Why Diverse and Inclusive Teams are the Engines of Innovation

Claire Hastwell

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Frans Johansson

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FRANS JOHANSSON  & CLAIRE HASTWELL 

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The business world may be ever-changing, but one thing remains constant: Organizations that harness the differences of their people are the ones that will excel. 

Our Great Place To Work® research has found that when it comes to unlocking innovation, workplace diversity and inclusion is the key. Regardless of industry, field, or domain, organizations that seek diverse viewpoints — across ethnicity, gender, age, educational background, etc. — experience higher rates of innovation. 

For example, our research has shown that when employees are uncomfortable sharing personal details, such as sexual orientation or whether they have a disability, those companies see a drop in levels of employee trust, pride, and camaraderie, all of which are critical to effective innovation at work. 

Similarly, racially diverse workplaces show higher revenue growth than their less diverse counterparts — 11.1% for those in the top quartile versus 8.6% for those with significant gaps between white and minority employees, based on our research. 

But elevating the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace is just half of the equation for unleashing your organization’s innovative potential. A deeper, more structural change is needed. 

Many leaders associate innovation with experts, technologists, and R&D professionals whose job it is to grow the company. But the truth is that innovation is about people. It’s about the game-changing ideas they can create by coming together in diverse and inclusive teams. 

Here’s why diverse and inclusive teams are the new engines of innovation at work: 

1. Diverse and inclusive teams create more unlikely ideas

Ideas aren’t created out of thin air. They’re created by people — by teams of people. And the more diverse these teams are along many dimensions (culture, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, experience level, educational background, expertise, etc.), the more likely they are to draw inspiration from seemingly unrelated places. These idea combinations lead to more unlikely — and more innovative — ideas. 

A striking example of this concept is Wegmans’ cauliflower rice story. In 2014, before the cauliflower craze truly hit mainstream consciousness, Jody Wood, a meal coach at Wegmans, came up with the idea of introducing cauliflower rice as a healthy food option in the store. This initiative was spurred by Wood’s personal journey to find dietary solutions for her husband’s Type 2 diabetes. 

The idea was implemented thanks to the inclusive and diverse culture at Wegmans, which values input from all employees, irrespective of their role. Wood’s seemingly simple idea was embraced by the management, tested in the store, and then rolled out across the Wegmans chain after resounding success. 

This not only exemplifies the power of diverse ideas in driving innovation but also showcases how an inclusive culture can allow a company to stay ahead of trends. 

2. Diverse teams are better at making decisions

When it comes to deciding which ideas to test and put more resources behind, diverse and inclusive teams are far better than homogenous ones. 

Data collected by Cloverpop found that the more diverse the team (by gender, geography, and age), the better the team’s decision. James Surowiecki’s book “The Wisdom of Crowds” also supports this idea. 

When teams increase their level of difference, they increase their chances of selecting an idea that is game-changing. Why is that? Because diversity of thought stretches a team in ways that can be uncomfortable, but effective. 

Diversity of thought also fuels employee trust, which raises employees’ ambition level on what they believe they can accomplish and redefines the parameters that they otherwise operate within. 

For example, when we asked employees in the Trust Index™ Survey if there was anything that made their workplace special or unique, one LGBTQ+-identifying respondent said: 

“There are a lot of opportunities for growth and variety. My team and I are constantly developing and implementing new ideas and processes, which I feel is intellectually challenging and impactful in a way that no other job I have been a part of has been able to offer me.” 

A diverse team of decision-makers can also prevent bad decisions from being made — ones that may alienate customers, harm the brand, or impede growth — simply by including people who think about the landscape differently. 

3. Diverse teams are better at making innovative ideas happen

Diverse teams can bring to bear a broad array of experiences, perspectives, skills, and networks. This expansive resource base allows them to execute on ideas more quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively. 

“A diverse team of decision-makers can prevent bad decisions from being made — ones that may alienate customers, harm the brand, or impede growth.” 

Consider the experience of one Disney Park that collaborated with the broader Medici Group. In this instance, the park didn’t operate in isolation; instead, it tapped into the resources, knowledge, and experiences of other Disney parks and divisions. This collaboration embodies the power of diverse teams, demonstrating how leveraging a wide range of internal resources can drastically improve operational efficiency. 

