I just saw an interesting article on gender diversity…posing the question about whether or not gender diversity drives performance.

Gender diversity, or diversity of any kind, in and of itself does not drive performance.  You must also demonstrate that people from all groups have an equal opportunity to contribute, be recognized for their contributions, and advance in order to get their best performance.

  • If you have a diverse team but are not including all members of the team in the business of your business, you will not benefit from their varying perspectives and strengths.
  • If you are not engaging and fully utilizing all members of your team, then, by definition, you are carrying those that are being excluded and not getting the best productivity you could.
  • If you are not providing equal opportunity for career advancement to all members of your team, you are de-motivating the ones who are being excluded and, therefore, putting the entire burden of performance on the shoulders of those few whom you are favoring.

It is not simply a matter of having a diverse workforce.  It is a matter of engaging and motivating all members of your workforce. 

One company I was hired to turnaround was 80% female, yet the entire management team was male.  Do you think the females in that company felt that they had any opportunity for advancement in that company?  No.  Do you think they were motivated or de-motivated by that fact?  De-motivated.  A simple employee attitude survey indicated that the single biggest problem with the company (as the employees saw it) was that there was no opportunity for advancement.

The turnover rate in that organization was 25% per year.  Even though the organization had a healthy revenue growth rate, it was not profitable.  As I set about improving this organization I restructured the management team to be better balanced from a gender and racial perspective.  I also made sure to have representatives from each business unit on the leadership team.

In 4 years we improved profitability 16 percentage points and reduced the turnover rate to 8%.

While making some changes to the leadership team was only one of many things we did to turn that business around, effectively engaging and motivating our diverse workforce, not just having a diverse workforce, was a key element of the turnaround.