Simply put, diversity in the workplace reflects a company’s acceptance of an individual’s differences. This creates an inclusive working environment where employees can cooperate well with one another despite coming from distinct backgrounds.
The importance of workplace diversity does not merely lie in the need to create more inclusive social environments. From a business standpoint, it can offer a positive impact on performance through, for instance:
- Innovation: Diversity drives innovation and contributes to business performance. A study by Boston Consulting Group revealed that organisations with diverse management teams enjoyed 19% higher revenue.
- Decision-making and problem-solving: Varied perspectives of diverse individuals encourage teams to explore unique and innovative ways to solve problems and make more powerful decisions. In fact, inclusive teams are 87% better at making business decisions, according to research by Cloverpop, a tech company specialising in organisational decision-making tools.
- Employee retention: Employees feel valued by the company and are motivated to stay when they are accepted for who they are, ensuring a strong pool of talent that is critical to business success.
How has diversity in the workplace changed?
The chatter around workplace diversity today is not new. However, in an era of increased connectivity, gender, race and ethnicity are no longer the only touchpoints. The rapid spread of information and ideas digitally has expanded the dialogue to include factors such as religious beliefs, political views and socioeconomic backgrounds.
The increasing use of social media has also allowed the population to access more global narratives as the platform enables the exchange of ideas at a pace like never before. Today, issues in other parts of the world can trigger various sentiments locally, with many seeking to have their voices heard.
The sharing of ideas and opinions on a global scale exposes individuals to newer ways of thinking. This encourages them to be more accepting of alternatives. These effects can spill over to the workplace.
Today, employers can expect employees to carry open-minded and inquisitive mindsets, breaking conventional norms and introducing fresh methods of delivery.
To accommodate this shift, organisations will need to create a culture that appreciates and encourages out-of-the-box thinking. What can business leaders do for a start?
1. Improve connections between younger and older workforce
Mid-career professionals who have been in the industry for many years can look towards the younger generation of workforce for fresh perspectives. This would allow them to break the status quo and explore novel ideas to drive business productivity.
At the same time, younger employees can glean critical and valuable industry insights from such professionals. These help to expand their thinking capabilities and creativity on the job.
In both scenarios, an open mindset allows one to break down barriers of age and be more welcoming of ideas that were once uncomfortable or inaccessible. As a result, employees become more willing to initiate change that fosters greater growth.
2. Allow difficult conversations about society
Discussions on religion, politics or other sensitive issues at work may typically be considered taboo. However, they offer great opportunities for employees to be more aware of the differences around them. After all, an inclusive work setting is one that is accepting of such differences — this entails understanding them.
By creating a safe space for employees to share their viewpoints or correct misconceptions, for instance, others can make better sense of the issues on the ground, review their common beliefs and widen their perspectives. It also increases curiosity about the diverse groups of people around them.
Not only do they become more informed individuals, but they can also pay attention to certain cultural sensitivities when engaging with global stakeholders or while communicating with target markets.
3. Keep feedback channels open
As with any workplace setting, feedback is necessary for continuous improvement. Through channels like stay interviews, managers understand what employees wish for the company to do better in terms of inclusivity.
For instance, an employee may propose more flexible workplace arrangements instead of the traditional office hour policy to support work-life balance. In other cases, a group of employees may wish for the company to do more to address climate change, citing companies like Patagonia who have been playing their part.
This provides leaders with a clearer idea of the areas they need to work on by, for example, implementing suitable workplace policies or realigning their business values to the needs of society today.
Let’s all take the discussion about workplace diversity forward!