We’re living in societies that are more diverse than ever, so why should the boardroom be any different? After all, forward-looking companies should move with the times. And if they do that by creating more inclusive top teams, there are all kinds of advantages to be gained.
But first of all, what does having a diverse leadership team mean?
What is a diverse leadership team?
In today’s business world, hiring a diverse workforce is vital. From access to wide-ranging perspectives and skills, to attracting the most capable people, the benefits of inclusivity are compelling.
But it’s not enough to be inclusive at the lower and middle levels of your organisation. To be the best organisation you can be, you also need a diverse leadership team.
This means assembling an executive team where the individuals come from various backgrounds and have a wide range of skills. In such a team, the individuals might differ in age, nationality, gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs, professional background and competencies. Disability could be another point of difference.
Ideally, a leadership team should comprise individuals who differ from one another on criteria like these. If you can achieve that, your business can reap all kinds of benefits.
What are the benefits of a diverse leadership team?
The way we think, our frames of reference and even our skills are often determined by our backgrounds. If everyone on your executive team shares broadly the same background, you’re missing out on a huge range of experiences and approaches.
But this doesn’t just stifle creativity and cause you to approach every decision from the same viewpoint. It can also single your company out as being behind the times, harm company culture and deter top candidates from considering your company.
However, having a diverse leadership team comes with various benefits.
Allows for different perspectives
Your customers aren’t all the same, so if you have leaders who are more representative of society, your top team will have a better understanding of your customers’ experiences and feelings. If they know more about your customers’ pain points and motivations, your company will be more effective in targeting and engaging customers (and potential customers). You’ll be able to relate to the everyday issues these consumers face – and speak their language.
For example, if your company sells cosmetics, you need women in leadership positions to provide invaluable insights into female beauty regimes. Or if your company makes mobility aids, having someone with mobility issues on your leadership team could give you viewpoints that make your offering stand out.
But it’s not just marketing and sales that will benefit from varied viewpoints. Every department – from finance to HR – will gain from different ways of examining issues. Approaching problems from multiple angles will lead to more creative, more effective solutions.
Encouraging open, imaginative problem-solving – using the expertise of various people – can become a powerful part of company culture. When such practices are adopted at the summit of an organisation, those farther down the hierarchy will follow suit.
Soon, decision-makers at all levels will feel the need to seek views from a wider range of people. This will lead to more carefully-considered decisions, analysed from multiple perspectives.
Creates a greater range of skill sets
The world of business moves quickly and there are always unexpected developments around the corner. For instance, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, leaders suddenly needed much more accomplished communication skills to overcome the distance between themselves and employees.
Nobody knows quite what skills will be important in the future.
So it only makes sense that companies should equip their top teams with as wide a variety of skills as possible. The most effective way to do that is by hiring executives from different backgrounds – executives who have been using and honing those skills for years.
People with different competencies understand different issues better than others – and will employ different methods to problem solving. This is particularly true when we consider neurodivergence.
Neurodivergent people have brains that work or develop in a less typical manner, due to conditions such as autism, ADHD and dyslexia. This has both advantages and disadvantages for them – personally and professionally. They could struggle to perform what many people think of as everyday actions, such as reading or staying organised. But they might be more accomplished in other areas, particularly as they’ve had to find ways to overcome challenges presented by their condition.
For example, someone with autism could be unable to interpret facial expressions or multitask effectively. However, they might possess an unusually high level of focus and a natural talent for logical thinking.
So, by including neurodivergent people in your leadership team, you could be adding uncommon skills that might be difficult to find in other people.
Leads to a broader range of experience
If a company has a leadership team where everyone comes from that sector and has worked their way up in that sector, they can lose sight of how the industry is perceived by the outside world and become trapped in a bubble. Inside that bubble, old conventions won’t be readily challenged and people might be resistant to change. This can have the effect of holding the company back, meaning it stagnates as technologies, consumer trends and wider economic realities shift.
Another consideration is that people coming into an industry will bring ideas and experiences from the field they previously worked in.
Creates an increased level of awareness
We all see life (and business) through a lens – a lens shaped by our backgrounds. When you have leaders from various backgrounds, they raise your team’s collective awareness of the outside world. They can open your company’s eyes to different social circumstances, customer experiences and opportunities that exist in niches your teams might never have considered.
Vitally, they can help you better understand the needs of employees, so you can make sure they’re motivated and performing well. Ultimately, of course, the better you respond to their needs, the more likely you are to retain them and get the best from them.
Helps to attract top talent
If you have an executive team that looks just like it would have in the 1950s, you’ll deter the best candidates. They might even assume that you’re set in your ways and resistant to change.
But if you have a good mixture of people, they’ll be more likely to believe you’re forward-thinking and, just as importantly, inclusive. For people who come from different backgrounds – whether it’s a question of gender, ethnicity or religion – it’s encouraging to see diversity at the upper levels of your organisation. This applies to both prospective executives – who won’t want to feel like they’re alone at that level – and employees further down the hierarchy.
It’s also vital that candidates can appreciate you have a variety of skills and expertise at the top. Then they can trust in the competency of your executives and their ability to navigate complex business challenges.
Leads to a better company culture
When your executive team comprises people from different backgrounds, employees from those backgrounds will feel better represented. They’ll probably be more motivated and encouraged to put ideas forward. This contributes to a positive company culture, where both inclusivity and ideas are highly valued.
If, on the other hand, you have a leadership team without diversity, employees might feel like they could be marginalised or overlooked. Needless to say, this can result in a negative company culture.
Expands innovation and creativity
Innovation is all about challenging convention and generating fresh ideas. But for that to happen, you need different perspectives and the insights of different people.
If you really want innovation to flourish within an organisation, you need a culture where people from all backgrounds feel comfortable contributing opinions.
Plus, having a diverse leadership team means you’ll benefit from their life experiences. If members of your team have faced and overcome different problems, they’ll have learnt from the process and can pass that knowledge on. What’s more, they’ll have developed their problem-solving skills.
How can I promote diversity in my recruitment process?
Diversity and inclusion in the workplace have never been more important. Any company that hopes to be a modern, forward-thinking organisation must have an array of people and talents.
Executive leadership coaching can help to upskill people from more diverse backgrounds. Then you’ll have a more varied future leadership team, with more experiences to draw upon when making decisions. When potential employees see an inclusive senior leadership team, they’ll be more likely to apply if there are people from their own background there. For them, it’s a signal that anybody can progress at your company.
It’s not just about leaders though. The benefits of hiring a diverse workforce – at all levels – are countless. Here are some ways to achieve it:
- Emphasise the importance of inclusivity when briefing your executive search or recruitment partner
- Highlight that you can make reasonable adjustments at every stage of the process – to include those with disabilities
- Implement diverse interview panels
- Set measurable diversity goals and keep track of your progress
Diverse leadership teams are crucial for any modern business. They benefit people (at every level) as individuals, your company culture and even your bottom line.
If you need any support to make your top team more diverse, contact us today.