My interests often lie in workforce trends and challenges. Many community groups share my passion, but Talent 2025 has stood out to me with its focus on talent development and job attraction in West Michigan. Recently, I joined their working group for the Diversity and Inclusion Community of Practice, representing Springthrough.As a minority in my role and in my industry, this topic in particular hits home. And, as a native of West Michigan, I feel I can safely say that diversity and inclusion need be a priority for our region as well.
There are many benefits behind the value in a diverse workforce, but I’d like to touch on the three that stand out to me:
- Driving economic growth
- Employing a more qualified workforce
- Creating diversity of thought
But, before I explain further, let me tell you why you should care – so you don’t experience the failure that taught me a valuable lesson.
My Personal Lesson
Early in my career, I was told that I was smart. I was told that I was an achiever. I was also told that I was not “able to meet people where they are”. They meant that I didn’t connect with people in a way that was effective for each individual. That last characteristic, coupled with the first two, proved to be very challenging for me to overcome. I knew I was smart and I knew I could get things done…and I didn’t care if other people had different ideas if those ideas didn’t match mine. That’s a recipe for failure. And guess what? I failed.
The beauty of my failure was two-fold: it was early enough in my career that I could recover, and it became a turning point in my personal leadership style. I realized there was immense value in listening to others with differing opinions. And not just listening. It’s the dialogue that is created and shared among a group of people with diverse experiences that is most valuable…if you are open to hearing it (which requires both emotional and social intelligence).
There is a much greater impact to our economy if we focus on diversity and inclusion, in addition to your own personal growth, which brings me back to the three benefits.
Driving Economic Growth
As our economy becomes more complex, the need for qualified workers grows. By providing equitable access to opportunity to people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, women, LGBT, veterans and people with disabilities, we increase the pool of human capital. A McKinsey & Company study, for example, found that the increase in women’s overall share of labor in the United States—women went from holding 37 percent of all jobs to 47 percent over the past 40 years—has accounted for about a quarter of the current GDP.
Employing A More Qualified Workforce
By 2040, Michigan’s working age population will be smaller by nearly half a million people. One way to address this impending labor shortage is to recruit talent from a more diverse set of potential employees. Additionally, in being purposeful about attracting a more diverse talent pool, companies are increasing their opportunities to hire the best and the brightest in the market.
Creating Diversity of Thought
While diversity initiatives can have important social justice benefits, another main component is to foster innovation. To achieve diversity of thought, you need to bring people together who have varied experiences. And not just race, gender or socioeconomic standing, but people with different learning styles or differences in skill sets. Without those differing viewpoints, how will we get others to challenge the status quo?
There are so many reasons to support the need for diversity and inclusion. We need to focus, as a region, to ensure we are 1; aware, and 2; taking steps to move the needle. I am thrilled to be a part of a group people committed to growing and supporting our region’s efforts to foster a more diverse and inclusive community and workforce. I encourage you to find out how you can get involved in making a difference, too.