There is no end to the benefits of diversity in the workplace; this has been documented by leading academic institutions and organizations. The Harvard Business Review, well-known for its integrity and zeal, has published numerous accounts. Once an ‘initiative’ that leading companies were commended for, it has now become a necessity for organizations across the world.
Diversity in the workplace is no longer something that should be looked at merely from a political or social perspective, but from a larger global perspective that is relevant and required for businesses to thrive.
HR strategists, company CEOs, and business leaders have learned that the most productive workforce is one that has a team with cognitive diversity and, more importantly, an inclusive attitude to absolutely everyone.
DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) initiatives are a top priority in the current times. Here are five Fortune 500 companies that make it to the top 20 in terms of diversity:
What you will notice is that these companies have always championed diversity. It has been a core part of their core philosophy, and it can be derived that the benefits of diversity are clear to see from their success.
That these names are on the list, does not mean that your company, however small or distant from Fortune 500 listings it may be, doesn’t have to take diversity and inclusion seriously.
What Does Diversity in the Workplace Mean?
Diversity in the workplace is when employers, with intent, hire individuals from varying backgrounds and with a range of attributes. This is common knowledge; however, reports reveal that not enough is being done to achieve true diversity.
Forbes reveals that 57% of managers accept that they aren’t doing enough. 41% of them say that they are, in fact, too busy to be able to implement such initiatives. This is quite a staggering report, considering the importance and relevance of diversity. Especially given that the same article states that companies that have an inclusive environment are likely to have a 35% better bottom line.
Decision-makers have to make more of an effort to make diversity a part of an organization’s culture. It must be so ingrained into every aspect of your organization’s workings that it must be a culture and indeed a way of life.
In theory, diversity shouldn’t have to be implemented; it should be a default act. However, owing to the reality in which we live, we rely on creating impactful and transformative company cultures to reap the benefits of diversity in the workplace.
Challenges of diversity in the workplace
Diversity can present some challenges in the workplace. For example, people from different backgrounds may have difficulty communicating with each other. They may also have different work styles and values.
Diversity can also create tension and conflict within a team. People may feel like they are being treated unfairly or that they are not being given the same opportunities as others.
However, diversity can also lead to a more creative and innovative workplace. When people from different backgrounds work together, they can bring new perspectives and ideas. Diversity can also help a company to better understand and serve its customers.
Types of diversity in the workplace
Genetic predispositions, socio-cultural experiences, and education can shape and alter your identity. While there are an endless number of factors that define diversity, here are a few of the most common ones:
It’s a given that in today’s workplaces, at any given time, there are several generations of people working together. Each generation has had their own social, economic, and political influences that have played a role in shaping their views on life. Therefore, each person has their own unique skills and perspectives to offer to the workplace. People have to be mindful to avoid projecting stereotypes on someone on the basis of their age. For example, you may assume that baby boomers are workaholics, whereas millennials and Gen Z tend to care about job security and culture more deeply.
Gender roles are social constructs that are assigned at birth based on one’s biological sex. These stereotypes might also influence how a person moves along in their professional roles and overcomes barriers - a key example is the glass barrier that is present between men and women. It’s also important to remember that outside of the typical male and female genders, there is a spectrum of gender identities such as queer, genderfluid, and non-binary. These identities are defined by the individual and they may be different from how you would perceive their identity. The best practice is to ask people for their preferred pronouns, while also sharing your own.
There’s a common misconception that ethnicity and race are the same. While race is biologically determined, ethnicity is based on learned behaviors. A person’s ethnicity is dependent on their culture, heritage, history, language, and ancestry. Examples of ethnicity include people who identify as hispanic, jewish, or latinx.
Sexual orientation is your identity in terms of who you're attracted to and who you feel drawn to romantically, emotionally, and sexually. Common sexual orientations include lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT). There is a well-established body of research that indicates that LGBTQ+ people continue to experience social exclusion. That’s why it’s vital to embrace diversity; it fosters innovation and boosts creativity.
One billion people, or 15% of the world's population, experience some form of disability. That just goes to show that workplaces need to accept, adapt and be more inclusive. Some forms of inclusivity are: ensuring your office spaces have ramps, visual aids, screen readers, as well as space for a service animal, if need be.
A lot of things make up a person’s cultural identity, including food, language, religion, and traditions. Working with people who belong to different cultures offers you a wealth of learning opportunities. In French culture, for example, it is normal to give people cheek kisses, but this may come across as inappropriate to someone from Japan or India. What’s important is that you educate your team on celebrating differences and being open to explore each other’s cultures.
In this era of remote work, it’s quite possible that you’ve had the chance to work with someone from a different country. A person’s country of origin offers them a set of cultural traits that they can consider as a part of their identity.
How to manage diversity in the workplace?
