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Fostering Diversity that Drives Innovation

This is Part 3 of the 3-part series for Tip of the Month about diversity and inclusiveness.  This month’s blog concentrates on Forbes Insight’s finding that 85 percent of employees believe diversity is crucial to innovation.

When leaders of organizations—large or small—seek better optimization, they often look to innovate specific systems and processes within the organization. What if the greatest inefficiency in these organizations has nothing to do with mechanics, but has everything to do with the humans behind the mechanics?

According to research conducted by Forbes Insights, 85 percent of the leaders surveyed agreed that a diverse workforce is crucial to innovation in their organization. Human capital proves to be a vital asset of every organization, perhaps more than any other asset in a company’s possession.

The question that remains: just how powerful can a diverse workforce be? When well-managed, a globally representative workforce can measurably outperform non-diverse teams, and they can tap into these diverse perspectives that reflect the diversity of the customer base itself. And of course, greater innovation and creativity are obtained by diverse workforces—when their leaders apply practices that support their unique differences.

Virtual teams – especially global virtual teams – are a microcosm opportunity for diversity and inclusion. They bring team members together that represent many kinds of diversity – ethnic diversity, generational diversity, geographical diversity.

When you unite these diverse members behind a common vision and clear sense of purpose, the results can be powerful for any kind of organization. Yet, sometimes an organization’s heaviest setback can come from their human capital – namely, the humans in the lead roles of your team.

In 2016, RW3 CultureWizard conducted research found a striking gap between the global team leaders and their global team members. In fact, 96 percent of global virtual team leaders rated themselves as effective or highly effective in leading global teams, but 58 percent of the team members stated that their global team leaders are not effectively prepared to lead multicultural teams. There is a clear difference between how leaders see themselves and how they are viewed by their team members.

Here’s a Tip:

To foster a diverse and inclusive workforce that is a more engaged, innovative, apply these best practices:

  • Connect team members’ work to the organization’s purpose, vision and goals. Help them see the unique value they contribute and why their work is important. You’ll know you’ve been successful when they would describe these in much the same way as you would.
  • Provide clear direction yet be flexible. There are many ways to achieve goals. Allow team members to apply their unique talents to achieving them.
  • Foster an environment of mutual trust and respect. Leaders who role model these will see the same behaviors in their team members. When there is a lack of trust and respect innovation and productivity suffer and so do team members.

For more information about ways to boost the performance of your diverse teams, go to my book, Literally Virtually: Making Virtual Teams Work.

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