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To Know Your Customer, Know Yourself – How Diverse Management Can Save Your Brand

Credit globalization, technology, or the adventurous nature of today’s employees (specifically the Millennials) – there’s no denying that the world is undergoing a huge change, and diversity is a bigger topic than ever before. Gone are the days of “localized” markets. Even small businesses can advertise, gain fans, ship their products and offer their services all over the world. In order to cater to a bigger audience than ever before, companies must adapt and strive to understand their customer base. Organizations cannot succeed with one uniform “employee type” – now is the time to round out your staff with team members from all over the world, with different beliefs and experiences. Some of the world’s most successful companies are making headlines with their newest executive hires. Don’t wait for your competitors to pass you by – find out how diverse management can save your brand.

The Reasoning for Rounding Out Your Roster

Every successful sports team recognizes the importance of specialization. Each individualized set of skills brings its own advantages. Can you imagine a soccer team of nothing but strikers? A football team with only kickers? By employing a staff of similarly minded, similarly cultured individuals, you’re missing out on fresh perspectives that other members could bring to the table.

Carnival, a popular American-based cruise line, has been garnering attention lately for their characteristically eclectic management staff. In an article for Bloomberg Business, Christopher Palmeri explains that the current CEO, Arnold Donald, was tasked with broadening the appeal of their brand to include customers outside of their classic demographic, which are described as “white, middle-aged or older.” In the last two years, in an effort to tap into more diverse and inclusive markets:

“Donald has replaced seven of Carnival’s nine cruise line heads. Four are now women, one is black, and one gay, a big change in a business that was an offshoot of the European, male-dominated shipping industry. Donald, who is black, says his strategy is to create an environment where differing opinions are heard and taken seriously, or as he puts it, “diversity of thinking.”

‘I guarantee if you get a diverse group of people aligned around a common objective with a process to work together, they will out-engineer, out-solution a homogeneous team 90 percent of the time and create things none of them alone would have created,’ he says.”

And this new solution has been proving quite successful for the Carnival family. Since Donald joined the team in July, 2013, Carnival stock has risen 53%. And other executives within the company are very impressed by Donald’s strategies. Rightfully so, according to the numbers.

As cited in the article, executives began addressing issues never before considered by the previous management. When it came time to discuss bedding, Jan Schwartz, the new female head of Princess Cruiselines, boldly asked, “Have we talked a lot about the menopause issue?” Such topics may not occur to other members of different demographics, but your company stands to gain valuable insights by employing (and promoting) senior executives with different life experiences and daily struggles. Consider how your brand can stand to gain from new perspectives, and what issues your current staff might be missing without the input of a more well-rounded team.

That Quota Rule…

The idea of hiring quotas, specifically for women, has been a hot topic in Europe for the last several years. Norway was the frontrunner for this kind of policy, requiring that 40% of all board members must be female. But since its implementation in 2003, many other members of the EU have instituted similar regulations. Policies like these are typically met with disdain, for a number of reasons. One argument revolve around the “golden skirt” phenomenon, which shows that enforcing these rules will lead to several women holding multiple positions on numerous boards, rather than allowing for other new female faces to join the conversation, and thereby stagnating the inclusion process. Another popular argument claims that individuals should be selected for their own merit, rather than based on mandates and rules. But as more companies begin to work towards including more women in their board rooms, the results are fairly positive, as reported by Lauren Davidson for the Telegraph in January 2015. And while the quota for inclusion of female executives in the board room is evidently successful, as Norway’s ratio of male:female boardroom executives ranks at the top of the scale, Catalyst, a non-profit organization for women in business reports on other relevant advantages of diversity in the workplace:

“Catalyst cited research showing that a gender diverse board leads a company to better financial performance. Between 2005 and 2009, the top quartile of Fortune 500 companies by female boardroom representation outperformed those in the lowest quartile with a 16pc higher return on sales and a 26pc increase in return on invested capital — numbers which grew to 84pc and 60pc respectively for companies with sustained high representation of women on their boards.

Diverse boards have also been shown to strengthen a company’s talent pipeline and increase innovation, leading to a stronger group performance, Catalyst said.”

Quotas or targets may be controversial, so perhaps instituting such a mandate in your office is a bit too radical. However, simply recognizing the benefits of these actions can help your company to skyrocket to success, so bear these ideas in mind when it comes time to promote from within, or hire a new senior manager.

Diverse Recruiting – Assembling Your Dream Team

Of course, most companies cater to specific markets, some more niche than others. But contrary to old values, this does not mean your entire staff must look like your target customers. For example, a company that markets women’s beauty products could also benefit from an outsider’s perspective – it would be unwise to staff a company of only women within that target demographic. Consider hiring an external partner to perform market research and find out who’s using, consuming, or purchasing your product. You might be surprised! Products like heavy duct tape were once marketed solely towards middle-aged men, in the “home improvement” sector, but upon discovering that this tool was frequently used by creative youngsters for more inventive projects – prom dresses! wallets! dorm room decor! – the brand Duck Tape released multi-colored and brightly patterned products to entice even more consumers.

In order to attract a diverse group of candidates, you’ll need to illustrate that your company values varying perspectives and opinions; no candidate wants to feel unwelcome in their work environment. Work to foster a culture that appreciates diversity and creative thinking, and keep an open mind during the hiring process. Illustrate that progress is important for your brand, and do your best to assemble a team that shares your company’s values, while bringing in their own experiences. With a more diverse management team, you can watch your company flourish.