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Have a Diverse Workforce? You’ll Need It To Compete.

by Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks, president and CEO of Earth Friendly Products

U.S. demographics have changed incredibly over the past two generations. As such, diversity has become increasingly important to consumers who want to see themselves reflected in the products and services they buy, as well as the brands they support.

Job seekers look for diversity, too. Consequently, companies that have fostered diverse workforces tend to attract stronger talent pools. And they’re eating everyone’s lunch. In one study of business team behaviors, the most diverse ones could outperform any individuals by as much as 87 percent. They also came to conclusions 60 percent faster than individual counterparts.

In other words, staying competitive isn’t relegated to wooing diverse buyers; it’s putting diverse employees into seats at all levels of the company. In fact, in my own company (which is woman-owned and -operated), more than half of our executive team — including our C-suite — is female. Additionally, close to 40 percent of our management team is African-American, Asian, Hispanic, or multiracial. And as a multiracial female CEO, I’ve seen the benefits of diversity in my company firsthand.

Channeling Diversity Through a Business.

It’s no surprise that having diverse experiences and viewpoints should drive creativity and innovation. Who better can understand someone representing a specific cultural, gender, or ethnic background than a person who lives in that world? Yet what often surprises companies is how much more productive diversity can make workers.

McKinsey showed C-suite teams with strong gender diversity perform 21 percent better than those without. In the same report, the researchers noted that a higher degree of team racial diversity improved performance expectations by 33 percent. Those are significant numbers, especially when they translate to the bottom line.

It makes perfect sense to staff your workplace with a variety of people, especially people who represent your diverse customer base. A female buyer may not feel aligned with a brand that has very few women in positions of power. And Millennials are especially keyed in to a company’s diversity.

One Deloitte report indicates that nearly two-thirds of Millennials are working at diverse places; this doesn’t appear to be anything other than deliberate choice. They’re taking their talents to the places they feel deserve their loyalty.

Pushing for Diversity in the Startup World.

Startups are in a particularly admirable place when it comes to diversity because they can embed inclusivity from the onset; thus, they can quickly disrupt industries struggling to move into diversity. Be a part of the disruption. Get excited by the chance to bolster your company’s internal diversity to drive stronger performance and build better consumer relationships by taking these steps:

1. Allow diverse employees to have a voice in external communications.

Encourage all employees to give examples of why they love what they do. Then, post their feedback on your website and other collateral. You may also want to create video profiles of people who do good in your organization with their volunteerism and commitment.

2. Make sure everyone knows your diversity practices.

Getting serious about recruiting with diversity in mind? Be certain everyone on your team understands how important the efforts are. This is what happened to a global financial services company. The company wanted to improve its C-suite inclusivity. To make this goal a reality, it put together a recruitment team focused on acquiring people from a range of representative groups.

3. Showcase innovations from your diverse teams.

Whether it’s a new design, a never-before-seen formulation, or a fantastic service, give your diverse team credit. People who want to move to diverse organizations will realize your company is the real deal when you showcase your diversity in action, and buyers may give their loyalty more readily.

Diversity has to be more than lip service at companies that want to thrive. Unless you’re willing to fade in mediocrity, see where you can move up the diversity needle for the benefit of your brand, employees, and consumers.


Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks is the president and CEO of Earth Friendly Products®, maker of ECOS® green cleaning products, including its well-known laundry detergent, as well as more than 200 other environmentally friendly cleaners made with plant-powered ingredients. A U.S.-based company, Earth Friendly Products has twice received the U.S. EPA’s coveted Safer Choice Partner of the Year award. Follow Kelly on Facebook and Twitter.


This is an article contributed to Young Upstarts and published or republished here with permission. All rights of this work belong to the authors named in the article above.

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