Age, race, ethnicity, culture, gender, and sexual orientation are only some of the types of diversity that exists in today’s environment. There’s also diversity in religion, disability, education, and socioeconomic background. If an organization’s leaders genuinely desire diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), they must scrutinize their approach to achieving DE&I goals from an ethical perspective. The efforts of ethical leaders include thinking about an organization not only from a bottom-line standpoint but also trying to maximize the success of each employee, the value it provides its customers and other stakeholders, and its responsibilities to the community.
Diversity of Thought Challenges the Status Quo
Diversity is important: There’s much to be gained from individuals from different backgrounds working together and sharing their various perspectives to accomplish an organization’s desired goals. Generally, diversity can help teams glean insights by working through healthy conflicts that should result in new ideas and progress. Additionally, diversity of thought elevates teams by encouraging active communication based on individuals’ different perspectives. Diversity of thinking also creates an attitude that goes beyond any individual to foster improvements in organizational culture. Encouraging diversity of thought is an ethical imperative that sparks honest conversations, leading to increased innovation and better strategy execution.
Often the types of diversity that get the most attention are racial, gender, or ethnic diversity. While it’s essential to have these types of diversity, the optics often are more important to decision makers than the goal of having a truly diverse team. A team can be composed of an ethnically diverse group of individuals, but if all or most of them have similar opinions, it won’t provide for healthy debate over conflict that leads to progress.
One way for organizations and teams to get the most benefits from diversity is to let go of the mindset that there’s only one way to get things done. Forming teams and equipping organizations with individuals from different backgrounds who think diversely will help reveal novel insights that may only be generated by this type of diversity. For organizations to truly take advantage of the potential benefits from diversity of thought, leadership needs to create an inclusive culture and encourage workers with a range of perspectives to share their ideas. Leadership will also need to listen to these various ideas with a willingness to see what benefits may be attained by thinking differently.
If teams consist of individuals with similar points of view who tend to behave similarly, it could hinder their decision-making ability. They may arrive at a result or solution more quickly, but there may be better solutions given the lack of healthy disagreement, which diversity of thought infuses. Therefore, grouping individuals who think differently in these teams will fuel better decision making that should benefit the organization.
Diversity is much more than gender, race, or the color of a person’s skin. It’s more important to consider how team members think. When leaders realize that each individual brings different attributes and experiences to the table, and views and thinks about issues differently, it will be a tremendous asset to their organization.
Diversity during the Hiring Process
When considering diversity during the hiring process, it’s ethically imperative that hiring managers consider the underlying qualifications that will put individuals in the best position to succeed in the organization and contribute to its success. Therefore, while diversity is essential, hiring managers must remember that fundamental qualifications are imperative.
Given a pool of candidates with those qualifications, hiring managers should consider the best way to increase the organization’s level of diversity. Hiring managers should be thinking about the following questions before targeting candidates from specific racial, gender, or ethnic groups.
- Do we need someone with an undergraduate or graduate degree in accounting or a related discipline?
- Does the person need to have excellent communication and interpersonal skills?
- Does the person need to be adaptable and willing to embrace change?
- Is attention to detail an essential characteristic?
- Does the person need to have experience in data analysis and analytics?
- Is experience in the industry imperative, or can the person be trained or learn on the job?
- Does the individual need to be creative, a problem solver, or both?
After questions like these have been answered, the hiring manager can think about how diversity of thought and other forms of diversity will play a role in selecting which candidate should be extended an offer. Depending on the position’s responsibilities, diversity of thought and all it entails can play a much more significant role than other forms of diversity. For certain departments such as marketing, the organization may want to prioritize candidates from diverse backgrounds who think differently from the current team, provided that each individual has most of the essential qualifications, such as relevant experience.
The hiring process should include an assessment to identify applicants’ behavioral tendencies or inclinations to gauge whether they’ll not only add diversity of thought to the team but also other forms of diversity that would enhance the quality of the team. For example, if the organization has a goal of establishing a presence in a new country, it would be wise to hire someone who has the fundamental qualifications in terms of skills and experience and who is also from that country or has lived in that country. There’s a high probability that this individual’s knowledge of that country’s culture and customs will help team members to think about strategic and tactical planning differently.
When organizations adopt a policy of cultivating diversity of thought, it will empower and motivate individuals, as they’ll likely feel that they belong to a more inclusive environment, which may lead to them being more productive workers. Conversely, when organizations choose to refrain from factoring diversity of thought into their hiring process, it may result in a limitation of the organization’s growth, as it won’t have the benefit of a variety of perspectives, especially when creating strategic plans.
For an organization to continue to be impactful and profitable over the long term, it’s imperative that leadership provide employees with opportunities to challenge the organization through diversity of thought, which should bring new ideas—and new ways of looking at old ideas—to the table.
Organizations that make diversity of thought a priority provide employees with opportunities to think about various perspectives and contribute to projects and the overall success of the organization in ways that couldn’t happen otherwise. Tapping individuals who are more creative and imaginative to work with those who are more analytical and detail-oriented fosters cognitive diversity.
Other types of diversity heavily influence diversity of thought, and that’s because people’s thought processes are influenced by our cultures, ethnicity, education and training, socioeconomic status, age, political affiliation, religion, experiences, and skills. When all these factors are considered from an ethical perspective, management accountants and finance leaders can genuinely increase their organization’s diversity, set an ethical tone at the top, and improve its strategic planning and execution.