What Are the Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace?
GLOBALIZATION, DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION
Globalization is affecting many aspects of our everyday lives and this applies to the labor market as well.
In today’s world, the freedom of movement is a widely acknowledged right and nowadays, people frequently study and/or work in counties other than their own.
‘International’, liberal and flexible are attributes frequently engaged to describe a modern employee.
On the other hand, there is no longer one ‘right’ color, shape, size or gender for anything.
Even the most closed or conservative countries experience migrations and this inevitably affects their demographic structure, economy and the way in which ordinary people operate.
The world has always been a very versatile and heterogeneous place but what has changed in the past couple of years is the exposure of individuals to this great diversity.
Nowadays, you really don’t have to be a diplomat, a successful businessman or have a lot of money to experience unfamiliar cultures and get in touch with people belonging to another race, ethnicity or culture.
You get the opportunity to meet and interact with people from all over the world the minute you leave the house!
You can meet them in cafes, stores, on the train and frequently, you also get to work with them…
At my current workplace, I am sitting between a twenty-five-year old girl from Spain and a forty-year old guy from Poland.
Our stories, characters, backgrounds and education are as different as they can be.
We have different opinions on many things. We react differently, and we solve problems differently.
Nevertheless, with a decent portion of mutual respect and professionalism, we do make a wonderful team.
In an inclusive environment, different individuals bring different assets to the table and are being offered a chance to contribute in a way best suited for them.
All of this got me thinking about diversity…
It is such an amazing thing and not only on a personal but professional level as well and this article will try to highlight some of the most obvious benefits of diversity in the workplace.
DIVERSITY IN THE WORKPLACE: BENEFITS AND CHALLENGES
Diversity is fantastic in general, however, I decided to focus on diversity in the context of a diverse professional environment.
What does this expression mean in this concrete context?
It refers to having a diverse set of people working towards a common goal, either on the level of a whole company, or on the level of individual teams.
It means having people of different age, gender, sexual orientation, color, race, nationality, ethnicity, speaking different languages and having diverse cultural backgrounds.
And this list is not exclusive…
A mix, variety, a complicated colorful human puzzle.
To me, it does.
Obviously, certain difficulties and challenges can never be excluded entirely:
- Employees with different backgrounds tend to have different standards of business communication or work ethics. They may also have different habits or customs and although cultural exchange is a beneficial thing, the sole process can be quite painful.
- Furthermore, with people speaking different languages, communication does not always run smoothly, hence, the issue of miscommunication cannot be excluded entirely.
- On another note, there are also more serious challenges related to this concept, namely, employment discrimination.
Workers and candidates belonging to certain minority groups continue to face discriminatory treatment and are, frequently, forced to downplay their racial/ethnical/gender cues in order to even be considered for positions in certain companies.
In fact, multiple studies have shown that even companies which stress out their highly inclusive policies and pride on their diverse working environment, are not much better than the rest.
Candidates tend to be drawn to this kind of image and feel freer revealing their personal data, however, end up facing the same discriminatory treatment they would otherwise face in “less inclusive” firms.
Now, we all know that this shouldn’t be happening, especially when taking into consideration all benefits of a diverse working environment.
And there are truly many of those…
DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES CONTRIBUTE TO THE INCREASE IN PRODUCTIVITY
One of the most significant benefits which has been noticed in diverse working environments is the increase of the overall productivity of a company.
Why is this, you may ask?
Well, great minds think alike but it turns out they perform even better, when they think differently.
Let me explain this rather complicated wisdom of mine.
To give an example: it has been demonstrated that brainstorming sessions turned out much more efficient and productive in diverse teams.
This makes sense, for people with diverse backgrounds, experience and nationalities tend to have different perspectives, hence, solve problems differently.
And that’s what brainstorming is all about: getting as many different, crazy and creative ideas as possible, without judging or trying to anticipate their success rates.
In my team, the Spanish girl brings the temperament and tends to have rather intuitive, spontaneous approach to the problem-solving.
The Polish guy likes to check everything twice and is rather cautious when speaking his mind, communicating ideas and especially, when making choices.
I am somewhere in between… I like conducting a research, I do speak my mind and I enjoy communicating my ideas, as strange as they may be.
Finally, I truly enjoy being a decision maker and a leader, and this is relevant, for the two of them really do not appreciate this kind of responsibility.
When conducting brainstorming sessions, we frequently look at each other surprised or even shocked. Our takes on the best solution can be as different as earth and sky!
But this is exactly how we come to our best results.
We share our completely different perspectives, these add up to a complete picture and frequently, we reach a spectacular result.
On another note, diversity in leadership within a firm allows managers to bring in new skills and methods for achieving unity within teams.
By now, we all should know that there is not just one or one “best” leadership model.
