Workplace diversity has many immediate and tangible opportunities for you and your company, so it is important to understand what it is, how to foster it, and why it is so beneficial.
What is Workplace Diversity?
A diverse workplace employs people from all walks of life, with different backgrounds, genders, ages, races, religious beliefs, socioeconomic statuses, and skillsets. A diverse workplace will include a variety of perspectives and opinions.
Diverse Teams Work Smarter
It’s simple: When individuals from different backgrounds and with different perspectives come together, everyone shares a slightly different approach to the job and the problem at hand.
The Harvard Business Review reports, “People from diverse backgrounds might actually alter the behavior of a group’s social majority in ways that lead to improved and more accurate group thinking… Diverse teams are more likely to constantly reexamine facts and remain objective. They may also encourage greater scrutiny of each member’s actions, keeping their joint cognitive resources sharp and vigilant.” When your teams are making tough decisions, you want them to have every advantage possible. Fostering diversity in your company and among your teams can actually help them perform better, and that’s an advantage you want to have on your side.
In the same vein, workplace diversity boosts creativity. Think about it this way: sameness breeds sameness. If your workers all have similar perspectives, then you’re likely limiting creativity and innovation at your company. Conversely, employees from diverse backgrounds will bring diverse solutions to achieve a common goal – the company’s shared objective.
Diverse Teams are More Productive
Workplace diversity not only breeds creativity, but also productivity. That’s because creativity actually leads to productivity: the more diverse your workforce, the more diverse your brainstorming, the more diverse your solutions, the more diversely productive your team. According to a McKinsey study, U.S. public companies with diverse executive boards have a 95% higher return on equity than do those with homogeneous boards.
Diverse Teams Have Less Fear, Improved Performance
The Harvard Business Review published research showing that “… people like to fit in, so they are cautious about sticking their necks out. When we have a strong, homogeneous culture, we stifle the natural cognitive diversity in groups through the pressure to conform.”
A diverse workplace may actually help your employees feel included, no matter who they are or where they come from. This inclusiveness helps break down barriers and reduces the fear of being rejected. In fact, a 2013 report by Deloitte shows that when employees feel included, innovation increases by 83%.
Diversity Boosts Your Brand’s Reputation
We’ve all heard it before: having a diverse team “looks good.” The good news is, it looks good because it is good. Hiring and fostering a diverse group of workers sends a message to your customers and your community that your company cares about diversity. Your company’s actions speak volumes, so it’s important to make sure you take the action to build the reputation you want to build.
When you employ a diverse group of people, your workforce likely reflects the community where you are located – and possibly, the community that you serve. Beyond that, a national and international reputation of inclusion can go a long way toward building a recognized brand.
Diversity Helps You Have a Global Impact
Looking at the big picture, a diverse workplace – employing workers of all abilities, creeds, and experiences – can make a greater difference than you think. You have the ability to make a difference, in every community in which you operate, by making a difference in the lives of your employees.
Beyond that, a diverse workforce provides your company a diverse and global perspective. You will be able to build a point of view rich with the incredible nuances of human experience and culture, and that means you will have a greater chance of communicating and expanding to more diverse markets, both at home and further afield. A diverse group can help your company grow and develop in a global market.
How to Foster Workplace Diversity
There are many ways to foster a diverse workplace. A key tip is to start as early as possible. As the Harvard Business Review reports, “It is far easier to build a diverse organization from the ground up than to diversify a large, complex, homogeneous machine.” Many organizations make the mistake of thinking they will just hire quickly, in the beginning, to get things off the ground, then go back and rectify any issues around diversity and inclusion. But the organization already has momentum, and if that momentum isn’t fostering diversity, then it can be very difficult to right the ship.
If you already have a large organization, don’t fear. There are more techniques you can implement to grow diversity at your company. A major one is to be intentional in your hiring practices. Take time to recognize your own biases and how they may impact your decisions. Examine your hiring process and see if it can be more blind, especially towards the beginning, so you can accurately compare candidates’ skill sets and experience, not their superficial identifiers. Another thing to do is to try to diversify your own personal network. This can be one way to expand your mindset and introduce yourself to new perspectives. Whatever you do, if you want to foster a more diverse workplace, taking action is better than staying stagnant and doing things the way they always have been done.