So you want your teams to be diverse.
You want employees to hail from different backgrounds and offer different sets of experiences and expertise. You want this because you know the research on diverse teams has shown, rather overwhelmingly, that diverse teams are smarter, more creative, and produce more revenue. You also want to keep this talent, because you know how hard it is not just to create team chemistry but to recreate it when people leave.
Now ask yourself a harder question: Are you building in the habits and systems that make people feel included?
Stopping the revolving door
At the NeuroLeadership Institute, we’ve grown fond of a particular saying: Diversity without inclusion leads to a revolving door of talent. It refers to diversity’s potential as a force for good. The key word there is “potential.” It’s not the case that the mere presence of diversity in an office leads to greater outcomes. People need to feel like they belong and can share ideas, possibly even difficult ones, if leaders hope to unlock diversity’s benefits.
Consider, for example, an office where people come from all different backgrounds, both personally and professionally. However, the two highest-ranking people on the team are both of the same age and gender, and attended the same university. In meetings these leaders hear out everyone’s opinions, but over time, staff members begin to realize the leaders make decisions solely based on one other’s ideas. Gradually, people disengage, and in serious cases they quit.
The two leaders in this situation may look at their poor retention rate and negative feedback and wonder: How do people feel excluded? Look at how diverse we are! We even speak last in meetings! What they’ll fail to realize is that diversity without inclusion creates a revolving door of talent.
People who don’t feel their contributions are valued won’t feel included, which is why we also like to say that if you aren’t intentionally including, you’re probably accidentally excluding.
Building this sense of inclusion isn’t necessarily a simple process — we built an entire solution, called INCLUDE, to help leaders act more inclusively. But it can be straightforward and concrete. With the right strategies, such as creating shared goals and making people feel valued, among other choice behaviors, leaders can tap into all the wonderful qualities diversity has to offer.