Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace

The issue of workplace diversity is becoming one of the most hotly debated topics in the world of HR. More so than ever before, employers consider diversity and inclusion in the workplace an essential element of their teams’ success. And striving for diversity and inclusion is not just great for your business — having a diverse workforce is just a great thing on a purely human level.

But how do you tackle complex issues like gender or race, and how do you ensure that your workplace is geared towards an inclusive culture in the long term? And what kind of tangible benefits do diversity and inclusivity give your organisation? Join us as we explore the trappings of employee engagement in a diverse workforce!

What does diversity in the workplace mean?

Having diversity in the workplace means becoming an organisation that routinely maintains a diverse workforce — meaning racial diversity, ethnic diversity, and pretty much any other kind. That means not discriminating against people based on their sexual orientation, age, race, or ethnicity.

Making the necessary step to complete diversity can be challenging, but the values of diversity and inclusion can have countless benefits for any workplace. And making workplace diversity a part of your hiring process and general HR work ensures that your employee base contains all minority groups, making your company more future-proof than others.

A Fresh Perspective

Once you create an inclusive culture within diverse teams of men and women from all cultures, nationalities, and backgrounds — you’ve got a melting pot of new perspectives. Workplace diversity ensures that you have more than one perspective on any given issue. And that leads to plentiful benefits, like increased productivity and better problem-solving [1].

Even if we disregard the moral value of a diverse workforce, this is a great business move from a strategic point. And while workplace diversity can seem daunting to some managers, sticking to antiquated viewpoints in the hiring process only leads to subpar results over time. Research shows that decision-making on the team level vastly improves with a combination of diversity and inclusion among employees. [2] This makes the temporary problem of potential awkwardness in the workplace well worth the long-term benefits.

Hiring Better Talent

The days of a workplace being nothing more than a place where you stay from nine to five are long gone. These days, employees want to work in a place where they can be challenged and accepted, a place where they can grow. And a company that fully embraces the concept of an inclusive workplace is sure to attract more candidates for any job role. It’s not just about quantity either, as progressive workplaces tend to attract better talent searching for more progressive work environments.

And while attracting talent using diversity is a great benefit of such policies, companies that actively promote and look for diverse candidates will also access a larger talent pool. Of course, while having the necessary qualifications is essential, being too picky regarding secondary traits will inevitably lower the number of different candidates. On the other hand, having diversity in ethnicity, thought, and general backgrounds are sure to bring more great hires to the table.

More Innovation

Research shows that diverse teams come up with more innovative ideas [3] — and that correlation between diversity in the workplace and original thinking is perfectly logical. Within a homogenous workforce, single-minded thinking is to be expected. From problem-solving skills to life experiences — men and women from similar backgrounds are more likely to arrive at the same conclusions.

And that kind of thinking is not ideal when you’re looking for creative solutions. Conversely, a diverse, heterogenic workplace will inevitably breed more unique perspectives. In turn, these also lead to thought diversity and more exciting solutions.

How many times have you had tunnel vision — where a single problem plagues you for days on end, and you only solve it when you stop thinking about it for a while and return with a fresh perspective? And how many times has an offsite trip out of the office produced more interesting strategic decisions?

Originality is good — it keeps the workplace fresh and ready to innovate. And just like different environments and circumstances can spark new ideas — different kinds of people can do that as well. That’s why workplace diversity is an excellent indicator of potential innovation.

Better Performance

Diversity and inclusion are practically inseparable. And when your workplace is an environment where employees see all races, creeds, backgrounds, and cultures equally represented without discrimination, they will feel freer to be themselves as well. At the end of the day, this kind of freedom leads to better employee performance too. [4]

And the other side of the coin is present as well — a homogenous, non-diverse work culture actually lessens people’s cognitive diversity [5] because they feel the pressure to conform to others constantly. If your staff doesn’t feel free to be their authentic selves due to a lack of diversity in the workplace, they won’t voice new and original ideas for fear of rejection.

More profitability

Plenty of research points out that diverse teams perform better — we’ve established as much already. However, we haven’t discussed the fact that profitability is one of the main benefits of diversity in the workplace. And this is especially true when it comes to racial and ethnic diversity among managers.

A McKinsey report from 2015 points out that companies with more diverse managers were 35% more likely to report yearly financial returns above their industry average. [6] Other studies point out that more diverse executive boards can expect a much larger return on equity than companies with more single-minded boards. One conclusion seems consistent across all research on the topic — diversity pays off.

Implementing diversity in the workplace

While the many benefits of workplace diversity are clear — the steps towards achieving them can be less apparent. That’s why we’ll outline them here:
1. Goal identification
2. Originality
3. Implementation
4. Education

1. Goal identification

When you want to achieve any kind of lofty goal in the workplace, identifying it clearly is always a great first step. And saying that you want “workplace diversity” just isn’t enough — this is an incredibly nuanced topic, and the devil is very much in the details.
For instance, having too many simultaneous diversity initiatives can mean missing your main targets. And implementing workplace diversity policies only aimed at specific social groups can mean unintentional discrimination for others. Define your goals carefully and methodically if you want to reach them.

