It’s a business decision.
I’ve written about diversity before and I’m pretty sure this won’t be the last time. It’s something I’m passionate about, because it matters on so many levels. That’s why I’m always caught off guard when people assume that corporate diversity initiatives, like the ones we have at Freeman, are somehow designed to make us feel warm and fuzzy about ourselves. That’s like saying that doctors wear surgical masks to look cool.
If anyone doesn’t believe that diversity is a strategic business imperative, talk to an investment banker. They’ll tell you that the point of a diverse portfolio is that when the securities aren’t perfectly correlated, and respond differently to market influences, it offers a measure of fiscal protection. Likewise, a company can avoid being blind-sided by shifts in market trends, status-quo thinking, or social biases by making sure they have a diverse body of employees with different perspectives, skill sets, and backgrounds. Diverse organizations are better equipped to innovate because everyone brings unique thinking to the process of formulating solutions. Plus, a diverse group is fundamentally better qualified to meet the needs of the diverse audiences they hope to reach, because they reflect that community.
Further, if a business fails to optimize each person’s ability to contribute, it is failing to leverage vital assets. It’s investing in resources that go unused. If that’s not incentive enough, think about what best serves your customers and how you are perceived in your industry. I can honestly say that we have had one of our biggest clients request that we provide them with a more diverse account team, because they see the value.
I am really encouraged by the response of our people to the newest diversity initiatives at Freeman, which fall under the umbrella name “IDEA” — inclusion, diversity, equity, and action. IDEA was kicked off with top-down impetus and then developed through bottom-up support. Based on benchmarking programs, focus groups, and surveys, we’ve learned a lot about what our employees want. The majority of our people specifically asked for education and training programs, which we are providing. And they define diversity broadly, understanding that we can be grouped (and sadly, marginalized or stigmatized) based on everything from ethnicity and gender identity to physical or mental health differences. We have seen cross-functional interest groups forming around minorities, groups with health and wellness concerns, and women. These groups are made up of volunteer members who have been provided a safe, supportive platform for supporting mutual concerns and interests.
I can’t tell you how happy I am to see our people running with this. Why? What’s in it for the company? It’s an answer to the strategic imperative of fostering an inclusive culture. We aim to create inclusiveness across all aspects of Freeman, so that each person who walks through our doors can be their best selves — regardless of race, color, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, genetics, disability, age, veteran status, or anything else that makes people feel different. This lets our employees do their best work as individuals, collaborate in more fruitful ways, and grow the business. And as our reputation for inclusivity grows, we will attract the best talent from a broad, diverse pool.
I think about it this way: everyone you train, hire, promote, and motivate represents an investment. To protect your investment — diversify!