Let’s Talk About Drag Queens at Work

So it might seem a little unusual to work with a cross-dresser in the cube next to you, but it may be a good thing for your organization. It’s also good for your organization to employ international workers, both men and women, those of different faiths and of different ages, ranging from Millennials to Seniors. Why is all this diversity so important? Because it allows your company to reflect the world around you and makes your team better able to develop fresh ideas that will meet the needs of a diverse marketplace.

Today’s companies are operating in a much different world than they were just 20 years ago. And in order to be profitable in a diverse, globalized marketplace, savvy companies are making efforts to be more representative of the community around them. For instance, an office filled with all middle-aged white men is unlikely to be wildly successful in an ethnically diverse and age-diverse neighborhood or industry. They simply don’t have access to the insights, experiences and world-views of their marketplace because they only employ those who identify with a small portion of the market.

As today’s communities and industries are increasingly made up of diverse peoples, successful companies are following suit. For instance, even banks, traditionally among some of the most conservative employers, have begun making strides in hiring diverse employees and making them feel welcome and valued.

For instance, Bank of America Merrill Lynch makes a top-down effort to support all types of diversity, including transgender employees, according to Forbes.com. On a quarterly basis, the bank offers online “Trans 101” training for managers, in which they hear from some of the company’s transgender employees about their personal experience of being transgender, what questions they would be willing to answer and how they would like their transition experience to be treated at work. When an employee undergoes gender re-assignment surgery, HR and management work support the employee with time off for surgery and helping to integrate them back into the workplace with their new gender.

When companies make sincere efforts to embrace and value diversity, they experience a number of benefits, such as:

Benefits to embracing diversity at work

Experience increased creativity.

Employees from diverse cultural, ethnic and other backgrounds bring unique experiences and perceptions to their work teams. When companies pool the diverse knowledge and skills of culturally distinct workers together, they benefit from the fresh ideas and thought processes of lots of different people with varying experiences, skill sets and ways of seeing the world. Of 321 large global enterprises — companies with at least $500 million in annual revenue — surveyed in a Forbes study in 2011, 85 percent agreed or strongly agreed that diversity is crucial to fostering innovation in the workplace.

Leverage strengths.

Every employee possesses unique strengths, and among diverse employees from various cultures and backgrounds, those strengths are often more distinct. With proper management, diverse teams of workers can leverage the strengths of each worker to make the impact of the workforce greater. And with lots of different backgrounds, viewpoints and skill sets, employees in a diverse workplace are often able to complement each other’s weaknesses.

Recruit a more qualified workforce.

By recruiting from a diverse (read: larger) set of potential employees, your company is more likely to hire the best and the brightest in the labor market. Talent is vital to improving the bottom line in an increasingly competitive economy, so you’ll do your company a favor by selecting employees from the largest and most diverse set of candidates.

Avoid high turnover.

If your company does not embrace diversity and build an inclusive workplace, you are likely to experience higher turnover rates than those that do—often because a lack of diversity can create an unintentionally hostile environment for those who feel like they don’t fit in. And we all know that high turnover rates costs companies a lot of money. Instead, save money and create a diverse and discrimination-free work environment.

Capture more of the market.

When you bring together individuals from different backgrounds and experiences, your company can more effectively market to consumers from various racial and ethnic backgrounds, women, older adults, younger adults, and LGBT adults. Building a diverse workplace can help you increase your company’s market share.

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Will Staney

Will Staney is the founder and principal consultant at Proactive Talent Strategies, LLC and the former head of global talent acquisition at rapidly-growing startups Twilio and Glassdoor. Prior to that he held recruiting leadership roles at enterprise software leaders VMware, SuccessFactors and SAP.


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