Different styles and methods can be equally successful depending on specifics of a team or concrete circumstances of the case.
Finally, workplace diversity increases employee morale and causes employees to want to be more productive and work more efficiently.
Again, this too is quite logical.
People are more eager to achieve and contribute if they feel as a part of a certain environment.
In inclusive environments, they tend to feel appreciated, create a more personal attachment to the company and start perceiving company’s success as their own.
And this is again related to different perspectives… Different minds, viewpoints, backgrounds…
I imagine a diverse workplace as a huge pool of interesting minds thinking different thoughts, seeing and hearing things differently.
In an ideal case, this variety should not grow conflicts but discussions, should not result in right and wrong answers but ideas and possibilities.
In an ideal case, diversity results in blooming creativity.
If the environment is inclusive as it should be, people are respectful towards mutual differences.
Employees feel comfortable sharing their views and ideas, even if these are entirely different from those of the majority. In an environment where everyone sees and thinks differently, there cannot be only one right or satisfactory answer.
There can only be an answer best suited to a particular situation and in this kind of environment, the chosen solution will most probably be chosen in a very objective manner since all opinions will be taken into account.
This kind of environment, unlimited by “right” answers, is a perfect environment for innovative ideas and progress.
Think about it… All innovative ideas are results of individuals thinking outside the box.
Diverse working environment, if inclusive as it should be, does not accept boxes of any kind. Boxes are per definition a destroyer of inclusivity and they go against celebration of mutual differences.
Without “boxes”, categorizations, prejudices, judgments; communication, sharing and testing of unconventional ideas becomes a lot easier and fantastic results are bound to happen.
VARIETY OF LANGUAGES RESULTS IN THE INCREASE OF OPPORTUNITIES
When speaking of diversity, I cannot help but imagine my workplace, where passing through the open space you inevitably hear more than six different European languages…
Some may say this creates miscommunication and language barriers but, in my opinion, this creates an entire world of opportunities for a company as well as its employees.
For employees, it can be so comfortable being able to communicate in their native language and sometimes, this adds up to the overall comfort and good atmosphere in the workplace.
Furthermore, employees can practice or learn other foreign languages and for many may consider this to be a great opportunity. For example, I truly appreciate the opportunity to practice my Spanish on a daily basis with my colleges.
The exposure to the language is crucial if you want to improve it and it can be a huge benefit having this exposure every day by simply going to work.
On another note, benefits of employees speaking multiple languages for the company are even more obvious.
- Customers speaking in a foreign language will usually be extremely happy to be provided with a service or support in their native language.
- In many cases, a company cannot even hope to expand to a territory of another country without having people who speak the language of that other country.
Naturally, a company will potentially hire people from those countries only after it decides to expand but sometimes, they start looking for people who know the language and the culture beforehand.
It is true that many companies have English as an official company language, but English doesn’t always help when having to deal with authorities or customers in foreign countries.
Therefore, the more foreign languages company’s employees speak, the better. It is a fact: in today’s globalized world, the knowledge of foreign languages is not only a major asset, but rather a necessity.
And this especially applies to international businesses or businesses wanting to go international.
BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF CLIENTS/CUSTOMERS/MARKET
This is also related to having employees speaking different languages, but it goes even further. This benefit is rather a result of having employees with different cultural backgrounds.
Whenever a firm wants to expand, it must conduct a research on the area and the relevant market. Specific market studies, check up on competition and perhaps most significant, analysis of customer behavior.
It is a complicated process and it is no wonder that successful expansion strategies usually involve the assistance of local partners, experts or coworkers.
- Why do customers in country A consistently choose product B? Is there even a chance of success with such strong consumption habits?
- Or, we can ask more specific questions, e.g.: Is there a market for rice cakes and gluten-free products in country C? Is there a strong healthy lifestyle trend in this country and do people feel they have many choices when pursuing such a lifestyle?
These are just some simple examples of things and questions which could be relevant for a company pursuing a growth and development in a foreign country and/or unknown market.
Sure, questionnaires and surveys are useful, but they rarely give complete or even any explanations for the obtained results.
These tools provide numbers, and numbers do not always suffice when a company is considering an alternative business strategy, hence, whether a certain strategy would be successful.
Now imagine having an actual insider in your firm: a person that can explain the market and customer behavior, as well as cultural and consumer differences first hand.
That can be an incredibly valuable asset!
And not only in terms of simple understanding of a certain market and its customers, but in terms of creating and developing targeted business strategies as well.
Ever wondered why all major consulting firms have offices everywhere and consultants from all over the world travelling from one place to another to share expertise?
If you want to play globally, you must think globally, and you cannot hope to think globally if you never left your doorstep, saw the world, i.e., if you are not opened to think and work differently.
