.

There are hardly any companies nowadays that would not employ or serve a wide range of people from different cultural backgrounds. The question now is if you are proactive and making the most of globalisation or you are reactive and waiting for something serious to happen so you can write new SOP-s and case studies about it to show this is how it could have been avoided?

To be honest, there is nothing in the middle. Assuming that we are neutral or stagnating in any sense is wrong. One of my favourite books was written by Jeff Olson, The slight edge. It explains how small, uncomfortable, but correct decisions shape our life, just like the ones we ignore as they seem to be too much hassle. 

The most successful companies follow this rule, it takes time, commitment, patience and courage but it is worth it. If you own a Ferrari I am sure you want to feel the brute power of it and see what it is capable of! It is more than likely that your organisation has a much bigger potential than you are experiencing now. 

Csaba Toth
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Csaba Toth

Managing Partner at ICQ Consulting
International Culture expert and researcher. Developer of the Intercultural DISC (IDISC) assessment of human behavior and interaction.
Csaba Toth
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