“Wherever you live or work, your customers and markets are becoming more diverse,” Dessau said. “To be successful and continue growing, your business needs to reflect diversity. For a long time, business owners have thought that incorporating diversity is something that was politically correct. But it’s needed in today’s businesses.”
Incorporating diversity is more than thinking about consumers. It should reflect who works within the business as well. “If you don’t have a diverse workforce, it will be a problem. People often tend to hire people who are all the same and then you all think alike. The more diverse the work group is, the more diverse it is in its thinking, which is key in growing and expanding your business,” Dessau noted.
“We’re seeing an interesting time in the political world where it’s not really reflecting reality,” he said. “Playing to a small community doesn’t help our business. It’s a global marketplace now and our businesses need to reflect that.”
Dessau said the next generation of employees – the millennials – take diversity much more seriously and expect their employers to reflect those practices. “By 2020, 50 percent of the workforce will be millennials. Employers and managers should understand that social issues are important to them.
“The lifeblood of businesses is hiring good people,” he continued. “You should have a commitment to diversity when you’re hiring and act with integrity and transparency. Your next generation of employees will be looking for that. If you want to retain them, your actions need to reflect your commitment.”
Recognizing diversity is particularly important for those in real estate. “Realtors® are on the front end of the changes in their communities. They have a better opportunity to see those demographic and culture changes,” he said. “That means you need to balance the future of your business. You need to evaluate what’s changing in your market and who you will bring into your network so they reflect the community around you.”
To expand diversity within the workforce, Dessau suggests changing how you recruit and hire people. “If you only go to the same source to look for employees, you’ll end up with the same types of people. Use LinkedIn, Craigslist, advertise in different newspapers. Look at the market you’re serving. You can’t be a non-Spanish speaking business in a market with a large base of Spanish-speaking consumers. Try advertising in Spanish newspapers or at a nearby college.”
Not only will millennials be important as employees, but they’ll be consumers as well. “As consumers, they will look for those behaviors in the places they take their business. Where they shop, who they do business with will be affected. They are much more concerned with social issues like diversity and the environment,” Dessau said. “If you’re out of line, you’ll struggle to get them as consumers. And they’ll use social media to find other businesses to work for and with.
“You can wish that change won’t happen, but it will,” he added. “Incorporating diversity may not be an imperative today, but will be for the longevity of the company.”