Ali Shalfrooshan of International Assessment R&D, Talogy On How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Diversity in the workplace has shown to lead to a higher rate of innovation and creativity. Innovation is critical for organizations as it enables them to differentiate their services and solutions from that of others. The wider set of perspectives that diversity brings can fuel a team’s ability to consider a wider range of approaches and identify more novel ways of doing things.

As a part of our series about “How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ali Shalfrooshan.

An award-winning business psychologist at Talogy, Ali Shalfrooshan has a true passion to help organizations improve performance through their people.

Ali believes that by identifying the right people and giving them the right development opportunities it can lead to a huge business impact for organizations. His expertise has enabled him to design, implement and deliver a variety of assessment and development solutions to help organizations thrive and get the best out of their talent.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into the main part of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share a bit of your “backstory” with us?

I have always been fascinated by how humans work and the amazing machine that is our minds. From a young age, I wanted to understand the mechanics of what motivates us, how we think and how we feel.

As a teen, I didn’t really know that the career I currently have could exist, so at university I studied biochemistry, as I always loved science. Despite my day-to-day activities, being an IO psychologist does not require much laboratory expertise, or the ability to clone sequences of DNA, but I am always grateful for that chapter in my life as it provided an insight into the building blocks of how humans work at a genetic and biological level. It enabled me to appreciate how truly complex and magnificent the creation and maintenance of life is, and the fundamental importance of nurture, when it comes to our nature.

After a litany of job roles, I happened upon a work experience opportunity in IO psychology and the rest, in many ways, is history. When I discovered IO psychology, I found my calling, as the industry enables me to utilize the evidence in psychology, the medium of technology and the art of business to enable organizations to enhance their effectiveness via their greatest strength, their people.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us the lesson or take away, you took out of that story?

This is a great question. However, most of my funny work-related stories didn’t lead to any specific lessons, other than that people are very complicated and the universe has a sense of humor.

Arguably every interaction, project and experience has the power to provide a foundation for learning. However, working with organizations throughout the pandemic has been a great crucible for helping me truly understand what the meaning of work can be. In many ways the answers to many of the questions in life have already been answered, but only through our experience can we truly understand it. In my role where we support organizations globally, the lesson I truly learnt is that we have much more in common than we have differences.

Employees, wherever they are, not only like community but need it to truly thrive and feel alive. How we define community and connection may be different, but if you are an introvert, an extrovert, if you are in China or Finland, we humans are truly social animals and love metaphorically building things together.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you tell us a story about how that was relevant in your own life?

One of my favorite life lesson quotes is from Marcus Aurelius, “You have power over your mind-not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” I love this quote as it encapsulates the power of how we think and is one that I deploy personally when feeling overwhelmed.

When working with organizations, the life lesson quote I use the most is “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” This is a quote by Verna Myers, which very succinctly describes the importance of both diversity and inclusion for organizations. It highlights what differentiates the importance of each element and why they are needed together.

With a personal lens, it is a useful reminder that when engaging with anyone, sometimes we all need to actively make people feel welcome, an invitation alone is not sufficient.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

I have been blessed to be surrounded by amazing people throughout my career as an IO psychologist. My managers have all been inspirational, values driven, and have taught me so much. I have also been surrounded by an amazing team, who have made me look great consistently, all of whom I am eternally grateful to. However, if I had to call out specific individuals Dan Hughes, Philippa Riley and Mary Mescal all deserve eternal kudos from me.

Despite all these amazing people, directly mentioned or alluded to, I inevitably must take this opportunity to thank my parents and my wife. Not only did my parents kindly create me and give me the gift of life, but they also enabled me to fail on numerous occasions, and despite some ‘interesting’ times, they never gave up on me and helped me find my calling. My wife has also enabled me to focus on my career and is my partner in crime. They have all supported me through thick and thin, and anything I have or will achieve is directly due to them.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Talogy is an organization that is comprised of genuine experts in their field, both in the world of psychology and in technology. This enables us to offer a very wide set of solutions around identifying and developing talent within organizations. What differentiates us is our deep expertise across a range of fields and our global nature, this enables us to deal with very specific challenges that other organizations may potentially not be able to.

