If I were a theater, my marquee would say, “Improve retention, productivity and profitability by unleashing the talents of MORE of your workforce.” My purpose—and my upcoming book—are about the power of appreciating and leveraging difference. The title says it all: Difference Works: Improving Retention, Productivity and Profitability through Inclusion.
I know—from research and experience—that organizations get better results if they maximize the rich diversity of today’s workforce. The research says that better decisions and better projects emerge from diverse groups than from homogeneous groups. While it’s “comfortable” to be, play and work with people who look and think like we do and come from similar backgrounds, that comfort does not translate into new ideas, learning or creativity. The research of Katherine W. Phillips and her colleagues was recently featured in an on-line publication of the Kellogg School of Management (firstname.lastname@example.org), entitled “Better Decisions through Diversity: Heterogeneity Can Boost Group Performance.” The research showed that the comfort of homogeneity can “hamper the exchange of different ideas and stifle the intellectual workout that stems from disagreements.” The tension that arises when a “newcomer” joins a group results in “more careful information processing.”
To tap the strength of a heterogeneous workforce, leaders must practice behaviors that are inclusive—they must create cultures of inclusion. That means creating environments where both men and women feel valued, feel they belong and feel they can succeed. The goal of my book is to lay out the business case for inclusion, teach leaders to understand and appreciate both masculine and feminine approaches to work and practice behaviors that are inclusive. What follows is higher retention, productivity and bottom-line result.