Managing diversity in the workplace is about creating an inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and respected. It's about understanding and valuing differences, and recognizing that everyone has something to contribute.
There are a few things you can do to manage diversity in the workplace:
- Communicate with your team members regularly. This will help you to understand their needs and concerns.
- Be aware of your own biases and assumptions. We all have them, but it's important to try to check them at the door.
- Encourage open communication and dialogue. Diversity can be a sensitive subject, but it's important to create an environment where people feel comfortable talking about it.
- Promote equality and fairness in the workplace. Everyone should have the same opportunities, regardless of their background or identity.
Diversity is what makes us unique and it's something to be celebrated. By managing diversity in the workplace, we can create a more inclusive and innovative environment where everyone feels valued and respected.
How to improve diversity in the workplace
Diversity should be an important consideration in all aspects of the workplace. Here are a few ways you can improve diversity at your workplace:
1. Review your hiring practices
Audit your current hiring practices and identify potential discrepancies. Re-word job descriptions to make them accessible for diverse candidates to apply to. You could also take referrals from minority employees, offer workplace flexibility, and display your existing diverse workforce on your company website.
2. Evaluate your company culture
Create an inclusive environment where everyone feels comfortable and respected. Celebrate important holidays, rituals, and experiences of people belonging to diverse groups. What’s most important is to walk the talk - encourage employees from diverse backgrounds to apply for top leadership roles. Some examples include Alibaba, where more than one-third of Alibaba Group’s founders are women, and a similar percentage are in senior executive roles.
3. Promote equality and fairness
Ensure that everyone has the same opportunities, regardless of their background or identity. Stereotyping, however unintentional, should be avoided. Not only can stereotypes make people feel vulnerable, but they can also impact work-related decisions such as recruitment, training, promotion, allocating work, and compensation. In a similar vein, dismissing harassment by labeling it as ‘workplace banter’ or ‘they don’t mean anything by it’ is harmful. Another aspect to think about is ensuring that your workplace policies aren’t putting certain groups at a disadvantage. For instance, having a ‘clean cut’ policy could discriminate against someone who wears their hair long for religious reasons.
4. Encourage employees to be open about their backgrounds and experiences
Diversity can be a sensitive subject, but it's important to create an environment where people feel comfortable talking about it. Let your employees feel heard. Host events that allow people to share their culture, and/or have dedicated spaces for prayer and meditation.
5. Educate yourself and your employees about diversity
Diversity training can help everyone be more aware of diversity issues and work together more cohesively. Consider hosting awareness training sessions to educate employees on the concept of workplace equity. Audit your company culture frequently to align employee behavior with company values. When necessary, conduct basic training sessions on anti-racism, anti-sexism, cultural sensitivity, human resource compliance, and others.
5 Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace
1. Boosts creativity and innovation
If your workforce is diverse, the more creative it is likely to be. This has to do with access to various types of knowledge, cultural diversity & upbringings.
For example, a company with a goal of achieving sustainable agriculture will do well to have agricultural scientists, B.Sc. Agriculture graduates, and farmers who may have no formal education, but a treasure trove of experience and knowledge. They are likely to bring in ideas that these well-studied individuals may not have even considered.
2. Builds company culture
Job seekers are very tuned into what is right and wrong. Many want to work in organizations that value diversity and inclusion, and equally have a strong ethical pull. How your workplace makes employees of diverse backgrounds feel is important for being able to attract talent and also contribute to employee engagement.
3. Brings more perspectives to the table
Having diverse teams ensures that you have more perspectives. This aids in problem-solving and finding new ways to do things better.
4. Increases collaboration
People want to learn from other people. This is also essential for employee growth and business growth. And what better way to learn about things you don’t know than by working with someone with a completely different set of skills and background than you? Diverse teams foster improved collaboration and arguably better results.
5. Improves productivity levels
People from diverse backgrounds have different ways of working. When put together, it is natural for people to gravitate towards behavior that your organization considers positive. This means that if you put a set of people together who have different performance levels, you are likely to achieve an overall improvement in performance, and as a direct result, your productivity increases. Gaps in knowledge, or rather differences in knowledge, help team members to want to improve. This nurtures a company’s objective of improving employee development.
Diversity is what makes us unique and it's something to be celebrated. By improving diversity in the workplace, we can create a more inclusive and innovative environment where everyone feels valued and respected.
While the steps we’ve covered in this blog are a great place to start, remember that building for diversity isn’t a trend; it’s something you do to create lasting change. The easiest way to enable this change while also managing a diverse and distributed workforce is to leverage technology to make more data-driven, unbiased decisions. Book a free demo of our amazing performance management tool today to know more.
Workplace diversity can take your company culture to a whole new level. Using a performance management tool like Mesh can help you leverage the performance of your diverse and distributed workforce. Book a free demo today!