Does diversity actually add value?

This is a guest blog by Nabila Aydin, VP of global marketing operations, at FDM Group.

Diversity is a topic that is widely discussed nowadays. A lot of companies have Diversity Leaders within the business whose actual roles revolve around making sure the business is diverse. Some may think that this is a waste of time, and indeed it could be if the role is not carried out properly, but if it is, then it will most certainly add value to the bottom line and increase profitability.

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A common misconception about diversity is that it is only about gender or race. How many women are in the business or whether it is majority white is something many people traditionally focus on. The reality is that diversity covers a lot more than that, it is about a wide range of differences that exist amongst people. Diversity includes culture, ethnicity, personality, social mobility, education, socioeconomic background, religious beliefs, working styles and more. That said, even the most diverse of companies will not be able to reap the benefits without inclusion. 

Inclusion is not the same as diversity and it is much harder for organisations to achieve. Creating an inclusive workforce involves conscious and proactive behaviours to make everyone feel welcome and accepted. Inclusivity has to be engraved into the company culture, in order to create an environment where differences are embraced and valued within teams.

Creative ideas, increased flexibility and diversity of thought are just some of the benefits that a diverse workforce can add to the organisation. Cultural awareness is another important attribute, especially for businesses that are or plan to be global. People from other cultures and backgrounds have had various different experiences in their lives and so have learned skills that you personally may not have. This is where diversity can really add value to the workforce, if people feel included.

I’m really proud of the diversity in my team at FDM Group, which is made up of circa 70% women in the UK, Germany and USA. Their ages range from 22-45 and out of the 9 marketing employees in my team, nationalities cover: English, American, German, Spanish, Chinese and Taiwanese. Some team members are the first in their family to have attended University, all having varied educational and socioeconomic backgrounds.

These are some of the benefits we’ve reaped from having a diverse and inclusive team:

1. Languages and culture – As an international business, being able to speak multiple languages enables us to promote FDM further afield and to understand cultural differences around the globe. We are able to adapt marketing material accordingly and to translate a lot of this in-house.

2. Lower costs for the department – One of the best negotiators I’ve worked work with has her own small business on the side and is therefore experienced using tactics and strategies to drive down costs. The best negotiators in the team have taught the other members, which saves the company tens of thousands per year.

3. Innovative ideas for campaigns – Due to the diversity of thought and experiences within the team,  a multitude of ideas and innovative approaches are suggested to campaigns, which you would not get in a team where diversity was non-existent.

4. Going the extra mile – For many team members, this is their first ‘real’ job after graduation. They are therefore enthusiastic, energetic and appreciative to have been given the opportunity to prove themselves. Going the extra mile is common within the team and I’m pleased to have seen many employees grow with the business.

5. Respect and team work – All team members have been asked to undertake Belbin Tests in the past in order for them to understand their working style and also that of their colleagues. The importance of different working styles is shown to them, allowing them to understand, appreciate and respect different approaches. Team work is crucial in marketing and this would not work effectively without respect and inclusion.

Even though diversity and inclusion are related, they are not the same thing. Diversity is about variety (quantity) and inclusion is about value and respect (quality). Without inclusion, diversity is pointless; the value to businesses can only be attained with both.

Larry Hirst, Former Chairman of IBM EMEA and someone I admire greatly often says “It is not about what you are that matters, it is about who you are and what you can become”.

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Diversity is what causes wars. Imagine how well you would work if the people around you spoke the same native language as you, didn't complain just because you cooked pork in the common microwave. Conversation and conveying ideas is easier when you both think alike. Many MANY reasons why diversity is NOT good.
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