Boy bands were all the rage in the nineties, but have you ever stopped to wonder why they always ruled the charts? Because let’s face it, no member of a nineties boy band was an exceptional musician in their own right — unless your name was Justin Timberlake, in which you case you could sing, dance, act, cry a river, and bring sexy back all at once. But together as a band, four or five above-average singers managed to sing, dance, sell out stadiums and win the adulation of millions of girls around the world. It’s a formula that has stood the test of time, and made Simon Cowell ‘Richie Rich’ rich.
When one tall guy, one short guy with a good singing voice, one blue-eyed boy with blonde hair, and one guy with a faintly Hispanic name collectively managed to show us how to become successful and reach greater heights, those of us in the corporate world should have listened and taken notes. But we didn’t.
· A more diverse and inclusive world is a better world
Today, the world is having a long-overdue conversation about diversity and inclusion. Just like how super-conservative teachers simply pretended that the chapter on Sex-Ed did not exist and left successive generations to learn for themselves from questionable sources, our unintentional (or even intentional) refusal to foster diversity within our workplaces and societies has cost us dear. Be it by groaning inwardly when aliens attack New York or Tokyo for the 1251st time in the last 20 years and Mark Wahlberg turns up to save the day, or by being forced to use cosmetics designed for people with lighter skin and straight, flat hair, our willful ignorance of the need to foster diversity has cost us in many ways than one and we have — in DJ Khaled’s words, played ourselves.
· Diversity can make you money, literally
In case you are wondering, fostering diversity and inclusion within your company does pay off. The Excel-toting whiz kids at BCG found that companies with above-average diversity on their leadership teams report 19% more innovation and 9% higher EBIT (Earnings Before Interest and Taxes) margins. And the same holds true for Southeast Asian companies, where they found a correlation between a more diverse workforce and greater innovation — with a higher share of revenue coming from new products. Similarly, at companies where leadership teams are committed to fostering diversity and inclusiveness, employees are more likely to believe that the organization is on an upward trajectory, more prepared for the digital economy, and better positioned to compete. No business in its right mind would like to leave money on the table, so if you’re eyeing that pot of cash at the end of the rainbow, it’s time to stop pretending to be Ebenezer Scrooge and invest in building a more diverse company.
In case you’re still feeling cynical about all this, you should probably talk to ‘The Zuck’. Unlike that one aunt in your family whom nobody likes because she always insists on bringing those horrible carrot sandwiches to every party, Facebook’s success in Asia is a direct result of its commitment to diversity and hiring people from under-represented groups. Not surprisingly, it was a bunch of newly-hired, female university grads from Asia who first pointed out to Facebook how female entrepreneurs in the region rely on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to do business. This led Facebook to develop WhatsApp Business and ‘Click-To-Message’ advertisements, which are one of its fastest-growing sources of revenue. This is exactly the kind of insight Facebook’s North American executives would have missed, since they wouldn’t have understood how e-commerce works in Asia.
But how do you actually foster diversity and inclusion and make it part and parcel of a company’s culture? How do you make sure it lasts longer than that band Bryan Adams and some guys from school put together in the summer of ’69?
· E-Learning to the rescue
Let’s say you want to eliminate unconscious bias within your company. One way to accomplish this is through training. A carefully crafted course delivered via an online platform would be perfect because it would allow you to personalize content to suit different individuals, while also allowing you to look at insights and even conduct A/B tests in real-time. On the other hand, if your goal is to say, retain older workers, then you can create e-learning courses to help them upskill themselves as necessary. Remember, diversity and inclusion comes in many forms and is not just about gender and ethnicity.
If you’re still feeling cynical, think about how Simba, a lion, and an apex predator, had to learn about the Circle of Life from Timon, Pumbaa, and Rafiki in Lion King. That Hakuna Matata life ultimately helped Simba come into his own and emerge from Mufasa’s shadow as the next king of the Pride Lands ushering in another era of prosperity after Scar’s #EpicFail as king. Heck, e-learning can even be used to develop an inclusive leadership development programme that takes into account the unique needs of leaders from underrepresented and underserved groups.
Of course, e-learning alone can’t fix the problem and we’re not going to tell you it can. But education is the light that dispels the darkness, making way for a new dawn. For companies, results won’t be immediate either, but here’s the thing — even the smallest acorn will eventually grow into a mighty oak.