What is diversity?
Diversity is about empowering people by respecting and appreciating what makes them different, in terms of age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability, education, religion, and how we think.
Why is diversity important?
The world today is increasingly more globalised and interconnected, so businesses should take advantage of the diverse range of skills individuals from different backgrounds can bring. Companies which encourage diversity typically have high performing, inspiring teams, which are more successful.
- Increase productivity – Diversity brings together different talents and skills. Each employee can learn from each other’s experiences and apply this to their work, enabling them to bring fresh ideas to projects, creating a more productive environment.
- Improve creativity – With so many different and diverse minds working together, more creative solutions are formed as each individual brings their personal way of thinking and perspective to the table.
- Improve employee engagement – What better way to learn about other cultures, lifestyles and ethnicities than from colleagues? Participate in company social events or invite them out for lunch so it is a more natural environment for employees to get to know each other.
- Reduce employee turnover – A company that embraces workplace diversity is seen as more progressive and immediately entices a wider pool of candidates to job vacancies. This results in the company being spoilt for choice and ending up with a more qualified workforce which is more likely to succeed.
- Improve cultural insight – Employees that embrace cultural difference reduces the negative aspects of diversity such as racism, homophobia, sexism and so on.
What can go wrong?
With the average person spending an estimated 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime, in close proximity to one another, conflict will inevitably arise, and without careful consideration and planning, workplace diversity can fan the flames. Senior leaders need to be aware of the potential issues they could face so they can prepare strategies to combat and overcome them.
Miscommunication – When you have a diverse workforce, communication between team members can become very challenging e.g. language barriers, cultural differences and even gender and age gaps. Ineffective communication can result in lack of productivity, motivation, teamwork and low morale.
Stereotypes and prejudice – Negative cultural stereotypes can be seriously damaging to company morale and affect productivity as colleagues are less inclined to work together e.g. unconscious bias can create distrust in the ability to perform jobs effectively.
Lack of trust – If colleagues don’t have trust with one another, it can spread around the company like wildfire. This can lead to a cycle of unhealthy responses, inappropriate language and stress, which in turn will affect engagement and overall productivity.
Retention of bad talent – If your company’s objective is to diversify then there could be a risk of retaining bad talent to meet diversity targets. If this includes poor performers, you could see a dramatic reduction in morale, innovation, productivity, and resentment in other team members.
How to make things right.
- Review your recruitment practices – Take a look at your job advertisements, job descriptions and specifications – make sure they are neutral and free from bias, to attract a wider pool of good quality candidates.
- Establish mentoring opportunities - Provide employees with the opportunity to be mentored by colleagues from different backgrounds, cultures, gender and age to improve communication, increase engagement, build trust and grow relationships.
- Promote team work - Make sure you encourage and support employees in the creation of cross-functional teams, focusing on key strengths. This could include people from all levels of an organisation with different perspectives, backgrounds, education, gender, and age, ensuring everyone has a voice.
- Make inclusion a priority - Support employees not just in terms of diversity but also inclusion within the workplace. Ensure all employees feel their differences are respected by adapting to certain requirements such as prayer times or religious holidays.
- Provide diversity training - Encourage employees to accept differences and value the opinions of others by providing diversity training. This will help to generate awareness and help to strengthen diversity initiatives in the workplace. By keeping an open mind, you can establish common ground where everyone can respect and embrace diversity.
Embrace diversity today.
Read our Appreciating Diversity: Leadership Essentials for more way to boost your know-how in this critical topic.