Why Diversity in the Workplace Is Essential?

by Naveed Ahmed
Diversity in the Workplace

In the contemporary world, the concept of ”Diversity in the Workplace” has gained much popularity. The organizations who adapt it, gain a competitive edge over their rivals. So let’s dive into what diversity basically is and why is it so important in today’s workplaces?

According to the Cambridge dictionary, Diversity is the range of different things or people.  So generally, it could be a collective group in which every entity is different and retains its specific and unique characteristics.

The manifestation of diversity can be in various forms like the biodiversity in nature, the diverse methods of calculation in experimental sciences, the diverse investments of the stock market (to minimalize loss). Similarly, diversification in business can lead to prosperity.  In companies, the diversity in the workforce, if correctly managed can have numerous direct, tangible, and intangible benefits.

Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

In this competitive era of globalization, workplace diversity has become a necessity in order to compete in the global market. Moreover, the post-pandemic world has paved the way for this change as businesses have become more adaptable to diverse methods of working.

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Glassdoor (a job search and review website) conducted economic research in various countries. The results revealed a 37% increase in Diversity and Inclusion related job openings over the span of a year.

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) is an opportunity to outpace competitors and a challenge to cope with the unique needs, perspectives, and potential of all the team members. Diverse and inclusive workplaces earn deeper trust and more commitment from their employees. It can be a win-win situation for both employers and employees.

Differences in Significant Terms

Some conceptual terms are interconnected but they are far from interchangeable.

Diversity

Diversity is appreciating differences between individuals, and in context with the workplace. It is the representation of people with distinct characteristics that make up the workforce of an organization

Belongingness

Belonging is ensuring that everyone feels safe and can bring their full, unique selves to work.

Equality

Equality ensures that all individuals have equal opportunities to participate and succeed. It prevents individuals from being discriminated against or treated differently due to certain personality or physical characteristics.

Inclusion

Inclusion is about how well the contributions, presence, and perspectives of different groups of people are valued and integrated into the company’s environment. It refers to the equal opportunity of each employee to contribute and influence every part and level of a workplace

The diversity lacking inclusion is termed as “tokenism.” An inclusive workplace doesn’t just have a diversity of people present, it has a diversity of people involved, developed, empowered, and trusted by the business. While diversity refers to the people, inclusion refers to their voices. A diverse and inclusive workplace is one that makes everyone feel equally involved in and supported in all areas of the workplace. 

Factors of Diversity

Corporate diversification can be on the basis of factors like.

  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Language
  • Culture
  • Geographical location
  • Nationality
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Physical abilities and disabilities
  • Religion
  • Political beliefs
  • Education 
  • Experiences/Skills
  • Socioeconomic background
  • Social roles and status
  • Personality and personal traits

Importance and Benefits of Diversity in a Workplace

Here are some of the reasons why diversity and inclusion are is important in a workplace.

  • Different Perspectives

Employees in a company with higher workplace diversity will have access to a variety of different perspectives, which is highly beneficial when it comes to planning and executing a business strategy. 

  • Boosting Creativity and Innovation

A diverse workplace is a melting pot of fresh, new ideas. A diverse group of people can help bring in a wider and more unique pool of suggestions to help the company in edging out the competition. Inclusive companies are 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders in their market, according to Josh Bersin’s research.

  • Productivity and Financial Performance

Productivity is in the effectiveness and efficiency of the employees, employers, and staff in an organization. The communication between upper and lower management of corporate is crucial for better financial growth. According to McKinsey’s research, racially and ethnically diverse companies outperform industry norms by 35%. Science Daily reported 15 times more sales to return in racially diverse workplaces.

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  • Employees Confidence

When a company actively embraces and celebrates its employees’ different individual characteristics and perspectives, employees feel confident to both express their ideas and build closer relationships with their colleagues.

  • Employee Engagement

Employees tend to voice their opinions if their points of view are accepted and respected. They find their employment niche and with this sense of belongingness, actively engage in the process of value creation for the company. The employees take real pride in their work and ultimately improve the company’s overall performance and bottom line. Deloitte research showed that engagement is an outcome of diversity and inclusion.

  • Productive Environment

Mutual respect, understanding unite colleagues with a common purpose to achieve organizational goals.

  • Promotes Adaptability

Diversity encourages flexibility and adaptability in the work environment. 

  • Wider Talent Pool

A wider talent pool gives the business a competitive edge over its rivals. It increases the chances of finding exceptional candidates who are best suited for the job and ultimately results in better performance. As recruiting can get very expensive, broadening the company network can help cut costs and boost recruitment efficiency as well.

  • Increase in Skills and Knowledge

By recruitment of people with a broad range of backgrounds, skills, and experiences, businesses stand to benefit from a larger talent pool and a wider spectrum of creativity and perspectives.

For example. According to Jay Munro, Head of Career Insights for Indeed, ‘when the life experience and knowledge of older employees in the industry combine with younger generation ideas, interesting outputs are obtained.’

  • Minimalize Talent Gap

The workforce constituting Millennials and Generation- Z appreciates and encourages diversity and inclusion policy in their workplaces. According to a survey from Deloitte 83% of millennials are engaged when their organization has a diverse work culture.

