All successful companies start with their people. Great employees are the backbone of every strong organization and it is important to create a work environment where teams feel safe, supported, and valued. Recently, CEOs and business leaders have come to realize the role they have in speaking out against inequities rooted in systemic racism and supporting other under-represented groups that face discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or even age.

The ultimate question today is – are you an inclusive leader?

Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DEI) are more than just buzz words. It’s a strategy that ensures your employees feel like they are understood for who they are and can live in an environment that provides a sense of physical and psychological safety. Not only is a DEI strategy a socially responsible thing for every company to implement, but it is also an essential step that companies need to take to enhance the success of their overall business.

Companies that place high levels of importance on the well-being and inclusion of their employees exude a positive brand identity that far exceeds its products and services. Studies show that organizations promoting diversity and inclusion are 120% more likely to hit their financial goals for the year. They also fill open positions quicker, decrease turnover, and minimize the number of resources spent on each hire. 

As you can see, engaging in DEI is one of those rare win-win situations where both the employee and the company are positively impacted, helping to harness the company’s reputation while cultivating a positive employee experience. Despite all of these positive externalities, studies have found that ONLY 5% of organizations have a sophisticated DEI program in place. This means that there is still a staggering amount of racial and ethnic minority groups who are not being treated equally within the workplace.

Embracing Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion

All business leaders can make strides towards improving themselves as a inclusive leader. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

1. Does your company attract talent from unexplored talent pools?

2. Does your organization seek to hire talent from minority or under-represented groups with the ability to rise to the fullness of their potential and into the highest levels of your leadership?

3. If your answer to my first two questions was “Yes we do”.  Does your company have a strategy to tap into your diverse employee groups to ensure that you are representing as many of your customers, consumers, and/or marketplaces as possible?  In other words, are you extending the inclusive and diverse nature of your business externally through your products, services, marketing, and even PR?

However, just because businesses diversify does not mean that they will automatically achieve profitable growth. Diversity can lead to many challenges, such as conflicts due to opposing perspectives, experiences, backgrounds, and communication styles. It’s important to note that diversity will only lead to better results if it is skillfully managed by an inclusive leader. And even though diverse teams may, in the beginning, slightly underperform homogenous teams, if nurtured by a willing and acceptable leader, they will far surpass other teams’ performance, effectiveness, and creativity.

The Inclusive Leader

Here are five key traits that you and every inclusive leader should truly strive for:

1- AuthenticityIt is important to be transparent with your team. Set aside the ego and establish TRUST in the face of opposing viewpoints, beliefs, and/or values.

2- Have Emotional Resilience – This is the ability to adapt to stressful situations or a crisis and to be able to “roll with the punches” and adjust to adversity and difficulties around differences.

3- Be Self-AssuredHave or show confidence and poise in your leadership abilities while remaining optimistic.

4- InquisitivenessRemain open to different opinions and practice an empathic approach to all conflicts. Listen first and then respond with empathy … this is key.

5- FlexibilityAdopt the ability to be able to interpret, comprise, and adjust to a diverse group of individuals’ needs and requirements.

In today’s ever-changing social climate, leaders need to survive and thrive amongst constant uncertainty and change. It is now more critical than ever to make sure that your DEI strategy is sophisticated and substantial. This will help your employees progress and work together as a team through adversity and while bringing innovation to your firm.

Even if your company doesn’t have millions of dollars to publicly donate to various social causes, there are many different things internally that you can do to implement DEI within your workplace walls, such as practicing authenticity, emotional resilience, self-assurance, inquisitiveness, and flexibility amongst all employees and not just the leaders. Be a leader and share these ideas with your company and team.  As we head further into this future of uncertainty, one thing remains certain. When you integrate DEI methodologies into your daily business operations, you can be sure that your business, employees, and team will grow simultaneously.