What is Diversity in the Workplace and Why it Matters


Approaching diversity in the workplace might just seem like an action to take to avoid any lawsuits for far too many members of management. If those managers were to fully comprehend the benefits to diversity, it might encourage them to develop a diverse team for a number of reasons. Understanding diversity and its importance in the workplace is a big aspect of creating a successful group dynamic.

What exactly is diversity in the workplace and why does it matter? Diversity, in its most simple forms, means variety. To have a true variety in the workplace, it means to employ people of all races, religions, genders, backgrounds, educations, and more. To employ a diverse workforce means to have a wide array of thinkers, which ultimately leads to a more creative group dynamic.

Once you have come to truly understand diversity in the workplace, it will become more clear why it matters. The benefits of having a diverse team lie in more than just what the company might get from it. Diversity should be a goal for all companies for a number of reasons, but not in order to meet a quota. Learning why diversity can be a major impact on your company might inspire additional reasons behind that quota.

Diversity Explained

Merriam-WebsterOpens in a new tab. defines diversity in two different ways. The first of which states that diversity is “the condition of having or being composed of differing elements.” The second definition says that diversity is “an instance of being composed of differing elements or qualities.” These definitions seem wildly similar. However, the big difference between the two similar definitions is that the first is a lasting condition whereas the second is an instance.

When it comes to workplace diversity, companies should be looking to build a long-term diverse team (the lasting condition) that creates numerous diverse instances. Further exploration of diversity in the workplace will make understanding that statement much simpler.

Imagine a workplace in which all employees had the same experiences, education, race, gender, lifestyle, and religion. A workplace like that would likely be one void of any differing opinions, ideas, or personalities. Everyone would probably have the same talents and skills. The danger of groupthink, an accidental avoidance of creativity or responsibility, becomes overwhelming in an atmosphere such as this.

Delving further into groupthink shows extensive damages to a company’s culture and the results that the company is looking to achieve. When groupthink becomes a part of your company, it becomes more important to employees to have a sense of conformity than to step outside the box. Not only does this create a sense of overt agreement, but it also discourages forward momentum. Companies become stuck in the mud, so to speak. Without rational thinking and differing opinions, it will be unlikely for any business to make a name for themselves or achieve new goals.

In order to avoid groupthink, creating a diverse workforce should be a priority. The question is, how do you create diversity in the workplace? It is important to avoid hiring personnel simply for the fact that he or she is of a certain ethnicity, religion, or age. Don’t actively seek out diversity above qualifications.

There is a line that can be blurred but is not recommended to cross it. For example, it might be necessary for a candidate to have a degree in a certain field. However, it is probably not totally necessary to only hire ivy league graduates. A candidate that graduated from a community college has had different experiences than a candidate that graduated from Harvard. By choosing the candidate based on other qualifications, on top of the obvious ones, a company can ensure that they have a more diverse workforce.

Another way to create a diverse group of employees is to hire from a number of resourcesOpens in a new tab.. While college job fairs are wonderful, if all employees are mined from that source, diversity will likely be far below the goal. Ask about opportunities for hiring from a variety of contacts and sources. Seek out churches, volunteer organizations, and current employees for referrals to look into.

Ensure that your company has a clear policy on equal employment. Making this policy known publicly will entice a variety of people to apply to positions within the company. By advertising the desire to keep a diversified workforce, your company might find that the hiring pool expands into those that were previously discouraged by the number of possible applicants.

You might also consider the type of person you are missing from your otherwise diverse team. For example, if you have a well-rounded group, but feel that your company is lacking an employee that is local to the area, you might seek out potential employees that were born and raised in that specific city.

Having said this, it is important to hire without discriminating against people from other areas. Most people consider the act of hiring someone because of the diversity he or she might offer the company as reverse discrimination. After all, not hiring the most qualified candidate because the candidate that follows the less common religion was more diverse sounds exactly like discrimination. If a company knows exactly the type of person they want to hire, how do they do so without reverse discrimination?

In reality, you have to hire the best qualified. You meet the diversity requirements by getting a variety of people to apply. Within those applicants, the odds of having a highly qualified person of a differing demographic is more likely. Doing so will provide benefits that extend beyond diversity.

Benefits of a Diverse Workforce

The advantages of diversity are many. Placing the focus on diversity allows a number of improvements to come into play. In fact, a diverse team within your company will likely prove to be more productive, creative, knowledgable, and reputable.

It might seem odd that something like diversity would improve productivity. However, it actually helps to drive competition within the office. That competition allows for a higher level of productivity and overall efficiency.

