Juliet leads Deloitte Australia's Diversity and Inclusion Consulting practice. At the European Forum Alpbach 2018, she shares her profound expertise on-site. We had the chance to ask her a few questions beforehand.
What does “diversity” mean to you?
To me diversity means all the ways that we are different from each other – both the elements which are visible (eg gender) and those which are invisible (eg education, sexual orientation). I am most interested in diversity of thinking, because I think that provides the raw material for innovation and creativity. I am also deeply interested in inclusion – and by that I mean the degree to which everyone is treated fairly and respectfully, has a sense that they are valued and belong, and are inspired to do their best work and feel psychologically safe to take risks. I am most disappointed when people stereotype and exclude people, especially when that is based on a socially constructed and irrelevant differences (eg skin colour, caste).
Where do you see the correlation between diversity and resilience?
There are two angles to diversity, inclusion and resilience that come readily to mind. First, group resilience (be that the team or the organization). An homogenous group is at high risk of being in a thought bubble and therefore out of touch with their broader ecosystem. This means that they make decisions that are off-mark, and they cannot easily anticipate, and quickly adapt, to their environment. We can see probably see this in the struggles many organisations are experiencing adapting to the Fourth Industrial Revolution and also the Global Financial Crisis. Second, at a personal level, being surrounded by diversity can be stimulating and energizing – and therefore contribute to personal resilience. On the down side, observing or being the target of discrimination and harassment is enervating, and one needs to be more resilient to withstand those negative experiences.
How can companies benefit from diversity?
There are probably four areas of diversity which benefit organisations, but we tend to hear only about the fourth one. First, diversity of thinking helps prevent group think. Researching my book Which two heads are better than one? I found that diversity of thinking can reduce mistake making by up to 30 %, increase the likelihood of innovation by 20 % and also increase the confidence of followers in group decisions (and therefore followership). Second, diversity of customers so all of the addressable market is understood and serviced. Third, diversity of markets so companies deeply understand the nuances of the markets they operate in. By way of example, Deloitte’s research (Missing out: The business case for customer diversity) revealed that up to 1 in 2 customers from diverse groups are attracted to organisations whom they associate with pro-diversity values (and consequently made a positive buying decision in the last 12 months). Conversely, if treated disrespectfully or unfairly, up to 1 in 3 customers from a diverse group ceased a transaction in the last 12 months and then telegraphed it to their community to create an amplified impact. Fourth, and the most talked about area, diversity of talent. This means that organisations attract, develop and retain from the broadest possible pool of talent, and not one artificially constrained by conscious and unconscious biases.
What impact do diversity and inclusion have on innovation in companies?
Comparing organisations which are more and those that are less inclusive of diversity, Deloitte’s research shows that organisations which are more inclusive of diversity are 6 x more likely to be innovative; 6 x more likely to be agile; 3 x more likely to be high performing and 2 x more likely to meet or exceed financial targets. Looking at this from a leadership angle, we have also found (see The Diversity and Inclusion Revolution: 8 Powerful Truths) that employees led by highly inclusive leaders are 17 % more likely to report that they work in a high performing team, 20 % more likely to report that that the team makes high quality decisions and 29 % more likely to report that their team is collaborative.