I’m sure you’ve encountered people proclaiming that the world has now become a global village. Although this statement is not literal, figuratively, the world has really shrunk. Technology has brought all of us closer together and made geographical boundaries less relevant – especially when it comes to employment. With air travel, thousands of kilometres can be traversed in a matter of hours and even faster if you take the option of telecommuting.
It’s this increased interaction among populations from all over the world that has made it almost impossible to have a workforce that is not diverse in one or the other. Your workforce will surely be diverse in any of these ways: age, education, personal background, ethnicity, gender, race, cognitive style and more.
Diversity is good – very good, actually
Although diversity can present a number of challenges if not managed correctly – chief among them being conflict within the organisation – the benefits it will bring to your company far outweigh the few potential issues. This makes diversity in the workplace a good thing to have.
Here’re the top five benefits of having a diverse workforce:
Innovation. One of the biggest advantages of having a diverse workforce is improved innovation in the workplace. Because the employees see things differently and also think differently, interactions with each other will result in the sharing of ideas, knowledge and experiences which makes brainstorming a lot more fruitful. Diversity in the workplace also makes your employees more receptive to trying out new things which is key to creativity and innovation at work.
Increased adaptability. Having a heterogeneous employee base helps increase your organisation’s adaptability in the market as a diverse workforce will be in a better position to understand what the consumer wants. This will lead to better product decisions.
Easier recruitment and retention. High-quality employees are rare, which means you need to do everything possible to acquire the few that are there. A recent survey by Glassdoor found that diversity was an important factor for people when evaluating job offers and companies, which makes diversity key for quality recruitment. Diversity also helps your employees feel included and appreciated in addition to helping them become more loyal and feel like they belong. This helps with employee retention.
Increased productivity. Diversity in the workforce ensures there’s diversity in the way of thinking. It also provides you with a broad mix of expertise and experience in certain processes which encourages your employees to interact and learn from each other. The kind of open communication that results from this kind of interactions leads to improved teamwork and collaboration. Additionally, diversity has been found to increase morale within the workforce which not only leads to increased productivity but greater employee satisfaction as well.
Broader market. Having a workforce with a variety of skills and experiences (including cultural understanding and languages) allows your business to be able to provide products to customers from all over the globe. And with the ease with which businesses can make cross-border business transactions in this day and age, this is a big competitive advantage.
As a bonus for having a diverse workforce, your brand both as an employer and as a seller is perceived by job seekers and consumers to be inclusive – which it is.
How do you Manage diversity in the workplace?
While it’s clear that diversity can be very beneficial to an organisation, it’s essential that managers, as well as the employees in the organisation, understand how to manage it for both their own benefit as well as that of the organisation. Conscious steps and initiatives need to be taken within the company to enable the coexistence and thriving of heterogeneous groups. Without these efforts, diversity could turn into a liability rather than an advantage.
Here are five tips to help you manage a diverse workforce for the best results:
Start with Hiring. You cannot be averse to diversity at the hiring stage and then expect the same thing you shun to work for you later on – that would be absurd. The inroads into the organisation for any aspiring employee should reflect what the organisation is trying to achieve in terms of diversity. Let your hires resemble the country or community your company is based in as much as possible. This can only be possible by ensuring your recruitment policies encourage and embrace diversity.To hire for diversity, you will need to overcome bias in the assessment and interviewing process. This can only be achieved by creating a diverse interview panel that will ensure that the candidate selection process is free of prejudices and biases and that candidates are strictly selected based on merit. Fair recruitment is crucial if diversity will be managed successfully later on.
Create inclusive policies and practices. You’ll need to ensure your organisation’s overall practices and policies are inclusive of everyone and do not favour or discriminate a certain set of employees. Policymakers will, therefore, need to consider the differential impact policies and practices will have on the diverse group of workers before they’re enforced.In addition to this, it’s very important to ensure that every employee understands all of the organisation’s unwritten rules to ensure inclusion from the get-go. Leaders and managers should encourage and be willing to take feedback on practices and policies from employees and be ready to make changes where there’re perceived barriers for certain groups in the workforce.
Provide diversity training. Sometimes employees behave insensitively towards their colleagues not because they want to be mean or discriminatory, but simply because they do not know any better. Providing diversity training to your employees, especially those in leadership positions, helps people understand and respect the differences in religion, race, ethnicity, cultural values, gender and thinking styles.Diversity training helps employees become self-aware which plays a critical role in helping them understand their own prejudices, stereotypes and cultural biases. It’s only by appreciating where you currently stand that can you improve.
Facilitate effective communication. One of the biggest challenges of managing a diverse workforce is ensuring there is clear and effective communication throughout the organisation. To ensure everyone is on the same page, make sure that all the employees understand all the procedures, policies, safety rules and any other important information.Work to ensure that cultural and language barriers are overcome when communicating with your employees. Have important work materials such as operation manuals translated if possible. Pictures and symbols that everybody can understand should be used where applicable.
Encourage interaction. It’s only through interactions with one another can diverse groups of people really understand, appreciate and respect the differences that exist among them. Encourage your employees to collaborate with colleagues who are “different” from them.One way of implementing this is by creating work groups that reflect the diversity that exists in the workplace. This will not only help your employees know and value each other as individuals but will also expand the views and experiences of team members helping them appreciate the strength of their combined perspectives and talents.
While workforce diversity might be somewhat challenging to manage, encouraging and fostering it is the way forward for organisations in this increasingly global business environment. Organisations which can achieve diversity and manage it well will gain a competitive advantage in terms of innovation and differentiation as well as be a preferred employer for top talent.
make diversity in the workplace one of your recruitment goals.
Fernando Ortiz is the founder and Managing Director of Blue Collar People and is responsible for the overall well being of the company. Fernando started his working life as a metallurgist with BHP and then went on to serve in the Australian army. For the past 32 years he has worked in the recruitment industry, with 29 of those years at Blue Collar People.