In this era of globalization, diversity in the business environment is about more than gender, race and ethnicity. It now includes employees with diversereligious and political beliefs, education, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual orientation, cultures and even disabilities. Companies are discovering that, by supporting and promoting a diverse and inclusive workplace, they are gaining benefits that go beyond the optics.
Embracing many dimensions of difference and creating a culture of inclusion are key success factors for companies today.
A Boston Consulting Group study found that companies with more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenues due to innovation. This finding is significant for tech companies, start-ups and industries where innovation is the key to drive growth. There is no doubt that workplace diversity can boost innovation, better problem solving capabilities, better customer engagement and profit.
There are different types of diversity that one must pay attention to, whether you are into hiring, leading or managing people. So lets look at different types of diversities.
1. Gender diversity
Achieving gender equality is important for workplaces not only because it is ‘fair’ and ‘the right thing to do,’ but because it is also linked to a country’s overall economic performance. According to McKinsey, the most gender-diverse companies are 21% more like to experience above-average profitability.
Companies that don’t encourage women to join them are missing out on the talents and abilities of half the population. Women bring in perspectives and point of views that are different from men. Women are more empathetic and they possess stronger skills in reading nonverbal cues. You see, customers come from all walks of life. Women are hugely influential when it comes to making purchasing decisions. According to a study in 2018, women globally spent about 40 trillion US dollars. That’s a lot of buying power to connect with.
2) Age diversity
Different age groups in a team can drive better performance.A workforce composed of different age demographics creates an environment where each generation brings different skills and talents to the table.
Indeed, companies that don’t embrace a multi-generational workplace are narrowing their options. Rather than considering the multi-generational workplace as a liability or challenge, managers would be better off looking at it as an opportunity. There is a tendency in tech companies to favour young candidates when recruiting for new positions.
Younger generations may have an advantage when it comes to technological fluency and the latest trends, but older generations have a head start in other areas. Attributes such as leadership, strategic thinking, industry knowledge, emotional intelligence and soft skills can take decades to develop – and these will be much sought-after skills in the future of work.
Having a multigenerational workforce will strengthen your business processes. Having a mature funnel of ideas from older workers as well as fresh input from younger employees can expand a business’s horizons.
In many sense, age diversity also means skill diversity. Just as young employees bring certain qualities to the table, so do older ones. An organization, which has diverse skill set can meet the demands of all age category.
Experience of the older work force and fresh ideas of the younger work force is a great combination to generate new ideas that can lead to better innovation.
People with good experience will always have matured opinion and will execute any ideas from fresher’s in a systematic approach. In this way, all the interesting ideas or opinions will come to execution much faster.
Age diversity can also create mutual mentors in an organization. Organizations can launch initiatives such as a two-way mentoring program, which has several advantages to consider. Primarily, experienced workers can teach their younger peers everything they know and vice versa.
Age diversity can work completely on your favor if you know how to reduce its downsides. One of the most common challenges, which age diversity faces, is lack of communication. Also different age groups have different work priorities. What might seem attractive to younger employees may not necessarily spark the same level of interest with older employees. Moreover prejudices, ego tussles and political favoritism within groups can deteriorate the boons of the age diversity.
3. Racial/ Ethnic or Cultural Diversity
Cultural diversity in the workplace is a result of practices, values, traditions, or beliefs of employees based on race, age, ethnicity, religion, or gender.
From your customers stand point, having a diverse workforce builds trust in your brand with a diverse target market. Today leading corporations attract and retain multi cultural, multi talented work forces with an aim to serve a multitude of new customers in emerging and unexplored markets.
Cultural diversity is an excellent strategy for high economic out put. If you study the GDPs of certain cities like New York, Dubai, London and Singapore you will learn that cities with higher cultural diversity scores over others. Research shows that there is a direct correlation between high-skilled immigration and an increase in the level of innovation and economic performance in cities and regions.
If you are looking for business expansion to enter new regions and markets then you must take cultural diversity seriously. A multicultural workforce can give an organization an important edge when expanding into new markets. Often, a product or service needs to be adapted to succeed overseas. Your culturally diverse workforce can give you native and first hand information about local laws, regulations, and customs, as well as the competitive landscape of each markets.
If your organization has a reputation for being culturally diverse, then you have a better edge at attracting the best talent pool. Higher-educated candidates who experienced diversity while at university may feel that a diverse company is more progressive and therefore will want to work there.
