Workplace diversity simply means the variety of differences between individuals in an organization. Diversity does not only include how individuals identify themselves but also how others see them. Diverse workplaces are composed of employees with varying characteristics including, but not limited to, religious and political beliefs, gender, ethnicity, education, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation and geographic location, as well as other distinct differences between people.
Due to the ever-changing business environment, entrepreneurs are beginning to adopt diversity policies and strategies that favour their employees, clients, vendors and suppliers. Diversity in the workplace brings with it a host of potential benefits, as well as potential conflicts for business owners to manage. This is why entrepreneurs are advised to seek ways to incorporate diversity into their workplaces without altering the key ways their companies operate. Creating a diverse workplace may include recruiting from diverse talent pools to make the company open to employees from various backgrounds. It can also be inculcated into advertising practices to make sure products and services are targeted to all consumers who represent the target market, whether through print, online, television or radio.
In this current age, diversity can add varied ideas and perspectives to a workplace. Reports have it that employers who employ diverse workforce make their businesses available to a wide range of ideas. Businesses compile these varied opinions and ideas as they make decisions about how to start, run and finance their operations and market their products or services. You need to understand that businesses that set out to employ a diverse workforce, rather than settling for a homogeneous environment, open their businesses to a larger pool of applicants.
This in turn helps increase their ability to access candidates who are most qualified for the positions they’re looking to fill. Although diverse workforce aren’t limited to employees from different countries who speak more than one language or have different ethnic backgrounds, employees with these characteristics are beneficial to companies looking to expand or improve existing operations in national, regional or local markets. Have it in mind that expansion will grow profits for companies, but it still depends on location and target market of the business. It is also very necessary to state that diverse workforce may be plagued with issues if employees are not well equipped with the knowledge they need to communicate effectively with their co-workers, irrespective of their differences. But diversity training can help reduce interpersonal conflicts within a company.
Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace
Indeed there are concrete, real benefits of diversity in any workplace. A lot of companies understand the need to bring together diverse employees, but they don’t clearly know the benefits of a diverse workforce. When planning to bring together a diverse workforce, you need to understand that diversity is not a bingo card with squares you can check off. Diversity doesn’t just mean racial diversity either – it can include national diversity (employees with green cards), women (especially in male-dominated fields), LGBTQIA employees, religious diversity, disabled employees, and even just employees with varied and diverse work experiences. In short, diversity comes in all shapes and sizes. You need to consider all these in your planning and decide the best form for your business. The core benefits of diversity in the workplace may include;
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Diversity creates innovation
If everyone acts and thinks alike in a workplace, you will probably see the same old result and approach when it comes to products, distribution, marketing, management and sales. But by working with people of different backgrounds, experiences and working styles, creative concepts can be born from bouncing ideas off of each other and offering feedback and suggestions. For instance, one person may be very good at generating exciting, out of the box ideas, another individual may have the necessary experience to execute it; so it is essential to play on each individual’s strengths and collaborate with others in the team. Diverse teams have been shown to be more productive, more creative, and more innovative than teams consisting of teammates within a similar demographic. Promoting diversity not only within your organization as a whole, but within departments or teams will boost your company’s productivity.
Diverse Language Skills
Your business will have a lot to gain from workplace diversity, especially if you plan to expand into global markets. For instance, a company with employees fluent in Chinese and who understand Chinese culture will find it very easy to communicate with representatives from China. Most bilingual workers have a good advantage when applying for jobs because businesses are beginning to understand the benefits of language diversity. Language barriers and cultural differences can often act as a bit of an obstacle for a company; but by hiring employees who speak different languages it can make it possible for a company to work on a global basis and interact with a broader client-base.
Improves your organization’s culture
You need to understand that Millennials are the most diverse working generation in history. When your organization is perceived as accepting, diverse, and inclusive, it’ll increase your talent pool, draw in star candidates, and create a happier, more productive workplace. A lot of Millennials look for the ability to bring their ‘whole’ selves with them to work – they don’t want to worry about discrimination for being authentically themselves. Establishing a diverse workplace can improve retention, increase your chances of snagging your favourite potential hire, and improve morale. Individuals from diverse backgrounds can offer a selection of different talents, skills and experiences, that may be of benefit to the organisation and their work performance. Have it in mind that some crossover of skills can be beneficial when it comes to assisting each other, which is why it is advisable that you hire people with the appropriate skills to fit each of the roles within the company. A variety of skills and experiences among the team also means that employees can learn from each other.
Improves your company’s brand
You need to understand that job seekers are naturally attracted to companies with diverse workforce because it is evident that the companies do not practice employment discrimination. These employees want to know that employers treat their staff fairly regardless of race, ethnicity or gender. Not only are such firms able to attract new talent but they can also retain existing talent because of high employee morale resulting from workforce diversity. Also creating a diverse workforce can improve your customers’ opinion of you. Don’t forget that people look for the same qualities in the companies that they purchase from as they do from companies they might work for. Diverse companies show consumers that they are inclusive, global minded, innovative, and looking toward the future.
