If companies are raking in big profits, do CEOs really need to care if their work teams lack diversity? Maybe not in Silicon Valley, where high tech firms are dominated by white males and not under financial pressure to diversify. But the social pressure is on. When diversity is lacking in almost any other industry’s workforce, with no efforts toward change, the competitive edge is lost.
Lack of diversity can affect employee happiness and retention, and can keep talented staff away. Research shows people want to work for a diverse company that cares about the community and has happy employees — the ingredients for a positive corporate culture. If bias and oppression have become an acceptable way of doing business companies suffer. Not everyone gives the real reason for leaving. In some cases, talented staff who feel oppressed by leave without giving the true reason, thinking it’s hopeless. When profits fall, shareholders and the top brass take notice. Or worse, if a company suffers bad publicity for a lack of diversity, the consequences can be dire. But nobody should have to wait that long. As Jack Welch said, “Change before you have to.”
Diversity training is not so much about focusing on the differences of another, but about an individual’s thoughts about those who are not like them. Diversity in “how we think” should be the main focus for optimizing a workforce for productivity, not so much why others are different because they fit into the traditional categories defining diversity, such as race, gender, age ethnicity and so on. Such categories themselves bring stereotypes to mind; hence the need to focus on open-mindedness and acceptance of all differences is essential. A company culture that is accepting of all people recognizes that diverse people also of vast and varied life experience also think differently. And thought diversity is the critical part of a functional workforce.
Successful diversity training focuses on simulations and problem solving, vs. political correctness directing, which is really an authoritarian way of telling you what you can or cannot say and do. Simulating real-life experiences in training encourages natural interaction and may uncover biases trainees may not even recognize they have. Acceptance and understanding is the aim, and training to support such interactions can improve sales and customer service. Diverse teams, where employees respect, understand and accept one another’s life experience and ways of thinking, can best suit a diverse clientele when marketing products and services.
Benefits of Workplace Diversity
- Increased creativity. The greater the diversity, the more creative the team. When you put a team together whose members reflect different lifestyles, ethnicities, belief systems or other factors defining diversity at work, you fuel creative energy and innovation more so than working with a homogenized group.
- Increased innovation. Diverse life experiences, thinking styles, personal viewpoints, and the acceptance of one another, can help drive innovation. People from other cultures, well-traveled staff, former ex-patriots, and workers with different belief systems can bring ideas from far-reaching areas together to create products and processes easier than a team of similar members.
- Improved Decision Making. In a diverse team, you can expect to face wide ranging opinions and be challenged in new ways. When you are solving problems, diverse perspectives can lead to ideas you may not have considered. Collaborating ideas can be a part of continuous improvement with employee and customer relations.
- Better Understanding of Consumers. The diversity of your boardroom should reflect the diversity of the demographics of your market. Understanding customers of diversity also increases opportunities to explore additional markets.
- More Productive Brainstorming. Creative ideas flow when teams are diverse and feel free to throw out ideas without criticism. Trust is an important part for any team, diverse or otherwise. In the case of diverse teams there may be more barriers to trust. Brainstorming sessions can also be fun and build trusting relationships, while also being productive.
Having a diverse workplace is not a passing fad. If your workplace lacks a rich mix of diversity now, it’s time to plan for the future. Today, 83 percent of millennials are more actively engaged if their company promotes an inclusive culture, a Deloitte study showed. In 10 years, millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce. So if you’ll be too old to work by then, listen to the millennials who will be taking care of you in your final years.