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Diversity in the Workplace, a Work in Progress

7 minute read

If you're working in HR, then you've probably heard, discussed, and read a lot about the hot topic of 'diversity in the workplace' already. 

With workplace culture affecting employee happiness and productivity so vividly, you want to make sure that you do everything to build upon your company values. And implementing such a program is definitely the way to go.

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Statistics on workplace diversity – here, you will find no less than 22 - suggest that companies with a more diverse workplace outperform their competitors and achieve greater profits.

In this article, we’re talking about the 5 most important benefits of adding a diversity program in your company and ideas to implement it.

What exactly is diversity in the workplace?

Diversity in the workplace means that the workforce of a company is composed of people with different characteristics, including employees of varying age, race, cultural background, religion, gender, sexual orientation, language etc.

Another way to answer the question is that workplace diversity is probably one of the most relevant business topics for the near future. In the global market today, companies target audiences from different groups all over the world. A diverse workforce helps to understand differences among people better and successfully market products and services on a global scale.

And from an HR point of view: The millennial generation is much more diverse and outspoken than the baby boomers, and consequently, workplace diversity is a significant consideration in their career choices.

Five benefits of workplace diversity

“Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.”

― Stephen R. Covey, best-selling author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

  • Higher employee engagement

Simple and obvious: If you feel accepted and included, you are more engaged.

  • More creativity and innovation

Diversity in the workplace brings the advantage of a variety of perspectives. When you put together people who see things in different ways, you are likely to get new ideas, creative solutions and a higher innovation rate.

  • A more attractive profile in the job market

A diverse workplace helps to attract and retain talent. One of the 22 stats in the article mentioned above:

“A 2018 survey on the cultural diversity in the workplace shows compelling statistics that up to 80% of people valued diversity.”

If only for this reason, diversity should be one of the pillars of your company culture.

  • Better decision making

Employees with different backgrounds working together come up with more solutions and better results. A study by decision-making platform Cloverpop found that:

“Effective decision-making increases with greater diversity in a team. All-male teams were shown to make better business decisions than individuals 58 per cent of the time, while gender-diverse teams outperformed individuals 73 per cent of the time. Geographically diverse teams, and included members with different genders and at least one age gap of more than 20 years, were the most successful – making better business decisions than individuals 87 per cent of the time.”

  • More profit

These benefits all add up to a stronger competitive position and higher profits. That is not a new insight. A McKinsey survey, conducted between 2008 and 2010 among 80 publicly traded companies in Europe and the US, found that companies with more diverse executive teams were also top financial performers. “That’s probably no coincidence” is the understated conclusion. And it is not far-fetched to assume that what works for executive boards of listed companies, also works for the crew of your small neighbourhood eatery: diversity pays off.

Diversity should be an integral part of the company culture

However, the benefits of a diverse workforce are not correlated to the degree of diversity, but in the way employers and managers deal with diversity. An attitude of ‘well, since we have to, let us try and make the best of it' will not do much good. Diversity should be one of the building blocks of your company culture; you might even make it one of your core values.

As argued in 'What’s Culture Got to Do With Employee Loyalty & Retention?'the culture of a company is one of the most important factors for employee well-being and, as a direct result, for attracting and retaining talent, for commitment and performance.

One quote from this article seems applicable to diversity in the workplace especially:

“Relationships are a two-way street and require active commitment, participation and support from both sides. Sometimes miscommunication, misunderstandings and a general inability to see the other person’s perspective can create friction.”

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Some practical tips

  • Educate yourself

Learn about different cultural traditions and approaches to work. Take the time to get to know the various backgrounds of your employees.

  • Train managers

An inclusive culture starts at the top. Make sure that managers understand the importance of workplace diversity and can support people from diverse backgrounds.

  • Ask for new perspectives and ideas.

Actively seek the help of employees with different backgrounds when tackling problems and making decisions. Their insights, shaped by diverse life experiences, may provide solutions you would never have considered on your own.

  • Celebrate!

Create a culturally diverse holiday calendar, and if you can not throw a party, make it a point to acknowledge every holiday. Personal well-wishes, for example, via an employee communication app can mean a lot for a sense of belonging.

Conclusion

Diversity in the workplace is not just a trendy topic; it is the future of work. For many companies, it is still a work in progress since it asks for a change in attitudes and different ways of working together. The biggest pitfall is the tendency to expect employees from several backgrounds to adapt to the ways of others. Instead, cultural, religious and other differences should be embraced for their benefits.

Interested to know how workplace culture strengthens employee loyalty and relationships? Download our latest infographic here!

Rob is a content writer, copywriter and novelist. His work for Apple, WWF, Mercedes-Benz and many other brands has been awarded with prestigious creative awards.

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