The sheer range of clients and types of client problems that we deal with are reflective of that diversity of expertise that we have. We work with large corporates to small startups, and across so many industries for example manufacturing, aeronautics, government, social care, public safety, technology, banking, sports, pharmaceuticals, healthcare are all sectors that we work intimately in. We have helped measure human potential in so many ways including resilience, emotional intelligence, inclusion, competence, manual dexterity, cognitive ability, judgement, leadership, engagement, wellbeing to name a few.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

Over a decade ago, we developed a solution that helps enable people to build and develop their resilience, we have used it with many clients internationally with a focus on helping people effectively manage challenge and change. In many ways overcoming setbacks, have been a constant throughout human existence. The pandemic made the challenges that people experience feel more universal, and the true value of wellbeing became clearer to everyone.

During the pandemic and lockdowns, we made the solution freely available to our clients and delivered training and the solution itself for no cost, to help support people with their wellbeing, during that particularly challenging and surreal time.

The project we are working on now is to help enhance this solution, delivering something that can be used globally and enable people to develop their own resilience practice using our technology solutions. The hope is that this solution can make it easier for people to access the tools and protocols and learn about the skills that can enable them to overcome challenges and changes in their lives, so they can survive, adapt, recover, and fundamentally thrive.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Being able to work with organizations, leaders, and employees as part of my role is a privilege. Fundamentally the workplace is not just where we get a paycheck, but also the way many of us can make meaningful change to the world around us. Therefore, helping organizations be more effective via their greatest asset — their people

I am very lucky to have a role where we can bring a little bit of goodness to organizations as part of my position. I also volunteer in order to bring some of the work we do to an audience that I don’t typically interact with i.e., people who are not currently working. Therefore, to bring greater goodness to the world I also try to support employability initiatives with younger people, who are still in education, as the knowledge within the psychological literature may have even greater resonance at this stage of our development.

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. This may be obvious to you, but it is not intuitive to many people. Can you articulate to our readers five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line.

The research and evidence around how diversity can deliver organizational success is very clear. Diversity is sometimes perceived to be solely about ensuring your organization is reflective of underrepresented racial, ethnic and gender demographics. Despite this being a very important part of an organization’s diversity, the concept is much more complex and is reflective of a mix of experiences, identities, sexual orientations, ages, personalities, religions, ideas, and opinions. Ultimately what makes us who we are is very complex and so this needs to be accounted for when we discuss the topic of diversity.

There are many examples of the benefits of diversity, but I will highlight the core themes that seem to come up most regularly:

  1. Greater Innovation:

Diversity in the workplace has shown to lead to a higher rate of innovation and creativity. Innovation is critical for organizations as it enables them to differentiate their services and solutions from that of others. The wider set of perspectives that diversity brings can fuel a team’s ability to consider a wider range of approaches and identify more novel ways of doing things.

According to research, more diverse and inclusive companies are 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders in their market. The study found a strong and statistically significant correlation between the diversity of management teams and overall innovation.

2. Better Decision Making:

Research has also shown that diverse teams are better at making decisions, estimating that diverse teams make better decisions 87% of the time, in comparison to non-diverse teams. A reason for this is that decision-making can be impacted negatively by the assumptions we make and our hardwired biases. Therefore, diverse voices can mitigate this and highlight potential blind spots.

Diversity in decision-making equates to profitability in the global economy as evidenced by a 70% likelihood of capturing new markets by companies with a diverse workforce. Companies with diverse teams are better able to meet the needs of a diverse customer base, which leads to another very tangible benefit.

3. Better Financial Results:

Many organizations with greater diversity in their leadership teams and organization show better financial performance. For example, 20 of the most diverse S&P 500 companies perform better financially over five- and ten-year periods, in comparison to non-diverse firms. These more positive financial results are arguably tied to the better innovation and more effective decision making referenced.