  • Personal Grooming of Employees

Working with colleagues of different backgrounds is a way of personality grooming. People can learn and adopt good habits of each other.

  • Better Decision Making

Research of software company Cloverpop has found a direct link between workplace diversity and decision-making. Diverse teams pooled up their past experiences to come up with a better ability to choose wisely and they outperformed individual decision-makers up to 87% of the time. 

  • Faster Problem Solving

Harvard Business Review found diverse teams bring diverse solutions to the table and solve problems faster (as they have different life experiences and views.) than cognitively similar people.

  • Conflict Reduction

Conflict in the workplace is inevitable. Developing cultural awareness is the key. By practicing open communication in conjunction with truly accepting and supporting diversity within the workplace, conflict can be reduced or avoided entirely.

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  • Employee Turnover Ratio Reduces

The sense of acceptance in a company that clearly values the career development of its employees, refrains people to leave. The company will tend to have a much higher attendance and retention rate.

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  • Connection and Compliance with Customers

Having a more diverse team will help the company gain a broader understanding of existing customers as well as an opportunity to explore, attract and gain the loyalty of potential customers. According to the Harvard Business Review, teams which include a member that shares a client’s ethnicity are 152% more likely to understand that client than another team, increasing the odds of success.

  • Higher Revenue

Businesses with diversity in the workplace achieve better results and reap more profit.  The study of Boston Consulting Group (BCG) has found that “increasing the diversity of leadership teams leads to more and better innovation and improved financial performance. Companies that have more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenue due to innovation. This finding is huge for tech companies, start-ups, and industries where innovation is the key to growth. McKinsey & Company also discovered that companies with more diverse top teams were also top financial performers.

  •  Corporate Reputation Enhancement

Companies that dedicate themselves to promoting diversity in the workplace are seen as good, humane, and socially responsible organizations which ultimately creates a soft image and better reputation for the brand. Thus, opening doors to opportunities; new markets, customers, and business partners.

  • Economic Empowerment of Marginalized Workers

Workplace diversity is an effective way to empower special people by giving them the opportunity to attain financial independence by providing them employment.

  • Improves Company Culture

Company culture is the personality of the company. Employees’ behavior, feeling, and thinking determines the way they perform. It is documented from various statistics that diverse workplaces improve company culture. Employees enjoy working within groups. It builds respect and also healthy workplace relationships. It broadens the employees’ perspective and keeps the company culture growing.

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  • Fighting Biases

Blind hiring is practiced incorporates to include a wide range of employees from cultural backgrounds. Establishing a diverse workplace is the best way to overcome unjust biases.

  • Positive Shift of Societal Norms

Fighting unfair prejudices and biases will ultimately lead to a paradigm shift in norms as people will start developing tolerance towards the uniqueness and distinctive characteristics of fellow humans. In the longer run, it will contribute in the way forward of establishing a utopia of justice and equity in society.

Challenges of Diversity in the Workplace

Below are the most common challenges of diversity in the workplace which are important to be timely addressed.

  • Communication Barriers

Hiring employees from a range of cultures and backgrounds can occasionally result in communication or language barriers within a team. This can sometimes lead to frustration amongst employees and loss of productivity.

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  • Gender Equality Issues

Salary inequality between men and women has been a hot topic of discussion in recent times. Individuals that are victims of unequal treatment might become demoralized and increase the staff turnover rate by quitting. In this regard, the Equal Pay Act of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission aims to prevent gender equality issues 

  • Generational Differences

In teams where there is a wide age range, there may be some generational differences or generation gaps. This could potentially hinder discussions on certain subjects. To bridge the gap between generations, an office culture should be promoted where all views are heard and a collaborative environment is sustained.

  • Conflicting Beliefs

Conflicts can arise in the workplace due to differences in religious, political, or cultural beliefs. Discrimination and prejudice if not timely and rightly addressed can spread unrest in the organization’s environment.

  • Different Interpretations of Professional Etiquettes

In a diverse workplace, people come from a variety of cultures that differ in their norms and traditions. Some ethics and moral values of one individual might contradict others. For example, while constant eye contact is a symbol of confidence and trust in some cultures while it might be irritating in other cultures.

  • Business Expenses

Hiring and managing employees from across the globe is a tricky task to handle especially for relatively young companies Moreover, these accommodations can also sometimes be an added business cost to factor into your hiring plans.

  • Disability Discrimination

The workplace can be tough for employees with physical or mental disabilities. In a recent study on disability and employment, 12% of employers are concerned that disabled employees will take more time off work and 19% believe that it is expensive to hire individuals with a disability due to costs involved in adapting to the workplace. With many offices not fully equipped with wheelchairs or the required equipment, disabled individuals still widely face discrimination today.

  • Social-isolation of Certain Employees 

Sometimes individuals can feel left out or isolated when groups of other individuals with alike backgrounds and characteristics form cliques or social circles.

  • Implementation is Time-consuming

Implementing diversity in the workplace policy can be a lengthy process involving research, time, extra effort, and resources. It can be costly, for instance, if training is offered to help bridge skills gaps. It can be difficult, particularly for small businesses and startups to launch a diversity strategy.