Fact-based decision making
Millions of Americans are employed by foreign-owned companies. Companies now understand the importance of employing people who represent diverse populations and points of view to compete on this world stage. Reports have it that diverse groups tend to focus on facts when making decisions. They don’t make decisions using only the old-school ways of thinking rather they examine and re-examine facts to remain objective, thus making better decisions for their company. Non-homogeneous groups are more able than homogenous groups to identify their biases and work to keep them at bay when making important business decisions.
Disadvantage of Diversity in the workplace
Statistics has it that more than 25 million people working in the U.S. are foreign-born, and in less than three decades, the country will be a truly pluralistic society with no single group holding a majority. So to properly compete and succeed in this new age, you need to take a close look at the benefits and disadvantages of diversity in the workplace.
- Communication Issues
In every business, good communication amongst the workforce is a driving factor for success. Unfortunately, diversity can be in the way, and can directly impact productivity because of a lack of cohesiveness. This disadvantage remains one of the reasons why some companies catering to international customers hire multilingual or bilingual customer service reps.
- Little or no freedom of speech
To maintain peace in a diverse workplace, an employee must be sensitive to others’ race, cultural background, beliefs, etc. For instance, you don’t just crack jokes about the Chinese or Indians, because it won’t be as acceptable as when a stand-up comedian would do it. In a diverse work community, people can’t freely state their opinions or tell stories whenever they want for fear of being judged as discriminating. So aside from the communication gap, freedom of speech is also a disadvantage of diversity in the workplace. Imagine working in an environment where you need to always tread carefully.
- Heightened cost of training
It’s very important to state that aside from the usual training, a company with plans to grow must invest in seminars, programs and lectures designed to promote diversity in the workplace. If unity is to be achieved, such training is very pertinent as they will teach employees how to accept thoughts, ideas and personalities of others in the workplace. Note that it will also provide information on how to deal with prejudice and conflict in a civilized and professional manner.
- Fosters competition
Agreeably, competition in the workplace is very good as it can help drive success and higher productivity. But have it in mind that when employees do not accept other cultures in a diverse workplace, they are likely to compete against each other, rather than become collaborative members of a team. This results in divisions where people prefer to work separately, prolonging the process of task or project completion. This can have a negative impact on business because progress will be slow moving. There is strength in numbers, after all.
- Creates disrespect and integration issues
It’s very necessary that you note that the same people who don’t accept other cultures are likely to openly show disrespect and indifference. In many workplaces, this has lead to unnecessary tension and communication issues in the workplace. The problem with a highly tense or hostile workplace is that everyone is affected, including those that accept and respect diversity in the workplace. Even in a non-diverse workplace, exclusive social groups or cliques naturally happen, more so in a diverse workforce. When such groups form, informal divisions can occur, which will impede social integration. It will also lead to a situation where culturally diverse employees will avoid each other. This can hinder the effective sharing of knowledge, experience, skills, resulting in decreased productivity, team efficacy, and business growth.
How to Manage Diversity in the Workplace
The threats posed by diversity in a workplace can be mitigated if an organization makes a concerted effort to encourage a more heterogeneous environment through promoting a culture of tolerance, open communication and creating conflict management strategies to address issues that may arise. Note that for any business leadership to effectively manage diversity in the workplace, they need to understand their backgrounds and how their behaviour and beliefs can affect their decision-making within a diverse environment. Ways to manage diversity in a workplace may include;
Base standards on objective criteria
It’s very crucial that you set one standard of rules for all groups of employees irrespective of their backgrounds. Make sure that all employment actions, including discipline, follow this standardized criteria to make sure each employee is treated the same.
Keep an open mind
It’s advisable that you understand, and encourage employees to recognize, that one’s own experience, background, and culture are not the only with value to the organization. Look for ways to incorporate a diverse range of perspectives and talents into efforts to achieve organizational goals.
To properly and successfully manage a diverse workplace, organizations need to make sure that they effectively communicate with employees. Policies, procedures, safety rules and other important information should be established to overcome language and cultural barriers by translating materials and using pictures and symbols whenever applicable.
Manage each employee as an individual
You need to learn how to avoid making assumptions about employees from different backgrounds. It’s advisable that you look at each employee as an individual and judge successes and failures on the individual’s merit rather than attributing actions to their background.
Encourage employees to work in diverse groups
Have it in mind that diverse work teams let employees get to know and value one another on an individual basis and can help break down preconceived notions and cultural misunderstandings.
You need to understand that creating a diverse workforce, though advisable and powerful, comes with a lot of pitfalls and threats. The way to reduce the number of issues your workplace encounters will stem from planning. You have to establish guidelines for employee behaviour and compensation will be important, as will creating resources and supporting diverse employees. Note that establishing policies upfront will help to circumvent these unfortunate occurrences, ensure that your workplace is accessible and inclusive, and improve employee satisfaction. Although the benefits of diversity in the workplace can be wonderful, it is advisable that any business willing to tread this path must go into it with their eyes open. If you are smart and thoughtful about your policies, compensation packages, and resources, you can create a diverse, innovative, creative, motivated workforce of global citizens.