Measurable benefits to business growth don’t occur simply by hiring a certain number of women or a certain number of employees of color. Better business outcomes occur because of what we do with those employees to create an inclusive workplace that spawns innovation, retention and productivity and the continuous gathering of fresh perspectives that can be applied to the business objectives of the company.

Crossing the chasm requires commitment to culture change, leadership and “buy-in” at all levels to capitalize on the value of that diversity to drive business results. If you have 56% females, or 30% Latinos, or 25% Asians, or whatever, on your payroll, that only describes metrics. The truth is that diversity without engagement leads to nothing. A group of diverse people is just a group of diverse people—until action is taken to leverage the inputs of those diverse people toward measurable and relevant business goals. It’s not diversity that makes a difference. It’s the inclusion that makes a difference. 

Here’s why diversity on its own hasn’t worked:

  • It has been seen as an HR initiative disconnected from business strategy and planning
  • It has been positioned as for the individuals in the group rather than an asset to the company
  • There has not been a focus on culture change that mobilizes all the talent in the organization

Real results will never be achieved simply by hiring diverse people. Advantage will only be achieved when organizations leverage the inputs and insights of diverse stakeholders in ways that are meaningful to the business.  Yes, inclusion is about getting different voices into the mix. How the input of those voices is used can have significant impact on success or failure in a multicultural world.

If what you’re doing—whatever you’re doing—is not driving business performance by martialling the input and insights of diverse points of view, increasing the success and reach of your business to new markets may not be a possibility.  So mobilize your diverse workforce…create an architecture for their involvement and inclusion. Then watch your business results soar.

Shirley Engelmeier is the author of “Inclusion: The New Competitive Business Advantage” and CEO of InclusionINC, a leading global consulting and learning organization specializing in linking inclusion and diversity to better business results through greater engagement, productivity, innovation and retention.