As working professionals, we spend a good portion of our lives in the workplace; much more than we do at home or anywhere else. Wouldn’t it be nice to head to work with a bright smile and be greeted by cheerful co-workers with equally bright smiles? Oh, to smell the scent of roses in the air and joyfully break out into a dance at the mere thought of work. The latter may be a tad bit unrealistic but the former definitely isn’t. When you spend eight hours or so at your workplace everyday, it only makes sense that you’ll be happier if the environment is pleasant and intellectually stimulating. I’m so happy that organizations are heading down the right path in their efforts to improve their work culture. Diversity. Diversity is the essence of life. There is a beauty in it which has been ignored at workplaces for far too long. Diversity is beneficial even from a purely monetary point of view which is the end goal of most organizations.
WHAT IS DIVERSITY IN THE WORKPLACE?
Diversity in the workplace means that a company’s workforce includes people from all walks of life. Diversity includes but is not limited to race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, age, cultural and socio-economic background, language, physical and mental abilities. It encompasses whatever attributes distinguishes one individual from the other.
Diversity in the workplace isn’t just a fad, it’s here to stay! More and more organizations are striving towards diversity and it isn’t hard to see why. Apart from inclusion and bolstering a company’s brand value, it has many immediate and far-reaching benefits. Diversity isn’t something to be taken lightly. Companies cannot simply use this as and when it suits them. It needs to be integrated into its core values and objectives. Only then can diversity truly thrive in the workplace. Studies show that companies with a
diverse workforce do better financially. In this fast-paced world of business, a diverse workforce is sure to give you an edge over your competitors.
BENEFITS OF DIVERSITY IN THE WORKPLACE
- IMPROVES YOUR CHANCES OF HIRING THE BEST CANDIDATE
- INCREASES CREATIVITY
- FASTER PROBLEM-SOLVING
- INCREASED PRODUCTIVITY
- IMPROVES EMPLOYEE PERFORMANCE
Finding the best candidate to fill a vacancy is no easy feat. I’m sure the HR professionals involved in recruiting will attest to this. When you eliminate unnecessary restrictions imposed on the candidature, you have better chances of finding the most qualified person for the job. When diversity is no barrier, you have a bigger pool of candidates to choose from. This ensures that the most eligible person is selected in a shorter time frame, which reduces recruitment costs. A survey conducted by Glassdoor shows that 67% of job seekers prefer companies that have a diverse workforce. Practicing diversity in the workplace attracts the most qualified candidates which is an asset to your company.
When you put together a bunch of people from different backgrounds, having different skill sets and different working styles, you’re bound to end up with creative solutions. People have different perspectives and experiences and that comes forth in the workplace. It is a breath of fresh air and gives rise to new ideas. Creativity leads to innovation which ultimately leads to more profits. In today’s world, old is most definitely not old and everybody is on the search for a new breakthrough.
When you have a diverse team, you are bound to solve problems faster. The problem with having similar people working on a project is that when they are faced with an issue they tend to approach it in a similar way. This can be an arduous task. Having people with different perspectives brings diverse solutions to the table and the best solution is selected. This speeds up the whole process of problem-solving and decision-making which means that you save time which can be used for other activities. Every successful individual or organization should focus on time management. As aptly said, time and tide waits for no man.
A company with a diverse workforce has a better brand value. People tend to trust companies which practice diversity because it implies open-mindedness and inclusion. This can be crucial when it comes to marketing or expanding overseas. It helps to connect better with the client base and the customers. Faster and better decision-making gives you an edge over your competitors and helps you reap profits. The more you invest in diversity, the more you gain financially. McKinsey and Company conducted a survey of 366 public companies across Canada, Latin America, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It found that “Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.”
Workplace diversity leads to employee inclusion and engagement. When employees feel that everyone is treated equally and their views and opinions are respected, they feel included and valued. It does wonders to their work performance. When a person feels that he/she matters to the organization, they start to take ownership and their work reflects this. It’s human nature to care about things that belong to us. The happier the employee, the better his/her performance.
Wanting to include diversity in the workplace is all well and good but it isn’t very easy if you don’t go about it the right way. Having it in documentation is different from actually implementing it. Diversity should be at the core of an organization’s objective. It shouldn’t be treated as just another fad. Also, there aren’t any hard and fast rules when it comes to implementing diversity in the workplace. It is unique to every company and depends on a lot of factors. It takes a little time and effort to come up with a strategy that is specific to your company. Here is a list of suggestions to get you started.
- HIRING EMPLOYEES
- UNDERSTAND THE LAWS AND PRIORITIZE COMMUNICATION
- DIVERSITY TRAINING
- ENCOURAGE INTERACTION
You can start being inclusive right at the hiring stage. While focusing on hiring the best candidate for the job, the best way to avoid discrimination of any sort would be to have a diverse panel of interviewers. The right environment is conducive to attracting the best candidates. The interviewers should be trained so that they are aware of what questions can be construed as inappropriate. Hiring diverse individuals is the first step in introducing diversity in the workplace. The employees should be briefed about the company’s diversity policy at the time of joining
The senior management should make sure that they understand what diversity actually entails and are aware of the various laws that protect employees against discrimination of any sort. The same should be communicated to the employees to prevent conflicts and altercations. Communication is the key to ensure that everything is running smoothly. Make sure that there are no cultural or language barriers when it comes to communicating policies, safety rules, and other important information. The company’s diversity policy should be documented and included in the employee handbook. When the management makes an effort to communicate effectively, the employees will follow suit. This should sort out any misunderstandings.
Often, people end up saying insensitive things unknowingly. Their intention is not to offend or hurt someone; they are simply ignorant. To avoid this and to make sure that people know how to coexist in a diverse environment, organizations should conduct sensitivity training. It will help them better understand the perspectives of people who come from different backgrounds. Only when people become self-aware and understand the cause of their prejudices or biases, can the program be called a success. By understanding this, people can move forward and respect the differences in race, religion, gender, etc. This way people know what is considered offensive and will not cross the line. It will also guide them on how to deal with such a situation should one arise. The employees are briefed on the company’s policies and stance regarding diversity. All employees should be made to attend the training, especially the managers and senior staff.
It is only through interaction that we are exposed to different cultures and perspectives. When we get to know people who are ‘different’ from us, we better understand where they are coming from and appreciate our differences. One way to encourage interaction would be to make diverse work teams. People will witness how their differences actually benefit their work. Working as a team will bring them closer and help them grow as individuals. They will be exposed to people from different walks of life and it will broaden their horizons. Employees should be aware of the work culture and made to abide by it.
Managing diversity in the workplace can be challenging at times but it is crucial in today’s scenario. With globalization on the rise, it is impossible to not be diverse. If you keep ignoring diversity, you risk the chance of losing both current and prospective customers and it is not morally right. Having a diverse workforce has a lot of benefits, as illustrated above. So for all you Human Resources professionals out there, put all your reservations aside and try to make your workforce as diverse as possible!