2. Originality

Every company is a unique entity in its own right — and no diversity initiative is a universal solution for everyone. Just borrowing your policies from an industry competitor likely won’t work. You need to implement solutions that take your company culture, history, and norms into account — while also converting them to a more progressive state.

3. Implementation

As a Prussian general noted two centuries ago, “no plan survives contact with the enemy”. And in this case, inequality, discrimination, and the subpar business performance that stems from them are the main enemy.
And this saying is proven true by the fact that great design matters — but it’s nothing without proper implementation. Diversity initiatives may be wonderfully designed, but if they are not followed up by proper operational management, they’re not likely to have any impact.

4. Education

When you implement new workplace policies, you need one crucial ingredient for them to be effective — employee incentives. If your diversity initiative doesn’t answer the elementary “why should I care” question from your employees, it won’t succeed. That’s why all individuals working in the organisation need to be made aware of the many benefits of this program.

Types of diversity

Unironically, the different types of workplace diversity are as numerous as the diverse employees themselves. Still, it’s worth taking a look at some of the often-forgotten kinds of workplace diversity:

Behavioural diversity

Different people in a single workplace can have a variety of behaviour patterns and unique mannerisms — all of which they have developed through the various experiences in their lives. And these behaviours appear as the result of different cultures, friends, family, upbringing — all kinds of factors are involved.

With that in mind, workplace diversity includes the element of behavioural understanding, recognising that something unremarkable or ordinary to you might be inappropriate, odd, or rude to someone else.

And bear in mind that behavioural diversity is something highly nuanced and specific; it can be a matter of very subtle distinctions between colleagues. All employees must be trained to be mindful of the unique experiences of their peers — if any behaviour seems inappropriate or rude, teaching everyone to discuss it calmly would be the best course of action. Being judgmental or negative will not lead to positive productivity changes in the long run.

Cultural diversity

Cultural diversity is tightly intertwined with other diversity types — especially in terms of behaviour. And that’s precisely why exploring the reasons behind cultural diversity can yield actionable insights for employers.

There are plenty of factors that make a single culture what it is — among other things, a collection of common customs, religion, language, and food. And while getting to know a brand-new national cuisine or taking a short language class is interesting — people often find working with their peers from other cultures every day challenging in the long run.

However, cultural differences are the source of plentiful learning opportunities. While employees that are not well-versed in the different aspects of various cultures will experience discomfort at first, good workplace policies for bridging those gaps can yield incredible benefits.

Just like with all other kinds of diversity — educating your staff on the differences in their respective cultures and learning to celebrate them is the way to go. And over time, employees within a single company tend to adopt the common “workplace culture” in their professional lives, taking elements from various types of behaviour.

Ethnic diversity

Many people fail to realise the difference between race and ethnicity — and their accompanying variations. While racial differences come from biological factors, ethnicity is entirely based on individuals’ empirical experiences and learned behaviours.

That’s why we associate ethnicity with geographical background, ancestry, language, costumes, dress, and other kinds of heritage that different nationalities have. Irish, Hispanic, Jewish, Latinx — all of these are different ethnicities.

Racial diversity

One of the first kinds of workplace diversity brought by the civil rights movement was racial diversity. And unlike ethnic variations, these are purely biological. African American, Indian, Caucasian — these are all races. And as you can see, ethnicities and races can overlap.

Overcoming internal resistance and bias

Recognising all of the different diversities in the workplace is important — but overcoming the resistance to them is the hardest part of proper diversity management. Unfortunately, bias is a part of human nature. We all functions on some form of intuition, belief and bias — rather than logic and facts.

Even when they have no ulterior motives, people can sometimes bring bias into their workplace interactions. Because of this, companies need to make a significant investment in diversity training — showing people how to overcome the dangers of biased thinking. And while a certain level of bias is inevitable, just being aware of your subjective nature is sometimes enough for a positive outcome.

Of course, not all bias is unintentional — there are plenty of people that are simply not on board with workplace diversity. They may just be temporarily uncomfortable with the notion of change, and they may eventually adjust. However, some internal resistance is bound to appear.

Organisational leaders must constantly strive to lead the way on diversity efforts, and explain the reasoning behind them to sceptical employees. In fact, the focus must be on them — because the people who are already on board with diversity in the workplace won’t have to be “won over”.

Promote an inclusive company culture and protect your workplace against unconscious bias, by regularly getting honest and anonymous feedback from your people with Qualee - sign up for our FREE Starter Plan today.


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