The data are in. Diverse teams are more innovative, productive, and better at problem solving than homogenous teams. Is there anyone still debating the importance of diversity in the workplace?Probably not, but head knowledge doesn’t always translate into action. Why do so many employers struggle with diversity in the workplace?
Diversity in the New Millennium
Diversity in the new millennium covers a variety of differences: race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ethnicity, marital status, caretaker status, socioeconomic class, sexual orientation, and gender identity are just for starters.
For example, in more recent years we’ve become aware that the way people approach conflict, process outside stimuli (i.e., extroversion versus introversion), and view the cup as half empty or half full all impact our ability to work together effectively.
By default if not by design, then, our workplaces are already diverse and becoming more diverse every day. The Pew Research Center is only one agency predicting a larger and more varied U.S. population in the years to come, and these demographic shifts will naturally continue to affect the workforce. But realizing the benefits of a diverse workforce can’t happen by accident. Like any other aspect of business, diversity must be managed.
Case in point. Since we know diverse teams perform better, one way to manage diversity would be by mindfully creating workplace teams, taking care that various differences are represented.
Another way would be to carefully review how talent is developed within your organization. It’s natural for each of us to gravitate toward those who remind us of ourselves in some way. However, is it possible this tendency is interfering with more effective and equitable ways of grooming leadership within your organization?
Finally, are your hiring processes helping you further your diversity goals? It’s not uncommon for employers to discover that their regular means of sourcing talent (e.g., personal referrals, advertisements in familiar venues, headhunters at familiar agencies, and so on) aren’t producing qualified diverse candidates. Instead, different recruiting methods will be needed to bring about a different result.
Your Customers are Watching
Whatever you’re selling, odds are another company is selling it, too. What that means, of course, is that the way you position your product, including the corporate “face” you show to your customers, is key.
As advertisers have known for quite a while now, the decision to buy and from whom is often emotional. All other things being equal (such as price, quality, and availability), products that appeal to a more diverse customer base will be more popular than those that don’t, because people want to purchase from a company that makes them feel seen.
Companies that project themselves as diverse are also perceived as more fair, progressive, and innovative. Who wouldn’t want that?
Diversity versus Inclusion
That said, it’s not enough to hire a few people who are “different” and call it a day. Instead, employers must work hard at creating an inclusive environment.
Inclusion is the process of making employees feel “a part of” the organization. In inclusive companies, communication is open and transparent, and employees feel heard and respected.
Nearly all employees, regardless of personal characteristics, desired to feel included. It’s no wonder than, that diversity without inclusion is a losing proposition leading to morale, engagement, productivity, and retention issues.
So while workplace diversity most definitely matters, what matters even more is that employers manage the diversity for best results.
Your employees, your customers, and your shareholders are counting on it.