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More than Diversity: How to Work Toward Equality in Your Company

More than Diversity: How to Work Toward Equality in Your Company

We are better people, companies, and communities when we commit to equal pay, equal opportunity, equal education, and equal rights. Marc Benioff, Chairman and CEO of Salesforce In order for a business to best serve its community, its workforce should reflect that community. That means more than

We are better people, companies, and communities when we commit to equal pay, equal opportunity, equal education, and equal rights.

Marc Benioff, Chairman and CEO of Salesforce

In order for a business to best serve its community, its workforce should reflect that community. That means more than hiring people who look a certain way or check a specific box. It means moving beyond diversity and creating a culture of equality. Tony Prophet, Chief Equality Officer of Salesforce, describes this as a culture “where everyone feels they can bring their full, authentic self to work.”

Salesforce released a special report called The Impact of Equality and Values Driven Business, which found that 80 per cent of business professionals believe businesses have a responsibility to look beyond profit and make a positive impact on society. Yet that reality hasn’t taken hold: Less than half (41 per cent) of business professionals reported that their company is “actively engaged in diversity and equality in the workplace.”

When a business addresses equality issues within its walls, it’s more than a win for its employees, community, and other stakeholders. It may also boost a company’s bottom line. Intriguing research has shown a strong correlation between corporate diversity and business success. Embracing a culture of equality isn’t just the right thing to do. It may also give businesses a significant competitive advantage over its competitors.

Workplace Diversity Benefits Businesses

  • Your workforce should reflect the community it serves.
    • Otherwise, your company may miss out on:
      • Great employees
      • The ability to break into new and growing markets
  • By 2032, immigrants will account for up to 80% of Canada’s population growth.
    • Around one in four Canadians will have been born in another country.
  • How does workplace diversity benefit a company?
    • It gives it a competitive edge.
    • Diversity helps give companies a better understanding of specific markets and customer groups.
  • How can a company attract a more diverse workforce?
    • Reach out to specific communities.
    • Adjust your training.
    • Rethink your recruitment process.

Why Equality Matters to Your Company’s Bottom Line

In January 2018, the research firm McKinsey & Company released a report called Delivering through Diversity. Using a data set of 1,000 companies covering 12 countries, McKinsey & Company found that companies with a higher rate of gender and ethnic diversity on their executive teams were more likely to “experience above average profitability” than companies with significantly less diversity.

The data shows a strong connection between building a diverse executive team and improving a company’s profits, but why is this the case?

More perspectives at the table

It stands to reason that a more diverse workforce, especially when it comes to the executive team, the more perspectives a company gains as it moves into the future. These unique perspectives can help identify problems that others may not see — for example, a product that may be culturally insensitive to a certain group. Diverse executive teams can also hit on new opportunities. For example, women account for 50.4 per cent of Canada’s population, so it makes sense that women on an executive team are best positioned to understand how a company’s products or services can best speak to this massive customer demographic.

Employee empowerment

Is building a diverse workforce really enough to radically alter the culture of a company? For equality’s sake, change needs to go beyond just the hiring process. Equality means not only bringing a wide range of experiences, cultures, and perspectives into the office, but also enabling employees to be their true and authentic selves.

Adding this component to a company’s culture can pay big dividends. Salesforce’s Equality Report found that employees who feel a sense of belonging at their company are 5.3 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. Additionally, of the respondents who believe that their company provides equal opportunities, 65 per cent report they are proud to work for their company. Contrast that with the people who feel that their company isn’t making an effort to close the pay gap: Only 34 per cent of those respondents feel proud to work for their company.

In a booming economy where the best workers have their pick of jobs and career hopping is the norm, feelings of belonging and loyalty may be the secret ingredients that help companies keep top talent and attract the best new recruits.

Customer loyalty

Showing a dedication to equality won’t just impress employees. It could also earn the loyalty of customers. A global survey of over 30,000 consumers by Accenture Strategy found that consumers across the generational spectrum care deeply about what a brand stands for. According to the survey, consumers “support companies whose brand purpose aligns with their beliefs. And they reject those that don’t.”

Customers are Paying Attention to How Companies Treat People and Society

  • Today’s top marketers are 2.2x more likely than underperformers to leverage purpose-driven marketing to reflect the values of their company, brands, and customers.
  • 80% of business professionals believe companies have a responsibility to go beyond profit and make a positive impact on society.
    • However, only 25% believe their company cares about closing the gender pay gap.
    • Just 36% say their company actively works to be more diverse.
  • 51% of consumers say companies investing in or giving back to the community has a major or moderate influence on their loyalty to a company.

In Canada specifically, the report found that 57 per cent of consumers report that a company’s ethical values and authenticity affect their purchase decisions. Additionally, 66 per cent of Canadians want to buy from companies that treat their employees well.

All the research seems to point in the same direction. Companies that value equality are setting themselves up for success by better reflecting their community, attracting and keeping great talent, and meeting the high ethical standards of their customer base.

