Stimulate Business Through Workplace Diversity

Posted on September 24, 2014

Sales and Profit.  Revenue and Growth. Income and Overheads.  All too familiar business terminology.  At this time of year, when teams in nearly every organisation are furiously planning a growth-fuelled future, how many will count on the one secret weapon with proven returns?  A culturally diverse workforce expands thinking, strengthens your team and has a direct bottom-line benefit.

I Like Your Thinking

An homogeneous workforce might seem like a good thing.  After all, a robust company culture is about recruiting like-minded individuals and ‘good fit’ candidates, right?  Actually, research tells us that teams with a broad range of perspectives habitually outperform their concurring colleagues1.

It seems that diverse teams quickly identify individual strengths and respond with better, more creative solutions.  Some researchers suggest this is because diverse groups are better suited to overcoming communication barriers.  That’s challenge number one in marketing and sales.

How Diversity Lifts Sales

There’s no doubt Robert Cialdini’s Influence2 is a sales guru bible.  Chapter by chapter, he explores the Weapons of Influence and what makes people buy. In Chapter 5 on Liking he discusses how customers are more likely to purchase from someone they like.  That’s probably no surprise.  What’s less obvious is how attracted we are to others who are similar to ourselves.

Beyond pure aesthetics, the one thing that connects us more than any other is how similar we are.  The most defining feature of that similarity is cultural origin. In other words, a sales-force that is similarly diverse to its customer audience is far more likely to engage and convert prospects.

To illustrate, Cialdini uses the example of a 2005 study of survey responses.  By changing only the signatory name to something like that of the recipient, responses were almost doubled.  We can assume this is the power of cultural connection because name is the most reliable means for making that association.

Some Pretty Convincing Numbers

The introduction of Cedric Herring’s article Does Diversity Pay3 couldn’t make it plainer:

“… racial diversity is associated with increased sales revenue, more customers, greater market share, and greater relative profits”.

Herring’s article provides us with a background on diversity and heightened performance.  He’s also put the numbers to the test.  His conclusion:

9% more sales for every 1% added cultural diversity.

This trend continues right up until the team represents population diversity.

Further, Herring found cultural diversity to have greater influence over sales and bottom-line returns than any other workforce characteristic.  If your business and marketing plan is ‘more of the same’ for the coming year, here’s the news.  Greater cultural diversity is probably what you need to drive the growth trajectory.  But before you call that multicultural recruiter, best to get some understanding on how culturally diverse your customer base is and whether that diversity reflects the market(s) you operate in.

Ask Origins about cultural segmentation, measurement and mapping.  Then get the right people on the job.

1 Page, S E.The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 2007.
2 Cialdini, R B. Influence – Science and Practice. Boston MA:  Pearson Education. 2008.
3 Herring, C. Does Diversity Pay?: Race, Gender, and the Business Case for Diversity. American Sociological Review. 2009. v74:N2:P208-224.

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