This Mardi Gras, are you harnessing the power of diversity and inclusion for your people and customers?

This year's GAYTM from ANZ 

This year's GAYTM from ANZ 

The excitement and celebration of Mardi Gras is fast approaching this weekend in Sydney. Qantas, Medibank, ANZ, Holden, Red Bull, Tinder, Google and Myer are among the sponsors of this year’s Mardi Gras festival. This range of sponsors shows the leaps and bounds Australia has made in accepting and embracing LGBTQI communities. The growth of corporate support for Mardi Gras reflects that companies are becoming more and more aware of the importance of understanding the diversity of their customer base.

As Cindy Hook effectively expressed, companies must ‘understand that customers in the modern day are not homogenous and when organisations go out of their way to meet the needs of their diverse customers – whether they be women, identify as LGBTIQ or have a disability – the research shows these organisations are rewarded with stalwart supporters who return for repeat business and actively campaign within their communities on behalf of that organisation.’

An example of successfully driving internal staff and diverse customer engagement is ANZ and their sponsorship of Mardi Gras. Having participated as a sponsor since 2007, they are now well known for their involvement and particularly their GAYTMs installed throughout Sydney. In my experience, when companies initially participate in events such as Mardi Gras, there is always the fear of backlash.

Certainly that was a major fear 10 years ago when I was leading diversity at ANZ and recommended, alongside the LGBTQI staff network, that the bank have the first corporate float in Mardi Gras as part of delivering our D & I strategy. Luckily for us, executive leadership took the risk, leading to overwhelmingly positive staff and customer response. I saw a similar unleashing of staff and student potential, with pride and strong engagement from all fronts, when I recommended the University of Sydney have their first Mardi Gras float in 2015. The feedback is that such involvement sends a strong message that you belong within this organisation, no matter your differences.

I love these examples because they show how more and more organisation leaders and decision-makers are understanding the D & I business case, not just from an internal perspective but also externally. These leaders are aligning their internal gender equity, D & I, and culture change vision, and are leveraging it as part of their business strategy. This increases staff engagement and aids the growth of innovation, to deliver better and more tailored products and services to meet the needs of diverse customers.

So, are you harnessing the power of your diverse workforce?

Despite the evidence that diversity + inclusion = increased profit, there’s still room for others to learn from these companies’ successes. Although there has been significant progress, a 2017 report released by the Australian Human Rights Commission and Deloitte found that many businesses are still failing to meet the needs of their diverse customer base, missing out on sales and customer loyalty. It’s worth thinking about whether your organisation is doing everything it can to unleash company performance by harnessing diversity and inclusion.

Check out these Harvard case studies of how much profit PepsiCo made from the guacamole potato chip, recommended by its Latino staff network, that took the market by storm and made $100 million. I also love this IBM case study that shows how through listening to the ideas of their staff with a disability network, IBM were able to foresee the need for accessible technology in the 90s. This meant that IBM were ready with these products when the US government decided they were a priority for all Americans and made $1 billion profit.

Closer to home I have seen the difference a diversity & inclusion strategy that aligns with and leverages the business strategy can make in the finance, government, and tertiary sectors in Australia. Take a look at these case studies for more information and enjoy this year's Mardi Gras! 

Image via ANZ

Fiona KrautilComment