Diversity of thought in the workplace: What it really means

Whilst the Covid-19 pandemic has fundamentally and irreversibly transformed the workplace in many obvious and often mentioned ways, one area in which its effects have been less discussed is diversity and inclusion. As recent PageGroup research has highlighted, D&I is more important than ever for staff at all levels of organisations. In turn, it is at the top of the agenda for leaders too.

But for leadership teams looking to enhance commercial performance, a particular element of the D&I discussion has become especially important: diversity of thought. In this article, we’ll discuss what diversity of thought is, and why it should constitute a key pillar of your hiring strategy.

What and why?

In a workplace context, diversity of thought refers to the range of mindsets, thought processes and perspectives that can be found within an organisation’s workforce. It is not merely a part of an effective D&I strategy - it is, in many ways, the direct result of an effective D&I strategy. Diversity in areas like gender, ethnicity, LGBTQ+, age, socio-economic background, caring responsibilities, disability and mental health, broaden the range of perspectives within an organisation. This often directly benefits commercial performance by involving individuals with varied skillsets and backgrounds in decision-making. It also increases the likelihood that an organisation will have staff capable of meeting unexpected challenges. 

The benefits associated with diversity of thought are especially notable at the leadership level, where excessive homogeneity can result in less rigorous ideation and troubleshooting, stifling innovation, and leaving critical blind spots. For example, a 2019 McKinsey analysis found that organisations in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were a full 25 percent more likely to achieve above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. 

How can businesses achieve diversity of thought?

Given the commercial benefits of diversity of thought, it is critical for businesses to hire from a variety of backgrounds, especially at senior levels. The key to making this a success, however, is to focus on bringing different perspectives and attributes to the table. Setting out targets regarding the proportion of new hires that should be women, ethnic minorities, or other underrepresented groups can be productive and will often serve to maintain momentum. This is made clear by further McKinsey data which indicates that likelihood of outperformance increases proportionally to rates of diversity: companies with more than 30 percent  female executives tended to outperform companies where the percentage ranged from 10 to 30. 

However, here at Page Executive, our experience working with clients suggests that target-setting should not be the extent of your company’s focus when it comes to diversity and inclusion if you want to truly benefit from diversity of thought. A more impactful way to approach hiring is to focus on what candidates will bring to your company precisely because they do not fit the standard template for a prospective candidate. By moving beyond the ‘box-ticking’ approach to diversity in hiring, your business will not only become more diverse – it will become more innovative, more profitable, and better able to confront market challenges. 

Of course, the organisation itself must support this goal. This means not only empowering staff to hire outside their zone of familiarity, but also proactively equipping hiring managers with the tools, resources and training to manage, engage, motivate and retain diverse staff. This, ultimately, will play a major role in creating diversity of thought.

Where to start and how to ensure success

All businesses are different and have different blind spots when it comes to diversity and inclusion. This makes it truly essential that businesses lead with an analysis of their own limitations. Which perspectives are you missing in your workforce and leadership team? Are there any parts of your customer base that your organisation currently does not resemble or adequately represent at the highest levels? These areas are not only the ones in which your company is lacking – they are also the ones in which your company has the most to gain in customer traction and growth. Diversity is, in effect, a tool to help your business grow and thrive.   
Given this, it is essential that business leaders consider the ways in which their company’s hiring processes may be excluding valuable talent and holding back performance. As we explore in our in-depth eBook on gender bias in hiring, non-inclusive cultures have an impact at the earliest stages of the hiring journey, with the language used in job advertisements. At Page Executive, we work closely with organisations to drive growth and performance through our tailored talent solutions, developing deep knowledge of each client’s unique needs. We see again and again that self-analysis is a crucial element of developing and benefiting from diversity of thought, and would therefore suggest this as a starting point. 

Achieving true diversity of thought in your business will bring huge benefits, but it is also a complex challenge. If you want to make sure that your hiring plans are attracting the talent you need, reach out here to set up an introductory conversation with one of our expert consultants.   

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