A diverse workforce must be treated as the very core of competency in any business because in most cases diversity is directly proportional to increased creativity and innovation. And, it is a virtual truth that an organization’s success depends on its ability to embrace diversity, and, thereafter, harvest it for the long term.
– BRIGETTE HYACINTH
“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”
– Maya Angelou
A diverse workforce must be treated as the very core of competency in any business because in most cases diversity is directly proportional to increased creativity and innovation. And, it is a virtual truth that an organization’s success depends on its ability to embrace diversity, and, thereafter, harvest it for the long term. Many organizations are today actively pursuing diversity as a “business strategy.”
Cultural diversity is in fact a reality in the modern workplace. Diversification of the workplace is largely due to two factors- the changing composition of national populations and then globalization. An article in the Economist titled “Liberty Moves North” points out that while the US is planning to build walls to block Mexican immigrants, Canada intends to take in 300,000 immigrants in 2017 – which comes to 1% of its population. In broad terms, Diversity is any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another. Managing a culturally diverse workforce in today’s organizations is therefore highly critical. And, it comes down to accepting and appreciating differences in your workforce. However, diversity alone is not enough; inclusion is equally crucial as well.
We humans view the world from a very narrow perspective- our own. On a realistic note, we must acknowledge the limitations of our own culture, and, that at the very foundation of every culture lies a cultural bias. There can be an unconscious bias as we naturally gravitate to people who look and sound like us. Ethnocentrism, the evaluation of other cultures according to preconceptions originating in the standards and customs of one’s own culture, can lead to stereotyping. Stereotypes are preconceived opinions on how things or groups of people are characterized, and, occurs between various cultural groups and thus obstructs an organization’s efforts to include diversity through resistance.
“Ethnocentrism, the evaluation of other cultures according to preconceptions originating in the standards and customs of one’s own culture, can lead to stereotyping. Stereotypes are preconceived opinions on how things or groups of people are characterized, and, occurs between various cultural groups and thus obstructs an organization’s efforts to include diversity through resistance.”
In 2016, Google stated that 69% of its employees are male, 31% female, and, women hold 24% of its leadership positions. Further it said, 59% employees are white, 32% are Asian, 2% Blacks and 3% Hispanics. white employees hold 70 percent of the leadership and 57 percent of tech positions. Google began sharing its diversity statistics in 2014, prompting other Silicon Valley giants to do the same.
To manage diversity effectively, it is essential to garner support and genuine commitment from all the members of the organization. And, support and commitment from the top level to diversity is extremely crucial. According to The DiversityInc Top 50 most diverse companies across the globe, those companies where the CEO is actively engaged in diversity efforts, stand out. When preparing to deal with issues surrounding cultural diversity, the structure of the organization must stand as the focal point. To incorporate Diversity & Inclusion, assistance can be solicited from local organizations that can connect diverse candidates to businesses in your community, like recruiters, colleges etc. Leaders should enhance implementation by changing policies, structures, and systems to support diversity. These include fairness in recruitment and career advancement, as well as providing flexible benefits and programmes. Most of the time, when companies focus on diversity, it generally centres on class, race or gender. This is why some companies often make progress in only one area of diversity. Often, those with disabilities tend to get overlooked. It has been witnessed that organizations with the highest percentage of disabled workers have been seen as most productive.
Research by the Level Playing Field Institute indicates that recurring instances of unconscious biases or unfairness have been responsible for more than two million employees leaving their jobs. Organizations should conduct diversity awareness training to help people become aware of their own cultural boundaries and their prejudices. There must be sensitivity training for employees and training of managers on cultural awareness and how to handle culturally diverse teams. For such an approach to be effective at an individual level, managers, as well as employees, should study the differences in the rituals of different cultures. Managing diversity reflects understanding people’s differences, and, viewing them as valuable for the organization.
It is beneficial to encourage an organizational culture where employees are happy to share their personal stories, and, thus create room for better connection and empathy. If this can be achieved, trust, understanding, respect, and collaboration will improve significantly. Team members will be able to better assess the needs of one another, and, will be able to better adjust to changes. This can be facilitated via storytelling.
Ultimately, to ensure that the organization’s efforts towards promoting diversity is cemented better, it needs to be a part of the existing culture. Johnson & Johnson, the global healthcare company was listed on DiversityInc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity, eleven times. Johnson & Johnson maintains that it not only celebrates diversity — “we champion it.” Diversity inclusion involves moving beyond lip service and supporting these efforts in highly visible ways, and, building in accountability metrics for senior executives and managers. Diversity metrics can also be linked (directly or indirectly) to management bonuses and incentives. A diverse workforce must be treated as the very core of competency in any business, because diversity in most cases, is directly proportional to increased creativity and innovation. And, it is virtually true that an organization’s success depends upon its ability to embrace diversity, and, thereafter, harvest it for the long term.
