Why diversity is good for business

Research from a variety of industries shows that organizations that are more diverse and inclusive outperform the competition. That’s an important finding that veterinarians and our teams can leverage to improve performance.

Until recently, the prevailing thought was that increasing diversity within an organization might be ethically right but didn’t benefit the bottom line. It turns out that’s not the case. Increasing diversity within an organization is both a predictor and a catalyst of business success.

Diversity benefits everyone

Data show that diversity—defined as achieving a greater mix of gender, ethnic and cultural composition in an organization’s leadership ranks—benefits everyone, not just those who were previously under-represented. More diverse organizations have a freer flow of ideas and innovation, which leads to better engagement among both employees and clients. This in turn enhances business growth while leading to increased profitability.

What research tells us

The 2018 McKinsey report Delivering through Diversity—and the recent follow-up report Diversity Wins: How Inclusions Matters—both make a compelling economic case for diversity in the workplace. The firm studied data from more than 1,000 companies in 12 countries, evaluating workplace culture and tying it back to profitability and longer-term value creation. The researchers also looked at emerging practices to achieve and support diversity.

McKinsey found that companies in the top 25% for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the bottom quarter. Looking at ethnic and cultural diversity, companies in the top quarter were 33 percent more likely to outperform less diverse competitors. The researchers also found a corresponding penalty for opting out of diversity.

5 key practices to increase business diversity

What can the veterinary profession learn about creating a more inclusive organization from these titans of industry? Quite a bit, as it turns out. Here are five key takeaways that veterinary practice owners can use to boost practice diversity:

  1. Make the commitment starting at the top

    Efforts to increase diversity and inclusion must begin at the executive level. If your executive team isn’t serious about changing your organizational culture, you face a significant obstacle to becoming a more inclusive organization. Your team will recognize and respond to a genuine commitment on your part. They’ll also sense its absence.

  2. Examine your practice, and commit to positive change

    Self-examination is critical. Formulate and articulate your vision for what diversity means in your practice, and let your staff know how important diversity is to your business. Whether you run a small practice or are part of a large veterinary company, “walking the walk” is important in generating the kind of performance that sets industry leaders apart.

  3. Define your diversity priorities based on what drives your growth

    Organizations improve most when they set measurable goals against specific metrics. Choose diversity-related metrics that are already a source of success for your practice. For example: Does your practice shine at client education or employee productivity? Then your diversity goals might include educating all team members about why diversity matters to the business. Other possible goals include starting one or two initiatives that promote inclusion in the workplace, or empowering employees to be their true selves and create programs that matter to them.

    For inspiration, look at what companies on the Forbes list of America’s Best Employers for Diversity 2020 are doing. Consider the food service giant Sodexo; since its workforce is 50% female, the company set (and achieved) a goal of reaching the same gender balance on its board of directors. Executive compensation at the company is tied to the level of diversity leaders are able to achieve. In addition to incentivizing diversity, Sodexo has set public diversity goals and committed resources to help employees achieve them.

  4. Target your diversity efforts to local circumstances

    Does your practice reflect the gender, racial, and ethnic diversity of your surrounding area? When clients come to your practice, can they see people who resemble them in age, race, ethnicity, gender, or educational level? AVMA research shows that pet owners who are members of minority groups tend to have the lowest veterinary spending and visit rates, even after controlling for income. When we talk with these pet owners, they tell us how difficult it is to find a veterinarian who looks like them. This is a real concern we hear often.

  5. Be an advocate for diversity within the veterinary profession

    Industrywide, there’s a huge need for diversity champions to lead the way. If you can show prospective employees that you’re working actively to champion diversity in your business and across the profession, that will help you stand out among other employers. Job seekers look for an organization where they believe they’ll fit in, and they’ll look to see who else you’ve hired to work on the team. Demonstrating your commitment to diversity will help you attract team members who share that value.

Get started

Research shows that diversity and inclusion are a critical component of business success. So how can you recommit or get started on diversity and inclusion? Here are three strategies and tools you can use.

Understand your baseline

Begin with that all-important self-examination, and commit to concrete goals. Here are a few questions to consider:

  • How is diversity part of your business strategy?
  • How does your team see your commitment to diversity, and in what ways are they part of the effort?
  • How diverse is your practice? Consider gender, race, orientation, background, age, etc.
Educate yourself and your team

These webinars on AVMA Axon® are a great place to start. Most are free of charge to AVMA members: Diversity, marginalization and intersectionality

Get certified

The Workplace Wellbeing Certificate Program on AVMA Axon® includes a full module on diversity and inclusion – and it’s free of charge to AVMA members.

Learn more