Valuing diversity also gives the company the freedom to go after the most talented people, regardless of differences.
According to a Glassdoor survey, two thirds of job hunters indicated that diversity was important to them when evaluating companies and job offers. In a competitive global job market, demonstrating that your business is invested in fostering a multicultural and inclusive environment can make you stand out to the right candidates.
Companies increasingly understand the value of recruiting and retaining diverse employees, as these workers play a critical role in a company’s ability to adapt, grow and sustain a competitive advantage in the modern business landscape.
However, some companies fail to recognize the benefits of having a racially and ethnically diverse workforce. Factors such as prejudice and stereotypes towards certain racial or ethnic groups, whether conscious or unconscious, can lead to discriminatory practices in hiring. Then there is implicit Bias also known as unconscious or hidden bias. Implicit biases are negative associations that people unknowingly hold. They are expressed automatically, without conscious awareness. Implicit biases are expressed through cultural prejudices and stereotypes. Therefore companies must train their people to eliminate their unconscious bias.
4. Other diversities
Other diversities like disabilities and diversity in sexual orientation LGBT community, political or religious views, must also be inclusive for diversity and inclusion.
The very purpose for diversity &inclusion is to treat everyone with fairness, respect and equality.
Diversity means difference, A team works best not when its members are identical, but when they are compatible, complementary and able to cooperate. That’s why a group of people who think and work alike may ultimately fail, while a dream team of disparate individuals might be extremely successful.
Bottom line, multiple voices, perspectives, and personalities bouncing off one another can give rise to out-of-the-box thinking.
Team diversity can clearly add strength. But it’s up to the manager who creates the team to make sure diversity leads to an invigorating environment that sparks innovation, creativity and fresh thinking rather than a hodgepodge of irreconcilable differences.
With so many different and diverse minds coming and working together, many more solutions will arise as every individual brings in their personal way of thinking, operating and solving problems and making decisions. Companies that encourage diversity in the workplace inspire all of their employees to perform to their highest ability.
Ultimately the true benefit of diversity and inclusion is perspective power. Cognitive diversity challenges the status-quo, make teams and companies to innovate and thrive in these ever changing business landscape.
It’s important to turn knowledge into actionable policies while considering diversity and inclusion. Here are few steps to take action:
- Create written policies – Companies should include their policy in relation to diversity in their employee handbook. The policy should contain information about non-discrimination laws, the code of conduct and the compensation and benefits policy.
- Impose a zero-tolerance policy – After employees have received the handbook and training about diversity issues, the company needs to set the tone about how violations will be dealt with. Employees should be aware that inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated and every reported incident will be taken seriously.
- Provide sensitivity training – Employees should be provided with sensitivity training to create a better workplace culture. Sensitivity training can help employees to eliminate implicit biases, value views that are different, understand words, and actions that cause offense and what needs to be done if they’ve been offended.
- Keep Diversity &Inclusion a top priority when hiring.
- Embrace differences. Search for candidates who aren’t just like you—they’ll bring different points of view to the table and can contribute valuable insights.
- Find a hiring strategy that boosts gender diversity without ignoring merit. Research has found that when women feel they’ve been hired to fill quotas, it negatively impacts their relationship with coworkers.
- Get specific. Look at diversity within each business unit of your company, not just overall. This can ensure each department and team is positively impacted. Form teams with diversity and inclusion in mind. When people get too comfortable with their age category, gender, start getting comfortable due to language, religion or regional connection, they tend to form groups within groups. This largely hinders the growth of the company. Cultivate an engaged work culture that encourages men and women from different age group and ethnic backgrounds to form productive relationships and motivates teams to boost performance.
- Choose political leaders who value inclusiveness.
Work environment can reflet a lot of political views. There is a growing polorization fuelled by identity politics and the resurgence of nationalist ideals. Building social cohesion based on the ‘us versus them’ model, works well for political formations of idealogies but it’s a tompstone for organizations that want to benefit from cultural diversity and inclusion.
Differences should not stop you from embracing diversity. You must learn to complement differences. Whenever you put different groups of people together, some conflicts are bound to arise—and the workplace is by no means immune to this phenomenon. Knowing that a good chunk of management involves understanding employees’ motivations, backgrounds, and goals, you will learn to negotiate and build on differences as well as similarities.