When it comes to creating a solid foundation for long-term business success, one of the essential building blocks of that foundation is a diverse leadership team. As DE&I efforts have grown over the last several years, many studies bear the benefits of diverse teams, especially diverse leadership teams. Diverse and inclusive companies outperform peers in employee engagement, decision-making, productivity, and performance.
However, building a diverse leadership team is about more than just checking demographic boxes. It’s about creating a mindset and culture that welcomes a variety of viewpoints and experiences. By widening the range of leaders, companies can spur innovation and creativity, improve relationships with customers, and boost recruiting and retention efforts.
Building a diverse leadership team for maximum impact can take time, but you can do things in both the short- and long-term to improve diversity at the senior level.
Here are five ways to start building your diverse leadership team today:
1. Start With Yourself
Wherever you fit in the demographics, experiences, or perspectives of others in your leadership team, you can always work on expanding your own inclusive experiences. By growing your range of experiences and cultivating a diverse mindset, you can deepen your thinking and broaden the way you lead your diverse team. As you and your team grow into management and leadership positions, you will bring that inclusive mindset that encourages diversity.
2. Amplify New Voices
As you build your leadership talent pool, be sure to amplify underrepresented voices whenever possible. Bringing attention to the ideas, outlook, and input of these voices can improve opportunities and help overcome status inequities.
3. Widen Your Definition of Diversity
If everyone on your leadership team has a similar educational background, similar experiences, and similar thinking patterns, you may not have a genuinely diverse team, even if you all look different. Genuine diversity includes a wide range of differences that bring in alternate ways of thinking. Consider neurodiversity or age; for example—someone with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or someone shifting careers at age 55+ might bring some excellent perspectives to your leadership. These different perspectives broaden the diversity of thought, ideas, and experiences and help create innovation.
4. Use Relevant Data
Every organization is different, and there is no single best approach to improving diversity at the senior level. The most successful DE&I strategies are built around data and customized to meet the company's unique needs. Take time to gather relevant data from employees and customers and use that data to help develop a customized, unique strategy that will give you firm metrics for accountability.
5. Invest in the Future
As you build a leadership talent pool and improve diversity across the organization, identify those future leaders who represent diverse voices and invest in their development. By putting resources into developing these future leaders, you’ll improve retention and build a more diverse leadership team naturally as those people grow into leadership roles.
Creating a more diverse leadership team may not happen overnight, but it can start immediately. By building a more inclusive organization from the ground up, encouraging diverse voices and ways of thinking, and creating a customized, inspiring strategy for your organization, you can build a leadership team that accurately represents a diverse population.