Why Diversity Works

By Terry J. Soto, Author and CEO of About Marketing Solutions, Inc.

As the face of the country continues to undergo a major transformation, it's hard to imagine a single U.S. Corporation that doesn't realize big demographic changes are afoot and have been for some time. Many realize their companies' survival depends on their ability to capitalize on a younger, ever-changing and ever-growing diverse population both as consumers and employees. As such, organizations are undergoing the important organizational alignment to ensure their companies and brands become more diverse and relevant into the future.

As I work with and listen to management in high turnover industries like retail, they'll express it like this, "When a young Hispanic employee sees their department manager is Hispanic and their assistant manager is Hispanic, she begins to dream of a better future. Sometimes, for the first time." This translates into a much better chance of retaining that employee because she sees growth opportunities within the company. This in turn, means the company can better serve its Hispanic customers because its services and products will be more relevant. In the end, it's a win-win-win.

If you find yourself among companies who see diversity as a winning growth strategy, here are six important steps to ensuring success as you get started to fine tune:

  1. Ensure leadership commitment. Successful CEOs dedicate quality time each month to discuss diversity processes and progress with their executives and consistently communicate its importance and business impact to the entire organization on a regular basis.

  • Ensure that the organization's vision and core values are consistent with creating a culture of diversity.
  • Sensitize home office and field teams to cultural nuances and diverse consumer and employee needs. Many successful organizations hire cultural sensitivity consultants to provide training for corporate and field leadership.
  • Establish business goals for the human resources and diversity management leaders and develop strategies for achieving them.
  • Establish measurement tools that correspond to each goal.
  • Monitor, measure, track and continue to adjust and strengthen as necessary.
  • While most employers are well-intentioned in their desire to include diversity as a strategic initiative, they struggle to make meaningful progress. For 16 years my firm has provided expert advice to companies in this position. Here are some specific goals and measurement tools I use when helping my clients move the needle:

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    Having a diverse staff allows successful organizations to think like their diverse customers, rather than just think about them.

    As one VP of Human Resources put it, "Customer and employee cultural backgrounds should align. Say we have a dense Cuban population; employees from German or Irish backgrounds are not going to understand their culture, but if we have employees from the same countries as our customers working in our stores it creates a real comfort level for them which keeps them in the store longer and buying more."

    My clients are also quick to recognize that the more employees they hire with the same cultural and historical background as their customers, the better they understand them and know how to service them better.

    Companies which have been successful in increasing diversity know how to connect with their diverse consumer base in a meaningful way because they work hard to become "customer-centric." This, many report, has led to increased brand loyalty, greater market share, and higher customer retention.

    The diversity philosophy these companies have adopted reflects the new customers they need to serve. They also find that employee diversity allows them to make better decisions and that it also fuels innovation making their businesses more responsive and adaptive to market changes in their footprint.

    My best clients have also realized the benefit from more diverse and broader thinking at all levels of their organizations and are strengthening their diverse representation of ethnic employees in middle management and higher level executive positions.

    Making a shift in organizational culture is never easy. No doubt, we're all accustomed and comfortable with the face of our organizations as it is. However, in today's ever more diverse consumer environment, making steady shifts in favor of diversity will optimize our companies' desirability among consumers which always bodes well for staying competitive and ultimately, growing our organizations' bottom line.

    Terry Soto is CEO of About Marketing Solutions, Inc., a Burbank, California - based strategy consulting firm specializing in helping clients to dramatically improve overall business performance by optimizing their strategies to also succeed in today's diverse U.S. market. Terry is the author of Marketing to Hispanics and Strategic Approach to Planning and Implementing Your Initiative and co-author of Grow With America Best Practices in Ethnic Marketing and Merchandising. Terry can be reached at terrysoto@aboutmarketingsolutions.com.