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Diverse, But Inclusive?

Who else needs to join the conversation to share diversity of thought?

Today’s global corporations are decidedly diverse. A case in point: Welbilt, Inc.

A leading global supplier of commercial foodservice equipment, Welbilt employs 5,500 people in 17 manufacturing facilities throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia. Our employees represent different ages, genders and cultures. They travel across the world to collaborate with co-workers, suppliers and customers. Many work in countries and cultures far from their homelands. An American may work in the United Kingdom. A person from France may work in Asia. A person from China may work in Thailand. And a German, such as myself, may work in America.

Since the concept of diversity and inclusion entered the business lexicon in the 1990s, the world has become a smaller, more integrated place. Why is it still important for companies to focus on diversity and inclusion? Simply put, diverse perspectives are only valuable if they are included in the conversation.

At Welbilt, we like to say that we are “bringing innovation to the table.” Innovation is all about new ideas. We believe that the more we bring different ideas and perspectives together, the more innovative we will be as a company. The more innovative we are, the better we will be able to serve our customers.

Meetings attended by those who think alike often do not have a broad enough perspective to properly identify the root cause of a problem or the creativity needed to inspire a game-changing solution. In the most productive meetings, the chairs around the table are filled by people from diverse functional roles, experience, genders and cultures.

While today’s global corporations have no shortage of diverse employees, are they consistently invited to the table?

For example, when engineers are searching for a solution to a technical challenge, do they consult other engineers in the company—even in different business units—to learn if they have experience working on something similar? When human resources professionals begin working on a new program, do they think to contact people from other functional roles for their advice and perspectives? Do experienced professionals think to invite younger workers to join project teams that will help them gain valuable experience?

It comes down to a simple question: Who else should we invite to join the conversation? It’s a question that we may not consistently think to ask. It’s a question we need to make routine.

Even more importantly, do we provide employees with robust tools to make this collaboration easy? Do we nurture a culture where employees actively engage with their teammates across functional roles, businesses and vast geographical distances?

The concept of diversity is no longer about checking the proper demographic boxes. It is about sharing diversity of thought. Companies that can expand the conversation and bring more perspectives to the table will attract and retain top talent, drive innovation in their industry and be a more attractive partner for their customers.

In this series, CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion signatory CEOs share their dedication to acting for workplace diversity and inclusion to make impactful changes that benefit both business and society. Follow along with #CEOAction and learn more at CEOAction.com