Prior to this cross-collaboration, it would take 40 weeks for this park to bring an idea to fruition. After incorporating insights and strategies from a diverse set of teams across various Disney divisions, the time to execute on an idea was reduced to just 6 weeks. 

This outcome not only improved the park’s operational efficiency but also enhanced its ability to innovate and adapt to changing market demands. 

By promoting expansive, serendipitous collaboration, organizations can drive fast action and keep pace with the rapidly evolving business landscape. Hence, diversity doesn’t just evolve new ideas; it provides the pathways and accelerates the pace to execute these ideas efficiently and effectively. 

How to bring the “diversity drives innovation” mentality to your organization

By now, it may strike you that diverse and inclusive teams are like idea factories — they’re literally built for innovation at work. But what does this mean for you and your organization? 

There are four things you can do right now to create a culture of innovation: 

1. Seek others’ perspectives

Innovation requires creating many ideas and selecting the best ones. By doing something as simple as including people with different viewpoints in your meetings, you’ll likely get inspiration you’d never think of on your own. 

2. Be wary of the word “expertise”

Remember that experts aren’t always the ones with the right or best answers. In fact, the shelf-life of “expertise” is expiring more rapidly every day. Open yourself to the possibility that anyone, anywhere, can catalyze your company’s next big idea. 

Embracing this mindset is not only empowering for all employees but also fosters an environment where innovative thinking is truly democratized. As one young LGBTQ+-identifying employee insightfully shared in our company culture survey: 

“The work culture is one that supports the mantra, ‘The best idea at the table wins’. 

“Though I am a new, young employee, I feel like I have agency and autonomy, and my contributions are considered equally valid to those of my peers who have been here for years.” 

3. Encourage employees to bring their whole selves to work

Every individual has a wealth of experiences, interests, and passions to draw on. Create a  company culture that celebrates and uses them. These different opinions and insights could send a conversation down a path toward creating something truly unlikely and unexpected! 

4. Foster psychological safety

When you have a diverse and inclusive workplace, you can unleash an explosion of ideas. But hiring a diverse workforce isn’t enough. Employees from every group need to feel psychologically safe to bring their unique perspectives forward. 

The concept of psychological safety, first introduced by Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson, means creating a workplace where employees feel safe to take risks, voice their opinions, and admit mistakes without fear of punishment or judgment. 

When individuals feel psychologically safe, they’re more likely to share unique ideas and perspectives, which can spark innovation. It also ensures that the diverse voices within your organization are not just present, but are heard and valued. This atmosphere of trust and openness is crucial for diversity to effectively drive innovation. 

So, don’t let titles or years of experience restrict the flow of ideas in your organization. Today’s dynamic and rapidly evolving business landscape demands fresh perspectives, and sometimes the most ground-breaking ideas come from the least expected sources. 

Diversity in the workplace drives innovation

Ready to tap into the potential of diversity and drive innovation in your organization? Don’t wait. The Great Place To Work Trust Index Survey, featuring the unique Innovation Velocity Ratio, is designed to assess and elevate inclusion and innovative practices in your workplace. 

This isn’t just about today. It’s about preparing for a successful future, built on the rich diversity of your team. Join the ranks of forward-thinking organizations by getting started with the Trust Index Survey today. The time for inclusive innovation is now. 

Claire Hastwell

As the Content Program Manager at Great Place To Work, Claire helps decode the psychology behind high-trust workplaces using Great Place To Work’s extensive data repository on employee experience. Claire has co-authored noted reports such as “Women in the Workplace” and “The Power of Purpose at Work,” and contributed to Fortune with her profiles of the Best Workplaces™. Her latest report on employee retention strategies draws on the experience of 1.3 million employees to give leaders strategic guidance on retaining their top people. 

Frans Johansson

Great Place To Work identifies Best Workplaces in Asia™ by surveying 2.1 million employees in Asia and the Middle East about the key factors that create great workplaces for all and analyzing company workplace programs impacting 5.9 million employees in the region.

To be considered, companies must first be identified as outstanding in their local region by appearing on one or more of our Best Workplaces lists in Bahrain, Greater China (including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Oman, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, UAE, Vietnam during 2022 or early 2023.

Companies rank in three size categories: Small and Medium (10-499 employees); Large (500+); and Multinational. Multinational organizations are also assessed on their efforts to create great workplaces across multiple countries in the region. They must appear on at least two national lists in Asia and the Middle East and have at least 1,000 employees worldwide with at least 40% (or 5,000+) of those employees located outside the headquarters country.