How to Create a Culture of Equality in Your Business

If businesses that focus on promoting diversity and equality outperform the businesses that don’t, why are so many companies seemingly missing the message? According to the Salesforce Equality Survey:

  • Only 51 per cent of business professionals believe their company provides equal opportunity for employees.
  • Only 36 per cent of respondents believe their company actively works to be more diverse.
  • Just 25 per cent of respondents report that their company cares about closing the gender pay gap.

Business leaders need to make a serious commitment to creating a culture of equality within their companies. Where does that start and what do those steps look like?

It starts at the top

As with almost all major cultural shifts within any company, the change must start at the top with the CEO and management team. It’s up to a company’s C-suite to clarify the company’s equality priorities and empower the right people — usually the human resources department — to develop and implement the steps to create change.

The work doesn’t stop there. In its Delivering through Diversity Report, McKinsey & Company explains that “leading companies go further by cascading this commitment through their organizations and particularly to middle management.” In other words, the CEO must ensure that equality is prioritized and practiced through every level of the company.

See where you are

One of the most powerful ways to see how a company is doing on equality is to assess its current practices and standing. CEOs and equality teams need to put their assumptions aside and demand a true accounting through a company-wide audit. An audit can illuminate a variety of different aspects that need to be updated, from gender pay discrepancies to the number of people of colour in management positions to LGBTQ representation in a company’s workforce.

Some of the largest companies in the world, including Google, Slack, Salesforce, and Facebook, publicly hold themselves accountable by publishing diversity reports on their workforce.

CEOs who assess the current standing of their company, even if they don’t publish those numbers, can then help establish a starting point and determine areas that need improvement. For example, a company may realize that South Asians are not well-represented within management despite the fact that they make up one of the largest immigrant populations within Canada. This can spur the human resources department to work harder to build a presence within that community where many talented future employees may have been previously overlooked.

Get the whole company involved

It’s not enough for a CEO to give a moving speech about a desire to increase equality within a company. Instead, creating a culture equality means developing a clear plan of action.

That plan will look different for every company. Perhaps a salary audit revealed gender disparities that a CEO may wish to correct. Or another CEO may prioritize training to help the human resources team recognize and confront unconscious bias.

At Salesforce, there are 12 employee-led and employee-organized Equality Groups focused on empowering underrepresented communities within its workforces.

No company can change their culture in a day, but by showing progress, a business can go a long way toward building goodwill among employees, customers, and the community.

Purpose Drives Consumer Purchasing Decisions and Competitiveness

  • Accenture Strategy released a research report entitled To Affinity and Beyond: From Me to We, the Rise of the Purpose-Led Brand.
    • In it, they break down Canadian consumer preferences for brand loyalty.
  • 55% of consumers prefer to buy goods and services from companies that stand for a shared purpose that reflects their personal values and beliefs.
  • 66% of consumers are attracted to companies that treat their employees well.
  • 57% of consumers say their purchasing consideration is driven by a company’s ethical values and authenticity.
  • 68% of consumers crave greater transparency in how companies:
    • Source their products
    • Ensure safe working conditions
    • As well as their stance on important issues, such as animal testing

Review Your Hiring Practices

Nowhere is an equality mindset more important than within the human resources department. While it is important for companies to hire the most qualified individual for a given position, there are many different ways to identify and assess great candidates.

One important way to support diversity in the hiring process is to make sure the hiring team reflects the community at large. Unconscious bias can play a big role in homogenous hiring teams choosing a candidate that looks and sounds like them.

It also helps to expand the traditional candidate search areas to include underrepresented communities. For example, many tech companies, financial companies, and law firms recruit heavily from top universities, but that can lead to a workforce in which a majority of workers come from a similar economic background and have a nearly identical educational experience.

Finally, it’s also important to take a critical and unsparing look at how the hiring team assesses a candidate. Writing for the education platform EdSurge, Zach Demby explains that “resume items like degrees from big-name schools or positions at big brand companies may look impressive, but focusing on these aspects may confuse a candidate’s background of privilege with their actual skills and result in a homogenous group of candidates.” Demby suggests creating a standardized hiring process that de-emphasizes feelings of “rapport” and “cultural fit” while emphasizing performance-related tasks that can demonstrate a job candidate’s skills.

What Are You Doing to Create an Equality Minded Company?

What’s good for society can also be good for business. As the Equality Study shows, however, many businesses are not doing enough to show their employees, their customers, or their stakeholders that they are truly committed to pursuing an equality agenda. Starting at the top, CEOs must prioritize equality, audit their companies, implement policies that invite employees to participate, and address their hiring process in order to create real change within the culture.

Implementing a culture of equality will likely be a long, challenging process, but in today’s ever-changing world where employees and customers demand a higher ethical standard from the businesses they work at and patronize, companies can’t afford not to.

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