Research carried out by McKinsey found that companies that are "racially diverse" outperform companies McKinsey term as "industry norms" by 35%. A total of 97% of US companies fail to have senior leadership teams that reflect the country's ethnic labor force. The statistics are not much better for gender diversity either, with more CEOs named David on the Fortune 500 list than are women; in spite of this depressing statistic, McKinsey found that a healthy mix of men and women in teams leads to a 15% increase in the likelihood they will outperform teams at their competitors.
Obviously, diversity is a clear way to success, so how can you adopt and maintain good diversity practices and what does it mean for your company?
With these questions in mind, we spoke with Kendra Newton, marketing director at HarperCollins, the New York-based publishing powerhouse. Not only is Newton a marketing, publishing and creative strategy whizz with over a decade of experience under her belt; she is also the first African-American marketing director of Dey Street Books, an imprint of HarperCollins publishers. We talked about how companies can maintain good diversity practices in their everyday routine and while recruiting, and the impact a strong culture that embraces diversity can have on your company and brand.
Innovation Enterprise: How can leaders effectively and authentically encourage diversity in their company?
Kendra Newton: Leaders need to create a work environment where employees feel seen, heard and valued.
Studies have shown that having a diverse workforce of people with a variety of skillsets, backgrounds and experiences benefits companies.
Leaders need to evaluate their departments and teams to consciously recognize and acknowledge if diverse voices are present internally. Executives should schedule yearly mandatory diversity and inclusion training, and coordinate an internal inclusion committee that consists of a variety of employees – made up of employees of different genders, races, religion and management levels – to effectively address internal progress and concerns. This group can work closely with HR, as well to develop a checklist and set of processes that will help reduce interview and hiring biases.
IE: Do you think positive discrimination is the best way to encourage woman and minorities to enter fields that have been typically dominated by white males? If not, what's the best method for achieving this?
KN: One method that companies can implement to encourage women and minorities to enter these fields is blind hiring – excluding information like names, schools and graduation dates from applications, which will allow candidates to demonstrate their skills and qualifications without their gender, race or other factors being into consideration.
Executives can also go one step further and hire an outside recruitment team to conduct the blind hiring until a few key candidates have been narrowed down for a group of finalists. Companies can also apply this protocol to their internship hiring process and to broaden their access to a range of applicants, companies can also offer Shadow Days, which will provide women and minorities with first-hand opportunities to experience a range of fields that are typically dominated by white males.
IE: What are the benefits of having a diverse team for your brand?
KN: Having a team that consists of people who vary in ages, races, ethnicities and levels of education will bring a range of different, much-needed perspectives. In order to promote your brand to a diverse and constantly changing world, a diverse team will hold the brand and each member accountable when it comes to its efforts to be inclusive. A team that consistently looks the same can't effectively speak to a broader audience when they're not even aware that they are possibly excluding voices externally that are not present internally.
A diverse group also means that employees will bring a variety of skills and a wealth of knowledge to the table. You'll also have a group that will likely be a mix of analytical and creative thinkers who will provide a balance to team dynamics. And each member will also have their own set of interests, which can prove invaluable to the team when it comes to brainstorms, presentations and problem-solving.
IE: What does diversity mean to consumers today?
Consumers want to be recognized and acknowledged; they don't want to be labeled as different or outside the norm. Diversity to consumers means that when it comes to media and branding, they see themselves or someone they know as part of the messaging.
For consumers today, diversity means seeing a realistic representation of people of varying skin tones, body types, sexual orientations and households that don't reflect the nuclear family unit. Diversity means not being told that the only way to fit in is to vie for unattainable ideals. Diversity to consumers means they can feel accepted for simply being who they are.
IE: How can you promote your brand's diversity to your audience without it coming across transparent and inauthentic?
KN: When it comes to promoting your brand's diversity, focus on speaking to your audience based on their interests without straying from your brand's core values and mission. Most importantly, realize that your brand can't and won't speak to everyone, so make an effort to target your market audience.
Whether your brand focuses on lifestyle, health and wellness, beauty and fashion, finance, career or social responsibility, there are common elements that affect large masses of people on a regular basis. By addressing universal interests as it relates to your brand and with your unique messaging you can guarantee that your outreach will be authentic.
Kendra Newton, marketing director at Harper Collins, is speaking on the panel: Recruiting leaders who truly understand their audience, which forms part of the action pack agenda at Innovation Enterprise's Content Marketing Summit on December 6–7, 2018. Check out the full agenda and book tickets HERE.