This was originally published on Startup Grind, the global startup community.
As we move into 2017, it’s natural to take stock of the world around us and measure how it will impact our lives over the next twelve months and beyond.
For business leadership, much of that evaluation revolves around how populist sentiment that is rejecting “political correctness” as bad for America, will impact business prospects and the workplace.
For women and minorities who aspire to increased presence within leadership, the evaluation could be especially worrisome as they wonder whether regulatory and enforcement changes, buoyed by populist sentiment, will undermine progress made in leveling the playing field in support of diversity and inclusion.
Diversity and Inclusion as a Competitive Advantage
Fortunately, the business case for inclusion has never been clearer. It is a business performance driver with tremendous potential and opportunity. As the world shrinks and nearly all businesses compete within a global marketplace, women and minorities are critical employee segments as well as critical customer segments that vote with their wallets.
Diversity in the workplace is a key competitive advantage because it enables businesses to engage multiple perspectives to build the products and services necessary to meet the demands of this modern customer base. As shown in a diversity study from McKinsey & Company, EBIT margins at the most diverse companies were 14 percent higher, on average, than those of the least diverse companies. Enabling better business results is an objective everyone can agree on.
Business and HR leaders then are invested in expanding inclusion initiatives throughout their organizations in 2017. The key to meeting these goals is by doubling down on programs that allow respect and diversity to flourish in the workplace.
To learn more about the business case for diversity, click here to watch your free webinar with the Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Techstars, David Cohen.
The Private Sector Needs to Drive The Change
We cannot and should not rely on external regulation as the primary driver of this change. It is only one path to a more inclusive workplace; private sector change is a more powerful and lasting path because it impacts behavior at its root and begins from within.
The examples of private sector-led change abound. Consider the recent example of North Carolina’s anti-LGBT “bathroom” bill. A veritable “who’s who” of businesses, including American Airlines, Apple, eBay, GE, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, NIKE and Salesforce lined up to publicly oppose the bill.
To the extent those businesses are employers in North Carolina, that is an extremely big economic stick to wield in support of social change. The NBA even relocated its All-Star game from the state in protest.
Similarly, although on a smaller and less public stage, business leaders must take ownership of behavioral change within their own companies. It is up to them to reassure employees that regardless of political or regulatory externalities, the company believes diversity and inclusion is a strategic competitive business advantage and therefore values respect and diversity as a path to achieving inclusion.
So for 2017, our first resolution as business leaders should be to make a strong internal declaration that we will expand respect, diversity and inclusion efforts. Not only does it send a much-needed message to our workforce, it also provides a clear path towards achieving a stronger, more competitive business.
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