According to the Oxford Dictionary, diversity is defined as “the practice or quality of including or involving people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds and of different genders, sexual orientations, etc.”
Diversity within a workplace encompasses race, gender, ethnic groups, age, religion, sexual orientation, citizenship status, military service and mental and physical conditions, as well as other distinct differences between people (Peoplescout.com, 2021). In this article, we’ll break down the different aspects of diversity in the workplace and their benefits and challenges.
Benefits of Diversity
One of the first factors employers should consider when recruiting new employees is how diversity will benefit their organization.
The obvious primary benefit is a collection of fresh and varying perspectives. An individual who has been naturalized in the U.S. from another country communicates different experiences to both their colleagues and customers than a native-born American. Employees who bring fresh perspectives can help with problem-solving and productivity challenges that companies face.
Another powerful benefit of increased diversity is allowing people to be themselves. When they see a variety of people from different cultures and backgrounds, it allows them to focus more on their work and less on whether they fit in or stick out among their peers.
These results of fostering diversity in the workplace lead to better employee inclusivity and performance, which ultimately means increased profits.
Managing Workplace Diversity
According to a recent demographic analysis conducted by the Pew Research Center, by 2055, the U.S. will no longer have a single racial or ethnic majority. This shift towards a more diverse population will have major impacts on the workforce and how organizations address diversity in the workplace (Peoplescout.com, 2021).
Diversity goes beyond the standard demographic categories like race and gender – employers should also consider life experiences, work styles, age, personality, etc.
A company seeking to implement an effective diversity approach should consider all of these factors when pulling from a pool of potential new hires.
Challenges of Diversity
Without a conscious effort, employers managed by one group of individuals may instinctively avoid diversity implementation in their teams. For instance, a company that regularly employs 30 to 50-year old white Caucasian men who all grew up with farming experience may feel hesitant to hire a Chinese immigrant who just graduated from college with a Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Operations.
If said company would consider the fresh perspectives offered from hiring this individual, however, they may learn more efficient methods of operating their company as well as attract younger talent.
Communication issues arise when fostering a diverse workplace, especially when individuals come from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Language barriers are usually at the forefront of this issue, as sometimes the manner in which English is understood becomes difficult due to physical disabilities or language differences.
Sometimes, issues come about between different generations. Whereas an older individual may prefer to communicate via phone or in person, a younger person may prefer texting or video calls. This can affect both internal performance and external customer experiences depending on the individuals involved.
Dealing with Discrimination
Discrimination is a major hurdle for implementing diversity in the workplace, and over the past 100 years has been at the forefront of employer discussions, political movements, etc.
Linda Shaw, a Contributor at Forbes magazine, provided her perspective on this topic:
In order to get a fair understanding of the situation, let’s think about what feeds discrimination. To start with, research in psychology tells us that people are molded by group membership. The old saying “you become the company you keep” has substance to it because in order for us to belong to a group, we need to conform to the social norms of that group and behave in a similar way to be accepted. If you belong to a group whose norm is to believe that aliens often visit earth, then there is a strong chance you will adopt this view when engaged in conversations with your group and you will probably adopt parallel ideas.
Equally, our groups give us a sense of social identity, a source of pride that naturally leads to a “them” and “us” mentality. Think of a sports team you support and how you feel about the opposition.
Begin To Implement Diversity
While it’s true that employers can only hire those interested in a particular position within their company, it’s important to remember that when individuals from a minority background become interested in that job, it’s a rare opportunity to begin fostering a diverse workplace.
Many companies boast about being Equal Opportunity Employers, which is an excellent first step in broadcasting that your organization supports diverse workplace environments. Due to Federal laws enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), it’s almost expected nowadays that everyone offers Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO) – or else.
In summary, If your organization has not made an effort to join the “diverse workplace” movement, you’re falling behind standard employment practices…and that’s not a good thing.