I was having lunch with a friend recently, and she commented on the diversity of people who have been on Nonprofit Hub’s staff over the years. She then asked about how we maintain such a strong culture with such different, frequently changing staff members. The answer, to me at least, is simple: a strong organizational culture should bring people together—regardless of background or experience.
This may sound silly or obvious, but all too often strong company culture is used interchangeably with homogeneity: people think having a unified culture means that your staff is made up of completely like-minded people. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The best company cultures celebrate individual differences and the value they bring to the organization.
According to a study in Administrative Science Quarterly, the benefits from demographic diversity are more likely to show in organizations with a collectivist culture. That is, organizations that prioritize working together as a group as opposed to individual efforts benefit more from demographic diversity. This isn’t to say that individualistic organizations don’t reap the benefits of diversity, but collectivism seems to serve as a better incubator.
Both individualism and collectivism are important, but it has to be balanced. An organization that focuses on collective efforts may ignore the individual talents of its staff, while an organization dedicated to the individual staff member may lose sight of their overall mission.
The key is to harness the unique experiences and abilities of each of your staff members and use them to promote your organization’s collective mission. Sounds easy enough, right? Not so much. Finding awesome, diverse staff who align with your organization’s missions and goals is no easy feat, but it’s something you should always be striving for.
A few years ago, Android unveiled a new snappy campaign slogan: “Be together, not the same.” While it was almost surely a shot at Apple’s monolithic product line, it can also serve as an important reminder for nonprofits. We don’t want a bunch of people in a room who look the same way, and act the same way, and think the same way; we want people who bring a million different experiences to the table, and we want staff who can take our organization’s values and apply them to those experiences. We don’t want clones—we want pioneers.
I’m an Apple user myself, but I think Android may be onto something.
There’s nothing wrong with having a like-minded staff; keeping your staff on the same page with values and goals is important. However, if you start to feel as though your staff may be too agreeable, it’s time to take a step back and remember the importance of diversity in all forms. You don’t need to be homogeneous to have strong culture—in fact, the opposite may be true.
Originally published 6.19.2017—Updated 5.29.2018
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