There are also studies that show that diversity in the workplace allows employees to be happier with their jobs. When your employees are happier, they are getting more work done. Hence, more productive employees for the company.

A person’s culture and life experiences often dictate how they see things. Because of this, a company with a diverse team is a company that is more creative. By having a group of people that are different in a number of ways, a company can ensure that projects are being seen from every angle. At least one employee’s angle will likely offer a different, more creative solution.

Different angles on a problem or project also allow the team to be collectively more knowledgable. For example, if marketing to a younger generation, the younger team members might have some insight into what they would respond to. If trying to reach a group from the middle class, employees that grew up in the middle class would provide information that someone raised in a higher class family might not have.

The knowledge that comes from a diverse group of employees also allows for more expansion, as an employee from China might understand the culture and exactly what is needed to carry the business overseas. An employee that has family in Ireland can offer the company relevant data that might help to decide whether to expand to that country. Hiring a variety of people is a huge part of success.

When companies openly hire a diverse workforce, they seem to get a reputation for doing so. In today’s world, a reputation like this is key to finding even more variety in the talent pool. By including people from all social classes, educational backgrounds, races, genders, and more, a company is more likely to have a well-rounded team of people.

Why Workplace Diversity Matters

While the benefits to business might be a great inspiration for including people of all types, there is something about diversity that runs a little deeper. Diversity inspires the complex feeling of inclusion. It means you’re a part of something bigger than yourself and your own experiences.

Inclusivity can only be truly established with a properly diverse staff. For example, if a company’s workforce has only employed one woman, it can be hard to make her feel as though she is really a part of the group. If another company has all white employees and hires one black person, the minority will likely notice the lack of inclusivity for people of his or her race.

A company is made up of people. To run a business and forget about the people aspect is to run a business that will likely fail. By working side by side with someone different from ourselves, we are inviting a different process of learning into our lives. When we learn about other cultures or about someone else’s encounters, we expand our knowledge from our own little radius to a bigger area. This improves us as people, and it improves the business.

However, hiring a diverse workforce must be more than just business. Business will not be improved if people are hired to fulfill a cultural need. At the same time, being diverse must be intentional. You accomplish this by hiring someone that is trainable. A trainable employee can be taught, but it is much more difficult to provide life experiences.

Life experience is a big part of diversity. Not only because of the benefits those experiences can bring to a company, but because of the exposure it also brings to coworkers. Since we often develop friendships with our coworkers, it is likely that we would befriend someone that we otherwise would never meet. This allows us to be exposed to a different way of thinking, different ideals, and a variety of aspects that differ from ourselves. It encourages an open mind.

An open mind allows people to approach a problem differently. By using the same thinking we have always used, problems will never truly go away. It is only with a creative approach that we might begin to truly dissolve recurring issues. Diversity encourages that.

Diversity at work also encourages a more diverse lifestyle. When a company lacks diversity, it is likely that some people will be less diverse in their personal lives as well. The neighborhood you live in might be mostly white or mostly black, the majority of which either have degrees or don’t. It might be high class and include people that have always been considered high class. On the opposite end of the spectrum, it could be a lower class neighborhood that has people that grew up in neighborhoods just like it.

With the world organized as it is, we are often unintentionally similar to the people in our lives. The only way to combat this is to be intentionally diverse! By starting with the workforce, businesses are getting the benefit of a diverse team, and the employees are getting the benefit of meeting others.

Appreciating the ability to learn from another perspective is something that can only be done once diversity has been experienced. A truly diverse group of employees will be one that represents all aspects of varying cultures. A team of people that each represent a different race is much more useful and meaningful if the people are of different genders and socioeconomic classes. Diversity includes all demographics, so it is important to gather a variety in order to have a real representation of varied thoughts.

Creating a company culture in which diversity is a focal point will show that your company has made it a priority. It might be beneficial to the bottom line, but it is also beneficial to humanity. With diversity beginning in the workplace, businesses have the ability to inspire change. At the end of the day, that should be important to everyone.

Related Questions

Are there challenges to having diversity in the workplace? Like anything, diversity in the workplace has its challenges. Most commonly, these challenges include communication, generational differences, and cultural acceptance. However, there are solutions to these challenges that should be explored before writing off diversity.

What is the ratio of males to females in the workforce? In the United States in 2010, 47% of the workforce was made up of women, leaving 53% to men. At the time, the percentage of females was only expected to rise but remained the same when numbers were last examined in 2017.

What are the most effective management styles for a diverse workforce? While diversity should be a large part of any company, management styles vary from person to person. Some common styles include Democratic, Authoritarian, Extroverted, Political, and Results-Based.

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