Over the years, there have been so many published reports, articles, and data available relaying the benefits and organizational improvements achieved by increasing diversity in the workplace. However, something that is rarely spoken about is the “it factor” that brings competitiveness, success, and innovation to organizations once they embrace diversity.
This performance advantage can be explained by a concept our team at Jennifer Tardy Consulting defines as LEQ – Lived Experience Intelligence™. Lived Experience Intelligence (LEI) is the particular set of knowledge, skills, and abilities that develops out of life events and occurrences in which one has been engaged, ultimately enhancing insight and perspective.
It is not enough, however, to have LEI. It must be applied in order for it to yield organizational effectiveness in the workplace. Now, the application of LEI can be thought of as a ‘quotient' relating to how much an individual uses their lived experiences as an asset. This brings me to the definition of Lived Experience Quotient (LEQ).
LEQ is the extent (quotient) to which one exercises the knowledge, skills, and abilities that one has developed through life events, applying and expressing them in one's thinking and actions, and using them as an asset.
In simple terms, LEI is what you have; LEQ is what you use.
Too often, leaders believe that increasing diversity means hiring people based on characteristics like race, sexual orientation, and gender. Remember this. Hiring based on protected characteristics, like the above, is illegal, plus it leads to negative downstream implications for the person hired, such as others questioning whether they were truly qualified. Avoid this practice at all costs. In addition, how one identifies is not the critical element that creates such great outcomes for employers.
It is the lived experiences—influenced and generated by how one identifies—that creates unique perspectives and new considerations. Leveraging these perspectives and considerations is what creates value and, ultimately, competitiveness for workplaces.
Here's how I want you to think about LEQ and DEI initiatives in your workplace. Candidates should be hired, praised, and rewarded because of how unique their perspectives and considerations are—which means embracing LEQ. Hiring based on LEQ is a way to move the needle to make diversity recruiting simply recruiting. In other words, it makes diversity recruiting embedded into the fabric of workplace recruitment policies, practices, and behaviors.
Candidates should be hired, praised, and rewarded because of their unique perspectives and considerations.
Current recruitment practices assign value to candidates based on types of learned experience. When we focus on knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) gained through education, training, and work experience, we are implicitly valuing things that have been learned a certain way. Hiring candidates based on KSAs is a proactive means of assigning value and competitiveness to applicants during the recruitment process, and it typically raises their perceived value to the organization with each KSA they report that aligns with the essential functions of the role. But to increase diversity, we have to be willing to think beyond learned experiences.
In contrast to KSAs, lived experiences are human experiences and circumstances that create a distinctive type of internal knowledge (LEQ), which can equally foster valuable skills and knowledge. Focusing on LEQ can enhance diversity in your workplace by enabling you to bring in multi-dimensional perspectives.
The more LEI your employees have around the actual lived experiences of your customers, the better they can develop new ideas to serve them, if that intelligence is applied as LEQ within the workplace. When your organizational LEQ aligns with your target markets and institutional goals in this way, you have acquired relevant LEQ as an institution. The more thoroughly your organization understands the lived experiences of your customers, the more positively nuanced your products and service offerings will be, giving them—and your organization—a competitive edge in the marketplace. So, we see how applying the values of LEQ within your organization will deepen your understanding of your customers, allowing you to better grasp how they perceive the world and what they do and do not consider. In other words, understanding your customers is key to selling to them. LEQ offers you a new dimension of understanding in doing this, one that is often overlooked but one that I believe is of considerable value.
The more thoroughly your organization understands the lived experiences of your customers, the more positively nuanced your products and service offerings will be.
For the LEQ model to increase diversity in a productive and sustainable way, it must be applied systematically; in other words, the LEQ logic and values must be fully integrated organization-wide, at every level, and in each phase of the employee lifecycle, not just recruiting. LEQ should be integrated into recruitment, onboarding, development, and retention / separation policies and procedures.
Alongside hiring to increase diversity and raise organizational LEQ, it is essential to have strategies in place to promote a culture of inclusion, and belonging. If employees do not feel comfortable in the workplace, then the fullness of their LEQ and the talent they bring will not find expression in their work. The organizational LEQ of the institution will, in effect, be reduced. Without an inclusive environment, an organization may have a low functional LEQ, even if it has a high ‘latent' LEQ through increased diversity recruitment.
We are in a season where it is no longer a question of whether an employer values diversity. The benefits are everywhere, and study after study demonstrates the value, from improving business performance to unlocking a team's creative superpowers. It is now a question of whether you understand the value of LEQ and how it can transform the workplace. If organizations truly understand the impacts and benefits of collective organizational LEQ, the workplace would be clamoring for opportunities to increase diversity.
Download Jenn Tardy's free report at the Lived Experience Intelligence™ site.