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Some folks believe that diversity initiatives aren’t for them. They think diversity only includes inherent traits such as race, gender identity, or sexual orientation. However, acquired traits like education, veteran status, socioeconomic class, places lived, and age are also dimensions of diversity. And eventually, all of us will assume one or more of these identities. Diversity really does include everyone.

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Both inherent and acquired diversity drive processes critical to business success. You’ve likely heard the statistics about inherent diversity: companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile and top-quartile companies in ethnic and cultural diversity outperformed those in the fourth by 36% in profitability. But have you considered the benefits of acquired diversity?

There’s limited research tying acquired diversity directly to quantitative outcomes, as acquired diversity is difficult to measure due to its malleable nature. However, we can logically deduce several benefits. 

Let’s take places lived as an example. Imagine you are a global company headquartered in the United States with clients throughout Europe and Asia. Folks who have lived in these places and are multilingual would be a huge asset to your company. Such employees can be a critical link between U.S.-based executives and foreign-based clients.

Veteran status is another strong example, as veterans gain several desired skills through their service, including leadership capabilities, problem-solving, loyalty, discipline, and quick decision-making. Veterans who have been deployed overseas also gain cultural competence and are likely to be multilingual — both highly desired traits in today’s global business world. 

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Groups with varied educational backgrounds drive innovation and problem-solving. Diversity of thought is the core of what makes diverse teams successful. Different perspectives and views of a problem enable teams to consider several vantage points before coming to a decision. They also lead to rich brainstorming sessions that drive creativity. For example, when solving critical business problems, you may want to speak with team members who are analytical, who are customer-oriented, and who are solution-driven. Having these three perspectives allows you to assess the root of the problem, keep your clients top-of-mind, and prioritize moving forward.

Acquired diversity and inherent diversity must both be prioritized to gain maximum benefit from your diversity initiatives. But, how do organizations intentionally form teams with acquired diversity?

  1. Expand awareness. The first step in driving acquired diversity is ensuring company-wide understanding of what it is and recognition of its benefits.
  2. Recruit culture “adds,” not culture “fits.” Many companies prioritize recruiting new hires that fit into their existing culture. However, they should instead prioritize recruiting new hires that bring new perspectives and ways of thinking. Hiring for acquired diversity goes hand in hand with hiring culture adds.
  3. Broaden your network. Look past your typical recruiting platforms and consider where you might post instead to obtain acquired diversity. Consider partnering with your local veterans association, community colleges, or cultural centers.
  4. Reevaluate your hiring requirements. Have you always required a college degree? Proficiency in English? Traditional career trajectories? If so, consider if these are truly requirements for your job openings or if they are simply traditions or preferences. These “requirements” may alienate otherwise highly qualified candidates who can bring new perspectives to your organization. 
  5. Use inclusive language. Recruiting diverse talent is one thing; retaining diverse talent is another. Make sure that you are using inclusive language for all dimensions of acquired diversity. For instance, be mindful of using metaphorical words and phrases such as “go to war,” “PTSD,” or “drop a bomb on” as they make light of the real, lived experiences of your veteran employees. To learn more about inclusive language for acquired diversity, purchase our book, The Inclusive Language Handbook.

Expanding acquired diversity within your organization should be as much of a strategic priority as expanding inherent diversity. And due to people’s multifaceted identities, these priorities and the strategies to achieve them often overlap. Ready to jumpstart your diversity, equity, and inclusion program? Contact us today.

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