Many businesses are quick to highlight their inclusive workforce and hiring process when February rolls around, but awareness shouldn't end there. After all, cultivating and promoting diversity isn't just important during Black History Month. Successful business owners and managers understand that diversity significantly impacts your daily operations, from the ideas you share to the way employees feel at work. Learn more about why diversity matters and how you can develop a workplace that promotes it in our informative guide below.
What Is Workplace Diversity?
Take a look around your workplace. Do most of the people look and act just like you, or are there a mix of ethnic backgrounds, ages and genders?
In a diverse workplace, employees are individuals who all bring something special to your business, not cookie-cutter replicas of each other. These workers may come from different educational backgrounds, have unique political views or religious beliefs, and look different physically.
Some business owners confuse equality with diversity. In a professional setting, equality means that all workers have equal opportunities for development and advancement. They are treated the same, regardless of how they look, dress or live their lives.
A workplace that values diversity understands that every worker has their own experiences and attributes. When diverse team members work together, they can develop innovative ideas for tasks or marketing campaigns. A diverse workplace should also practice inclusion, so employees feel that all opinions and perspectives are welcomed and appreciated.
Why Is Diversity in the Workplace Important?
Imagine you hired 10 men named Todd. Each Todd is a Caucasian male, approximately 30 years old, who graduated from an Ivy League school and grew up in a middle-class family. All of the Todds like baseball, alternative rock, grilling burgers and hiking at local parks. They are all married to women.
Your team gets along well because everyone is exactly the same, but your sales are declining. Your company just isn't known for innovation, and you've been selling the same products — with no tweaks — for years. You've also noticed that your team of Todds can't brainstorm solutions very well when something goes wrong because they all have the exact same ideas.
But what if you add a Tim to your team? Or a Lana or Maritza? Tim likes country music and grew up in a rural community. Lana and Maritza went to college together, where they rocked out to pop music and lived on boxed macaroni and cheese. They are now dating their former roommates, Lisa and Mila.
Tim, Lana and Maritza all have different life experiences than your team of Todds, which is why they can bring a fresh perspective to your business. This can help new employees feel like part of the team, but it can also benefit your customers.
Diversity Makes Employees Feel Valued
No matter how much you like your coworkers, you may feel uncomfortable if everyone has identical lifestyles and viewpoints except for you. Maintaining a diverse workplace shows employees that everyone is welcome and appreciated, whether you grew up in a bustling city or spent your childhood chasing after cows and horses. When a company promotes inclusion, it makes it easier for employees to share ideas during meetings or speak up about issues that concern them.
Diversity Leads to New Ideas
The "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mantra makes sense to an extent, but successful business leaders need fresh content and innovative ideas. Unfortunately, it's difficult to do that if your team isn't diverse. Workplaces that embrace diversity often experience a nearly 60% increase in creativity and innovation. Problem-solving skills improve, and mixed-gender teams find it easier to tackle group conflicts.
Diversity Benefits Customers
When your team has a mix of ideas and experiences, your customers benefit from innovative goods and services. You should also extend your diversity to advertising so that all customers feel included. Target excels at inclusive advertising, as many of the company's marketing campaigns feature women, people of color, individuals with same-sex significant others and individuals with mobility equipment.
Why Is Diversity in the Workplace Important?
Diversity awareness begins before you even hire an employee. Even if you have good intentions, you may end up hurting or offending the same employees you want to help feel valued. Your team members want to feel welcome, and they also want to feel like they earned their spot on the team.
Let's use two hypothetical scenarios to make this point easier to understand.
If you are unsure what will be more favorable, consider contacting business consultants who will help your business choose the right path and make growth-based decisions.
Miguel walks toward the HR manager's office, noticing the photos of smiling Caucasian men covering the wall. There is also a woman in a crisp black business suit depicted. "Ah, these must be the managers," Miguel thinks to himself.
The HR manager greets Miguel warmly and immediately offers him a position in tech support despite having no degree, certificate or other formal training. The interviewer doesn't even check his knowledge with a pre-employment test, which is odd since he has a friend at the company who warned him about the brutal hiring process. When the interviewer leaves to grab a document for Miguel, he notices a brochure about minority hiring incentives tucked under her clipboard.
Miguel walks toward the HR manager's office, noticing the photos of smiling employees on the wall. There are several men and women of various ethnic backgrounds, plus a few workers who appear to be gender nonconformists. "Ah, these must be the managers," Miguel thinks to himself. "Maybe I'll be on this wall one day."
The HR manager greets Miguel warmly and says, "I know you have no formal training in tech support, but I loved your cover letter! Also, John Berry has assured us you're a quick learner, so we're open to training you if the interview goes well. Let's do some pre-employment tests first so we can see how familiar you are with technical jargon." Miguel groans inwardly, remembering how his buddy John warned him about the brutal hiring process.
Which Scenario Went Best, and Why?
The HR manager is polite in both scenarios, but there are some major issues in the first scenario. For starters, the company's lack of diversity is clearly represented in the leadership photos. Things get worse when Miguel is given a position he isn't qualified for — without even undergoing the usual testing process. He can infer this happened, especially after noticing the interviewer's hidden brochure about incentives for hiring minorities.
It's also worth noting that Miguel appeared to be a referral in both scenarios. While it's great that John encouraged Miguel to apply, this may also mean the HR manager doesn't know how to find diverse candidates on her own. When you advertise available positions for your company, make sure you place ads in places where people of various backgrounds can find them. This may mean advertising in a nearby city instead of just your own, reaching out to local colleges with diverse student bodies or specifically listing job openings in publications tailored toward women or people of color.
What You Should Know About Hiring Minorities and Women in Business
Some companies have a diverse workplace but still fail to make employees feel valued. These companies often believe they are empowering women in business or helping minorities succeed simply because they hired a diverse team. However, hiring people with different backgrounds or selecting the occasional person of color for a management position isn’t enough. Ask yourself these questions before claiming you have an inclusive, diverse workplace:
- How are reports about racism, sexism and discrimination handled?
- How many women hold leadership positions?
- How many people of color hold leadership positions?
- What happens when minorities, women or employees with unconventional lifestyles speak during a company meeting?
- Do the same employees always brainstorm ideas for projects, or are a mix of opinions and perspectives considered?
- Do company-sponsored events represent the varying interests of our team?
- If you’re interviewing a woman, a man and a person of color for the same position, will all employees undergo the same interview process?
- Does our company decor promote inclusion and diversity?
- Do pamphlets, posters and other marketing materials reflect diversity?
- Does our company provide health insurance and other benefits for employees in same-sex relationships?
- Can parents who adopt children receive the same benefits, such as paid maternity or paternity leave, as parents who have biological children?
- Is the layout of our workplace easily accessible for employees with wheelchairs, walkers or other mobility devices?
- What personal development opportunities are available for your employees?
- Do you offer training about sensitive issues such as racism and gender inequality to ensure that workers understand the importance of inclusion?
Remember, developing diversity is an ongoing commitment, not a one-time thing. “It takes more than hiring practices to make diversity and inclusion efforts seem authentic and believable to all employees,” the Washington Business Journal reminds us. Multimedia giant AT&T, one of DiversityInc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity, encourages workers to converse regularly about sensitive topics such as race and religion. In 2018, more than 60% of the company’s new hires were people of color, and AT&T spends millions on diverse suppliers each year.
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