In an ever-changing business environment, the importance of workplace diversity and inclusion cannot be overstated. Overly-homogenous corporate groups are at an inherent disadvantage in the marketplace. They will generally fail to understand the needs and mentality of those not represented in the group and will likely not attract individuals unlike those already present. In addition, diversity can positively affect the bottom line. Companies, therefore, have to be active in ensuring diverse representation within their teams, both to understand and to attract diverse individuals. In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we offer some tips of leading a diverse workforce.
Understand What Diversity Is
Historically, the term “diversity” has meant something as simple as gender or race. But, diversity and inclusion go far beyond this to include ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, generation (just think about the differences between “Boomers,” “X-ers,” and “Millennials”), disability, personality type, and thinking style. All of these different factors affect how people think, behave, comprehend, and process, which will also affect your organization’s reach. The greater the diversity, the greater the potential reach in terms of customers, employees, vendors and other stakeholders.
Companies that are successful at maintaining a rich, diverse culture are active in assessing how diverse their teams are and making adjustments when needed. Management should regularly survey employees to determine where there may be road blocks to diversity in the workplace, and then determine where policies may need to be added, eliminated, or modified to promote diversity.
Have a Plan
Management must know where it is and where it’s going in this area. It must identify quantifiable metrics to assess the diversity of teams and identify variables that it can control to reach diversity goals. Policies must reflect an openness to diverse viewpoints and cultures from the top down. Employees take cues from their leaders. If employees are to seek diversity among themselves, management must be actively promoting it at the top.
Seek Diversity and Inclusion Training
Management and staff both need diversity and inclusion training. Such training fosters understanding and empathy. It’s easy to inadvertently offend someone of a differing culture without even knowing it. It takes training to learn how different cultures interpret the same types of actions and humility to respect those interpretations. In today’s diverse environment, it’s not enough to “treat people as you’d want to be treated.” Instead, we must “treat people as they’d want to be treated.” A willingness to alter one’s own actions and perspectives is important, as is learning how those actions and perspectives should be altered is equally important.
Ensure Diversity in Leadership Positions
If you want your teams to be diverse, it helps to have diverse leadership. Leaders have the tendency to hire people who are like themselves. Therefore, it stands to reason that the more diverse leadership is, the more diverse the organization’s staff will be. Diversity in leadership will also result in a more comprehensive set of leadership viewpoints. As a result, the organization will be more likely to find ways to appeal to diverse groups outside the organization.
If you’re looking to hire from a pool of diverse, qualified candidates, contact us today to begin building your team!