Harvard Business Review provided another example of compelling evidence when they surveyed more than 1,700 companies across eight countries (the U.S., France, Germany, China, Brazil, India, Switzerland, and Austria). What the research showed, was that companies with higher-than-average diversity had both 19% points higher innovation revenues and 9% points higher EBIT margins, on average.

4. Attracting Talent:

Organizations that are dedicated to making their workforce more diverse are seen as more human and socially responsible, which ultimately creates a better reputation in the market. Diversity in the workplace enhances employer brand and has been shown to attract top talent.

A survey by Glassdoor highlights this, where it reported that 67% of active and passive job seekers said that a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers.

5. Engaging Millennials and Gen Z:

Millennials and Gen Z are a significant proportion of the workforce and are a very important component of an organizations current and future success. Consequently, keeping them engaged and happy is critically important.

According to research by Deloitte, 83% of millennials and Gen Z candidates report being actively engaged when their organization fosters an inclusive work environment, versus 60% who report being actively engaged when their organization does not. Therefore, diversity can not only attract employees but ensure that they are able to deliver effectively at work.

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees to thrive?

All industries are going through some significant changes at the moment. Organizations need to look at the big picture and focus on the activities and initiatives that truly create an inclusive and diverse culture, as a sense of belonging is going to be a significant differentiator. As described in the previous section, there are many benefits in creating a diverse workforce. However, it is worth noting that one change in strategy won’t make the difference — it needs a whole suite of changes.

Talogy’s ABC model of inclusion provides a useful framework to help leaders and employees support and advocate an inclusive culture. This model accounts for the fact that all of us are on our own ‘diversity and inclusion journey’ and that we may all be at different stages. The goal is to create an organization of allies, who are keen to promote and encourage diversity and inclusion. So that everyone, in all their uniqueness, can be treated fairly and work together effectively.

Without leaders acting as allies leading the efforts, organizational messaging and behavior can be incongruent and inconsistent. Therefore, they play a critical part in changing culture, and the ABC detailed below can help facilitate a culture that can help employees thrive.

Appreciate: inclusion is the antecedent of change

Allyship begins with an individual’s awareness and appreciation of the issues and experiences of others. This stage is reflective of an individual’s growth in awareness. It may involve an initial step of accepting that equity in society is something worth striving for. Individuals in this phase are identifying the challenges to create an inclusive environment, and becoming open to learn more about their need to act.

Build: an inclusive climate by behavioral change

This stage moves on from an individual gaining awareness and being open to address the challenges of inclusivity to directly building an inclusive environment. Individuals in this phase are helping to build an inclusive, fair and equitable climate by their actions. They are proactively building relationships with others, gathering diverse perspectives, empathizing, actively listening and communicating transparently.

Champion: change by acting as a catalyst for others

The last phase of allyship is one of advocacy. Individuals at this stage take their behavioral commitment to another level. They tend to look for opportunities to affect change formally and informally. To be successful at this stage, individuals need to be courageous, action-oriented, composed and willing to commit.

Having leaders act as allies who appreciate the challenges, are willing to build an inclusive culture, and are eager to champion the changes they would like to see in the world, will ensure the foundation for organizational change is possible

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂

I would love to speak to David Zaslav, the Chief Executive Officer, and President of Warner Bros. Discovery. He has a stellar track record, and with the recent acquisition of Warner Bros has a very exciting challenge ahead. As a movie, television, and music nerd, I would love to understand how he is planning on leading during a time of significant flux for the media industry.

Warner Bros and HBO are some of the most important brands in media and have produced some of the most culture shifting entertainment over the years. I would love to understand more about his general approach to leadership, business and art, and get an insight into how he plans to execute his strategy.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Follow me on the most exciting social media platform of them all LinkedIn

Thank you for these excellent insights. We wish you continued success in your great work.

Ali Shalfrooshan of International Assessment R&D, Talogy On How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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