What does diversity mean to your business’s leadership? For many of today’s successful and forward-thinking firms, a variety of executive backgrounds and perspectives represent an essential competitive edge, the keystone of their innovation.
Bringing together many different types of experience and expertise in the boardroom is an important catalyst for creative collaboration. As the marketplace grows more global and more interconnected, businesses are increasingly discovering that a diverse, self-aware boardroom examples the sort of adaptive, idea-rich culture that is necessary for a firm to prosper.
The question, then, is how to cultivate a more diverse boardroom. There are three important steps a board can take to facilitate increased diversity going forward:
Make decisions as a group
When one voice dominates a group, so too does that voice’s biases – conscious or unconscious – and blind spots. This is a major concern for every area of a business’s decision-making, and diversity is no exception.
To ensure that any individual’s prejudices don’t guide the trajectory of your business, take care that your decisions are the product of full and open collaboration from your board. Make an active effort to identify voices that may be underappreciated or would benefit from amplification, and make every effort to guide dialogue and decision-making that draws on a diversity of perspectives.
Establish a diversity specification in your board shortlists
Specification is perhaps the most straightforward way to facilitate diversity on your board and in your organisation.
Call explicitly for the identification of diverse candidates in your shortlists when finding board members. By taking this step, you will not only ensure that you find and consider candidates from a wide range of backgrounds, but also send a clear signal that your leadership takes executive diversity seriously – and understands how important it is for the future of your business.
Provide training and education on diversity
While fostering diversity at the executive level is absolutely essential, it’s not enough. Go a step further and shape the culture of your organisation in a comprehensive way. To this end, provide diversity training and education at every level – from the boardroom down. Diversity workshops can be a great way to educate your team, but remember that these aren’t an end unto themselves. Continuously educate and evaluate how your business is supporting and leveraging diversity.
By encouraging self-awareness and openness in your business, you can build an organisational structure that encourages talent wherever it occurs. If you can shape an organisation that values and affirms diversity at every level, your firm will be well-positioned to drive innovation into the future. The unique voices that arise both inside and outside your business will make a difference.
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By Paul Butterworth MNI, Global Head of the Maritime & Shipping Practice at Odgers Berndtson