However, there are always smaller, less costly positive changes that can be made to ensure all employees feel included and have the confidence to be vocal.

  • Resistance to Change

There is often that individual who extraordinarily oppose change. The way things were done before might not remain that effective or efficient as time passes. However, sometimes it can be difficult to convince these individuals for a positive change.

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SOLUTIONS

How to promote diversity in the workplace?

Here are some of the solutions to overcome challenges faced in diverse workplaces. 

  • Identification of the Problems

Challenges of diversity should be an urgent topic to be addressed; whether they are discussed in the management meeting or shared amongst the whole team for feedback. Frequent analysis and evaluation of diversity processes should be made and improvements should be done accordingly.

  • Development of D&I Strategy

It is recommended to seek advice and feedback from a diverse range of people in the business when it comes to diversity and inclusion in the workplace strategy, individuals from different departments are likely to have different opinions.

  • Involvement of the Whole Team

Internal diversity and inclusion teams should be launched initially to ensure that the standards, aims, and objectives the company has set are met or not. Regular ‘desk swap’ (moving individuals around to prevent ‘cliques’ formation) can be effective.

  • Mentoring Schemes

Initiating a mentoring scheme can help to increase employee satisfaction and retain top talent and is one of the least costly diversity strategies that can be implemented to ensure all employees feel included and have a voice. 

  • Training Programs

A clear, professional development structure can be offered to employees. The digital skills gap between generations should be closed by offering computer training or language learning for employees that are non-native speakers. Diversity training of team members can prove fruitful too.

  • Recruitment of Multilingual Employees

Employing multilingual or bilingual staff can also help bridge the gap between different cultures and resolve any language barriers between different language-speaking employees.

  • Implementation of Initiatives for Gender Equality

Businesses have a duty to demonstrate equality in the workplace and prevent gender discrimination.

  • Accommodate Differently-abled People

Physically or mentally disabled individuals should be allowed services and equipment along with initiatives and incentives in order to build a diverse workplace.

  • Accountability Against Discrimination

It is crucial to hold individuals accountable if they are not embracing workplace diversity and inclusion or if they are discriminating against other employees. Employees may need to be regularly reminded to keep personal beliefs and opinions separate to work, to help reduce the risk of disputes in the office.

Rules and codes of conduct should be designed and the individuals who do not follow them shouldn’t be tolerated and they should bear penalties and consequences of their misconduct.

  • Factor in Costs and Time Restraints

Leaders should be mindful of all potential costs and time restraints during the initial planning stages of the ‘diversity and inclusion strategy. This will ensure that all plans go ahead smoothly and prevent any costly, unwelcome expenses 

  • Diversity in the Levels of Management 

The ratio of diversity in upper and lower level management respectively is directly proportional to the amount of output generated.

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  • ‘FOR ALL’ Approach

Workplaces today are more diverse and globally connected. With the complexities of today’s work environment, management must tap into collective intelligence to maximize the potential of every person.  Technological, economic, and social changes continue to alter the landscape in every industry. Organizations now require the human understanding, empathy, passion, and creativity of all their workforce to address the challenges of an increasingly dynamic and demanding marketplace.  

The “For All” approach cultivates tremendous value from their people’s differences and prosper rapidly. It is much evolved than “Diversity & Inclusion.” Its goal is to create a consistently high-trust workplace experience for every individual. It cherishes each employee’s unique talents and recognized their needs. When corporates experience the very human acts of acknowledgment, dignity, and compassion that is when they can achieve For All. 

Examples:

Following are some companies that successfully implemented the strategies for diversity in their workplaces.

  • Johnson and Johnson

J&J secured the first spot in the ‘Top Companies for Diversity list by DiversityInc. The company works with Harvard University and provides training to its managers to fight unfair prejudices.

  • Accenture

Accenture provides professional services. It is often ranked within the top companies for diversity.

Diversity training within the company is broken into three different categories; 1) Diversity Awareness, to help people understand the benefits of working with a diverse organization, 2) Diversity Management, to help team leaders successfully manage diverse teams and 3) Professional Development, to enable minority groups to develop valuable new skills.

  • Kellogg

Kellogg stands at no. 21 in the ‘Top Companies for Diversity list by DiversityInc. Women are leading the decision-making processes which are responsible for the growth of the brand.

  • Nike

This leading brand has set the example of promoting diversity by giving a paid holiday to mark Juneteenth (the day that marks the end of slavery in the USA.)

  • Alibaba Group

Chairman of Alibaba, Jack Ma, is a staunch proponent of gender equality. He describes women as the “secret sauce” behind Alibaba’s dominance in the online shopping industry. More than one-third of Alibaba Group’s founders were women, and a similar percentage are in senior executive roles.

Recently McKinsey, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, and the Peterson Institute for International Economics all found that having a high percentage of women in a company’s senior leadership results in significantly better financial results.

  • AT&T

AT&T is a tech giant that took the prestigious top spot on Diversity Inc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity In 2019. They encourage their employees to speak openly about race, sexuality, religion, etc., to increase the mutual understanding of their colleagues.

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