Sixty-five percent of 321 executives of large global companies surveyed by Forbes Insights stated that they have a plan in place to recruit a diverse workforce — but only 44 percent have retention programmes. This reveals an obvious gap when it comes to retaining diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Companies must have solutions in place to monitor and retain a talented and diverse workforce, such as employee resource groups and multicultural talent management. Mentors and role models should be in place to secure the survival of diversity programmes. Networks can provide social support and access to role models and mentors of the same gender and race/ethnicity.
Benefits of Diversity include greater creativity and innovation as people with various backgrounds bring multiple perspectives to the table. Diversity also helps in preventing and reducing groupthink. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM):
- Diversity initiatives can be the catalyst for a better ROI in human capital.
- The financial rewards of appealing to a more-diversified customer base are significant.
However, if poorly managed, diversity may cause severe losses to an organization. Mismanaging cultural diversity at work causes tensions between employees and employers, a loss of team productivity, a smeared corporate image and even discrimination lawsuits. With India being a multilingual country, it is common to experience some language barriers that create communication problems. Cultural and language barriers need to be overcome for diversity programmes to succeed. Ineffectual communication of important objectives result in misunderstandings, lack of teamwork, and, low morale. Communication is an essential ingredient in any organization. Poor communication results in losses to the tune of millions each year for businesses. Then diversity is added to this, posing more challenges. A manager can adapt their written and spoken communications to prevent this, for example; speak clearly and slowly, avoid slangs, use simpler language and reiterate key points.
“Communication is an essential ingredient in any organization. Poor communication results in losses to the tune of millions each year for businesses. Then diversity is added to this, posing more challenges. A manager can adapt their written and spoken communications to prevent this, for example; speak clearly and slowly, avoid slangs, use simpler language and reiterate key points.”
Religion has one of the strongest influences on a person’s beliefs and values. However, it is one of those subjects that managers avoid discussing with employees. It is akin to walking a sensitive line, and, a statement taken incorrectly could be deemed as bias. Therein lies the risk of one party unintentionally offending the other, destroying team spirit. Although diversity is beneficial, organizations must take into consideration drawbacks to ensure it is reaping the priceless benefits of “Unity in Diversity.” There have been instances of organizations going over the top on diversity, trying too hard, and thus, overusing the term that the spirit of real diversity gets watered down. On the other hand, you should not be pressured to hire individuals to meet your diversity targets who truly are not a good fit for your organization. Additionally, if you only keep heralding diversity workers, those from the homogenous home group may feel left out.
Diversity is supposed to include all people and make them feel appreciated and welcomed. Make sure you are not missing the mark or being manipulated by focusing on the loudest group who are quick to cry discrimination. Organizations can often feel trapped when dealing with attitudes of entitlement among certain minority groups. Sometimes, individuals are quick to feel offended by even the slightest of issues that might have happened innocently.
Doing away with prejudices
In a world where “ethnic cleansing” is a present evil, leaders need to be an instrument to another set of values that do not “rate” people, by prejudices. We must realize in spite of all the differences people are very similar and most of us want the same things. We are all part of one single human family. Seek Unity rather than uniformity. One of the greatest challenges facing larger corporations is the question of unity. There is a continuous danger of growing apart or even fragmenting unless we develop programmes to maintain and grow a genuine closeness. There should not be clusters of diverse groups who do not interact with other groups – that is defeating the purpose. Leaders need to get these employees out of their comfort zones by moving them around in different teams. Leaders should spread unity over divisiveness for individuals to work together as a team. It does not mean we must dress, speak or look alike, but we value and respect each other’s differences and are committed to working together for the overall success of the organization. A sustained focus on unity is, therefore, needed more than ever as we face the challenges and competition in the evolving marketplace. Employers must not only see the urgency to include diversity, but they need to understand what motivates an employee’s behaviours. Universally, we all want to achieve self-actualization. Self-actualization is the highest level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs which he describes as the desire to accomplish everything that one can, to become the most that you can be. It should also be noted that, since each person has individual characteristics, cultural diversity management should regard the diverse needs of individuals. To make diversity a life-force, it must be coupled with speaking to the hearts and aspirations of your employees.
In today’s world diversity is not an option, it is the means to survival. Due to intense competition among companies on a global scale, it is even more important for companies to be able to retain their workforce. People aspire and want to work at such as companies such as Facebook, Google, American Express, GE, McKinsey, etc. because these companies go out of their way to take great care of their employees. Therefore, they recruit and retain the best talent, thus making them even better at what they do and they remain globally competitive.