Great Place To Work identifies Best Workplaces in Asia™ by surveying over 1 million employees in Asia and the Middle East about the key factors that create great workplaces for all and analyzing company workplace programs impacting over 4.7 million employees in the region.

To be considered, companies must first be identified as outstanding in their local region by appearing on one or more of our Best Workplaces lists in Greater China (including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, UAE, Vietnam during 2021 or early 2022.

Companies rank in three size categories: Small and Medium (10-499 employees); Large (500+); and Multinational. Multinational organizations are also assessed on their efforts to create great workplaces across multiple countries in the region. They must appear on at least two national lists in Asia and the Middle East and have at least 1,000 employees worldwide with at least 40% (or 5,000) of those employees located outside the headquarters country.

Great Place To Work® Best Workplaces™ in Singapore 2023 Evaluation Methodology

This year, Great Place To Work® Singapore is proud to launch our inaugural Singapore Best Workplaces™ in Healthcare & Biopharma List. This list recognizes exemplary companies in the healthcare & biopharma industry.

Recognized as a global hub for medical technology and research, Singapore has attracted top healthcare and biopharma talents and companies from around the world. It has become the center for essential healthcare services and innovations with its world-class research institutes, academic medical centers, and industry clusters.

In turn, the healthcare and biopharma sectors play a critical role in the country’s economic competitiveness, sustainability, and innovation. These industries have significantly helped in the overall improvement of public health and well-being of the people of Singapore and its neighboring countries.

The inaugural Singapore Best Workplaces in Healthcare and Biopharma List puts the spotlight on the organizations that are dedicated to providing employee satisfaction and engagement, and their commitment to excellence in the industry.

The companies in our Great Place To Work Certified™ community have the premier distinction that helps attract the best talent, build your employer brand, and secure a competitive advantage. To achieve this, they built a working environment that is purpose-driven and people-first. These companies have demonstrated that showing authentic care, prioritizing employee’s holistic well-being, and building a culture of trust go hand in hand with growth and success.

To determine the 2023 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Healthcare and Biopharma, Great Place to Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore.Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place to Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place to Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry.The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced.To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place to Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place to Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category.

Great Place To Work® Best Workplaces™ in Singapore 2023 Evaluation Methodology

To determine the 2023 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Technology, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore. Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place To Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry. The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category.

Methodology

This year, Great Place To Work™ Singapore is proud to launch our inaugural Singapore Best Workplaces in Technology List. This List recognizes exemplary companies in the information and communication technologies industry in four categories:

  • Micro category (10–29 employees)
  • Small (30-99 employees)
  • Medium (100-999 employees)
  • Large (> 1000 employees)

With Singapore’s ambition to be recognized as a regional technology hub, the influx of technology firms (around 80 of the world’s top 100 technology firms have a presence here) and global rankings that place us a leading technology hub outside of San Francisco, the establishment of a Singapore Best Workplaces List in Technology is indeed a timely and needed one. Technology firms in Singapore are characterized by hyper-growth and ambitious expansion plans. This means a continuous war for talent in a highly competitive and rapidly evolving industry.

To maintain our lead as a technology and innovation hub, the ability to attract, retain and sustain skilled talent is critical. We are proud that companies in our Great Place To Work®-Certified community List have built a high-trust culture, engaged employees and maximized their potential to facilitate innovation. They are purpose-driven and adopt a people-first mindset. These are companies that have shown that authentic care and employee well-being need not be compromised for ambitious growth, and that it is possible for businesses to scale up quickly and responsibly. Their culture and core values are embodied in every individual—from senior leadership to rank-and-file employees—and differentiate them from their competitors, priming them to be powerful magnets for top talent.

To determine the 2022 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Technology, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore.Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place To Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry.The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category

 

Methodology

To determine the 2022 Singapore’s Best Workplaces™️, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing close to 70,000 employees across different industries in Singapore. Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place to Work For All™️. 85% of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do.

Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical in their industry. The remaining 15% of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results.

Companies with 10-29 people were considered for the Micro category; those with 30 to 99 people for the Small category; companies with 100 to 999 employees were considered for the Medium category; and those with 1,000 or more for the Large category.

Great Place To Work® Best Workplaces™ in Singapore 2023 Evaluation Methodology

To determine the 2023 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Technology, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore. Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place To Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry. The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category