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Effectively Managing Diversity in the Workplace
Diversity is integral to the success of any organization. Whether you are updating your current diversity training program, or just beginning to implement a new initiative, the process can be lengthy. Inclusive hiring processes, while important, only scratch the surface of what effective diversity management can look like in your workplace. Research points to the fact that companies with strong diversity are much more likely to stand out competitively, and market shares are likely to shift towards more diverse organizations over time. So, how can you start effectively managing diversity in the workplace?
What is Diversity Training?
Diversity, and diversity training, in the workplace, work to address all the unique characteristics of individual employees. This includes race, color, ethnicity, language, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, socio-economic status, age, and physical and mental ability. The aim of diversity training is to emphasize the manner in which every individual works together, regardless of differences in these characteristics.
This is a movement that goes beyond “political correctness”, leaning more into the sphere of learning to embrace the differences between employees, and appreciating the valuable inputs and perspectives all unique employees can bring to the organization.
While encouraging the acceptance of a diverse workforce, diversity in the workplace should also address the way different individuals are represented, particularly in company literature and marketing materials. Diversity in the workplace is only effective if the following facets are met:
- Diversity training lays out and encourages a company culture that is inclusive, rather than divisive.
- The culture of diversity acceptance aims to respect, seek out, and embrace all the different approaches that result from a diverse workforce, instead of merely “tolerating” them.
- Managing diversity in the workplace goes beyond a list of rules that conduct behavior and instead aims to build a true understanding, accessible to all employees.
In short, managing diversity in the workplace should not be simply an attempt to get employees to “tolerate differences”. This does not fit into the modern workplace and goes against the recognition of value in diverse perspectives that diversity training should be encouraging.
Why is Diversity Beneficial?
Managing diversity in the workplace is an effort that makes all employees feel included and part of a common effort. Evidently, this will lead to happier, satisfied, and ultimately more loyal employees, increasing the overall expertise of the workforce and reducing the costs involved in hiring and training new employees.
However, the benefits of diversity go beyond individual job satisfaction and success. Companies that value diversity in the workplace are overall much more likely to yield successful results for their business itself. A recent McKinsey study presented the following findings:
- Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above industry medians, and companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to see the same results.
- Companies in the bottom quartile for gender and for ethnicity and race diversity are statistically less likely to achieve above-average financial returns.
- In the United States, there is a clear linear relationship between racial and ethnic diversity and better financial performance. For every 10% increase in racial and ethnic diversity on the senior-executive team, earnings before interest and taxes rise 0.8%.
While correlation does not always equal causation (meaning greater gender and ethnic diversity in corporate leadership does not automatically translate into more profit), the statistics do point to the fact that when companies commit themselves to diverse leadership, their chances of success increase.
The importance of diversity in the workplace is expressed not just in the understanding that working together promotes cohesion, collaboration, and happiness for employees, but that people with different backgrounds working together is essential in building a successful business.
Best Practices for Managing Diversity in the Workplace
Successful management of diversity in the workplace cannot, and should not, be limited to following a strict set of rules and expecting employees to follow them. Instead, aim to present the acceptance of diversity in the workplace as a choice, one that can benefit every individual in the workplace and ultimately yield positive and sustainable results.
Some best practices for managing diversity in the workplace are, but are not limited to;
1. Create Common Goals
The creation of common goals leads to the forming of common bonds. When people are united over the shared objective, they need to move forward together and work collaboratively, otherwise they will never reach their goal. This stresses the importance of teamwork and collaboration and helps employees to recognize the value of the individual contributions that are offered by their peers.
2. Confront Unconscious Bias
Unconscious biases are defined as the social stereotypes that exist about certain groups of people, formed by individuals outside of their own conscious awareness. It is impossible to eliminate unconscious bias. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, a pattern that stems from our tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing.
Recognizing this instinctive human response and working to confront it when it inhibits effective collaboration and diversity acceptance, can help to discourage this “other-ness” response in the workplace.
3. Focus on Inclusion
This goes further than being inclusive and considering workplace diversity in hiring processes. Inclusion in the workplace aims to actively seek out, embrace, and encourage different ways of approaching and solving problems. It involves the acknowledgment and thorough consideration of all viewpoints in an issue, respecting each voice and perspective equally.
4. Move Away from Prohibitive Language
Leaning into the idea of a diverse workplace, instead of thrusting rigid demands onto employees, is a much more effective way to encourage employees to accept each other. People don’t always respond positively to rigid controls, especially when their understanding of how their personal beliefs impact their work life, so don’t employ the same prohibitive and directional language in your diversity training as you would in regular employee training.
5. Look Beyond Compliance
The first step in building a truly inclusive organization is recognizing that diversity in the workplace is about more than complying with affirmative action initiatives and filling quotas. Rather, constructing a diverse workplace is instead about building a workforce that matches the diversity of your customer base, using differences to drive your business towards success.
When you bring people together of varying backgrounds, belief systems, and cultures, you bring with them a range of work styles, thought processes, and valuable perspectives. Don’t view managing diversity in the workplace as a required component of the modern business world, but rather as an essential tool in sparking employee creativity, improving company efficiency, and getting closer to your customers and clients.
Effectively Managing Diversity in the Workplace is a Competitive Advantage in the Modern Business Market
Organizations have long realized that diversity translates to good business. Embracing a multitude of viewpoints and cultures and valuing the wide array and style of input and efforts that results from a diverse workforce, ultimately drives innovation, improves decision-making, increases employee productivity and retention, and leads to better-served customers. The goal of diversity in the workplace should be a central pillar in any organization’s path towards success.