When speaking of companies, companies cannot hope to think and operate globally if they aren’t opened to the concept of diverse environment and international employees.
Being closed to diversity means being closed to specific knowledge, know-how and/or expertise. As simple as that.
COMPANY’S TALENT POOL GROWTH: EASIER TO ATTRACT AND RETAIN TALENTS
Candidates, if they can afford the luxury of a choice, tend to choose a company to which they feel connected to in some way.
They also tend to be more drawn to a company they think they would feel comfortable working in. After all, it is not only business reputation that matters. Reputation of a company as an employer, as well as work atmosphere are quite relevant as well.
Being a company with inclusive reputation can actually help attract more good and high-quality candidates. And this kind of reputation spreads rapidly and easily.
Things like work climate and the actual extent of inclusivity in a company are some of the most popular topics on career related blogs and platforms.
If a company is known to pay attention to candidate’s skills and expertise, rather than his/her race/ethnicity/gender, candidates will feel more confident and will want to apply there.
Furthermore, if a company seems dedicated to the overall inclusivity and maintenance of a positive and tolerant atmosphere, talented and good employees will be satisfied and will want to remain with the company.
Many people state the work climate as a crucial reason for staying in or leaving a certain company.
For me this makes total sense: An average person spends approximately eight hours of every day working and nobody really wants these eight hours to be unpleasant or spent in a hostile environment.
Employment discrimination and the lack of inclusivity do not only harm a company’s image but can also be harmful for the overall quality of its talent pool, hence, can result in an overall decrease of quality (in all aspects).
And even though many people still fear they could be rejected due to some of their personal traits, tendency is shifting.
More and more candidates decide to persist in their search of better employers and inclusive working environments, knowing they deserve better.
‘Good’ employers are inclusive. Their employees possess a variety of backgrounds, skills and qualities which add up to assist the company to success.
‘Good’ employers care for the satisfaction of their employees and satisfied employees perform better.
Therefore, ‘good’ employers also make successful employers.
It’s a win-win situation.
IMPROVEMENT OF A COMPANY’S IMAGE
Last but not least…
The topic of employment and discrimination on the workplace continues to gain more and more attention and I think we are safe to say a certain progress has been achieved.
Having a reputation of a non-inclusive employer is not good in any way and is, frequently, directly affiliated with engaging in employment discrimination.
For successful businesses, the sole affiliation with discrimination charges or accusations can be fatal. Such affiliations can ruin a company’s reputation, damage its brand, hence, cost a lot in every way.
Therefore, it is no wonder many companies, especially those with a strong brand, have a tendency towards inclusive policies and image.
Brand has a monetary value and having an inclusive reputation only helps the strengthening of a company’s brand, hence, increases its value.
It’s a wise thing to do… A company portrays itself as modern, inclusive, dynamic and opened for change and diversity.
This is attractive for potential employees, for customers and potential investors.
Potential employees want to work in a place where they know they will feel accepted and respected.
Furthermore, when applying, a candidate may try to inspect whether there are people of a similar background in the company.
He/she may even try to connect with these people on LinkedIn or via mail and in this way, a candidate may create a connection to the company before even applying for a job therein.
- Customers and clients place a lot of value on whether they can relate to a certain brand or image. Let’s say a customer is a person of color, he/she will most probably appreciate the fact that a certain company has people of color on leadership positions.
- Motives of potential investors or business partners will be slightly different… They most certainly will not want to be affiliated with a discriminatory behavior or practices and will usually, do a thorough research before entering any kind of business deals or partnerships.
With the overall presence of media, social networks and a the easy access to information, reputation of international business became more relevant and, at the same time, more vulnerable than ever.
Therefore, nurturing the reputation of an inclusive employer and taking pride in a diverse working environment is a wise and logical strategic move, especially when speaking of multinational companies and big brands.
So, there it is… Some of the most obvious benefits of diversity in the workplace.
But there are many others, less obvious or tangible benefits, as well.
This kind of environment influences employees to have a more opened, less judgmental and more flexible approach and behavior in general, not only in the workplace.
I am confident that diversity and inclusivity also contribute to a more fun and relaxed, yet equally productive atmosphere (don’t even get me started on all cross-racial jokes we have in our office).
It is beautiful demonstration of many good sides of globalization and all progress we can achieve if we leave our differences aside and decide to work together.
A space where people can feel confident being different or thinking differently is, in my opinion, always a good thing.
World today is somewhat of a wonderful place, but we didn’t get this far by having everyone think and be the same.
Going to a workplace where I get to work with colleges of diverse backgrounds, characters and stories makes me feel like I’m traveling every day.
And sure, I am this kind of a person, I enjoy multicultural environments. Nevertheless, I do believe that everybody could easily feel benefits of an inclusive environment if only they’d be just a little bit more open.
Diversity, indeed, is divine!