The Importance of Diversity in the Workplace
Updated 17 November 2020
The definition of diversity is:
‘Being composed of different elements’
and it’s a word that perfectly describes what progressive companies are striving for by having an inclusive and fair approach to recruitment.
In the workplace, this translates to hiring employees from all different backgrounds, lifestyles and identities, to provide the same opportunities across the board.
Although sex and ethnicity are at the forefront of the drive for diversity and inclusivity, especially with the emergence of the #metoo and #blacklivesmatter movements, there are many other aspects to consider, including:
- Educational background
- Political leaning
A diverse range of team members creates a whole that is bigger than the sum of its parts.
Inclusion is a term that often goes hand in hand with diversity, but it has a slightly different meaning.
Inclusion refers to the processes a company uses to recruit staff with the aim of building a diverse team. Inclusion leads to diversity.
Once a company has made a diverse team, ensuring that all individuals within that team are respected and have equal opportunities to contribute means that they reach real inclusion.
To be successful in drives to achieve diversity in the workplace, all employees must feel equally valued and supported across all aspects of their role within the organization.
Why Are Companies Committing to Increasing Diversity in the Workplace?
As public consciousness around matters of diversity and inclusion rises, there is a general understanding of the responsibility everyone has in creating a level playing field for all members of society.
The moral and social responsibility of employers is one of the driving forces in the number of companies committing to increasing diversity.
From a business perspective, it is increasingly becoming recognized that an inclusive and diverse team gives a company a competitive edge in the marketplace. Embracing differences can create a stronger, more agile team.
Embracing differences can create a stronger, more agile team
However, merely hiring those from minority groups is not quite enough.
Beyond this, employers must respect the experience and expertise of employees from all backgrounds and support every member of staff to reach their full potential within the company.
By doing this, collective output and productivity increases, and the positive effects spread throughout the company.
An excellent inclusion and diversity policy can also boost business, as more and more consumers search for companies that meet their ethical standards.
The Top 10 Reasons Why Diversity in the Workplace Benefits Employees
For employees, working within a diverse team brings certain advantages and benefits to the table.
1. Your Colleagues Can Offer Different Talents, Experience and Skills
Input from a wide range of people can bring many different opinions and ideas into the mix, and the output of the team improves as a result.
The talents and skills that individuals contribute bring up the standard of work for all and that directly benefits you as part of a successful team.
A diverse group of people can also create a well-rounded team that approaches problems from different angles.
The life experiences of each member gives them a unique perspective on the world, which is reflected in their work.
2. A Diverse Team Solves Problems and Makes Decisions Quickly
It has been shown that a diverse team makes decisions and solves problems faster than a homogenous group.
Diversity at the management and leadership level in particular, can influence decision making, with benefits that will filter down through the whole company.
3. Diversity Boosts Hiring Results (Your Colleagues Will Be the Best of the Best)
Your employer selected you and your colleagues for your skills and attributes. You have been brought together with a common purpose – to do the work you love and are good at, regardless of your background, identity or lifestyle.
Hiring the best people available boosts the confidence of every individual as they are supported and inspired by their team members.
A diverse and capable team is a very exciting dynamic for an employee to be involved in.
When employers open the talent pool to include people from all walks of life, they increase their chances of hiring the most highly skilled and appropriate people for the job.
4. Your Team Will Experience Increased Creativity and Innovation
When employees are happy and have a fulfilling work-life, morale is higher, improving output as a result.
Being part of a diverse team with an employer who supports inclusion and fairness also gives employees a boost.
The ‘thinking outside the box’ approach is much more likely when a range of people are contributing. Often, when the experts struggle to move forward with something, a fresh member of the team with a different perspective can offer an alternative solution.
There is a world of people who have the ability to create and innovate, and opening up the net allows a company to find the best talent for the job.
When individuals are encouraged to be themselves, creativity can flow. From creativity comes innovation and from innovation comes business momentum.
5. Employee Engagement Is Higher
As an employee, you are more likely to be engaged with your team and your organization if you know your employer has an inclusive culture and welcomes diversity.
Millennials, in particular, value diversity when looking for employment.
As an employee, when you know you are valued for your skills and capabilities, you are more likely to speak up, making suggestions and expressing ideas more confidently.
When you are listened to and included, and when your ideas are received and considered in line with everyone else’s, you will be more willing to engage.
6. You Are More Likely to Receive Financial Benefits
It has been shown that companies that encourage ethnic diversity generate significantly higher revenue than their competitors with a less diverse approach.
As an employee, working for a financially stable company improves job security.
Your chances of receiving pay bonuses, additional benefits and salary raises is also higher in a successful and thriving company.
If you decide to move on to a new employer, having a reputable and well-regarded company on your resume will help you in your future career.
7. Better Job Satisfaction Means Reduced Employee Turnover
If you work for a company that encourages diversity, you are likely to be working alongside the most suitable people for the job. As a result, you and your colleagues are likely to be happier and experience more job satisfaction than someone employed by a company that hires based on prejudiced assumptions.
In turn, this keeps staff turnover low, and teams can grow stronger and closer over time without the upheaval of people leaving and being replaced frequently.
Often, the reason someone is attracted to working for a particular company is due to the diversity they offer. If this is the case for you, you are more likely to be happier in the long term working for an organization and with colleagues that reflect your values.
Feeling valued and accepted helps an employee settle into their role and strive to do the best work they can.
8. As a Team, You’ll Understand Your Customers Better
When your team is made up of diverse individuals, you are more likely to be able to relate to a wide range of customers.
Customers appreciate being able to work with a company that reflects their situation and will often support organizations that have a robust diversity and inclusion approach.
It has been shown that appealing to a wide range of customers is one of the main driving forces for companies improving their workplace diversity.
9. You Will Be More Productive
Diverse teams are generally more productive than homogenous groups, with increased output and better results.
As an employee, when you are surrounded by people who want to do well, the motivation and drive for success can be infectious, motivating you and your colleagues to do better.
Faster decision-making, more creativity and a balance of perspectives all contribute to the increased productivity of diverse teams.
10. You Can Use Your Language Skills to Your Advantage
If you are bilingual or multilingual, you may find that your language skills are highly valued in a company that strives for diversity.
As well as being useful for translating text for work projects, your additional languages will help you find common ground with others who may be from a similar background to you.
A company that values diversity may also be active in other countries where your language skills will be vital, so the opportunity to travel may arise.
You are much less likely to find bilingual or multilingual employees in a company that doesn’t value diversity and inclusion.
What Can Employers Do to Make a Team More Diverse?
Creating a diverse workforce starts with recruitment.
An inclusive approach to the recruitment process requires advertising roles in places that will reach minority groups in a format that is accessible to people with disabilities.
During the application process, the HR team can manage personal information such as age, race or religion, to either keep the recruiters ‘blind’ or to ensure that the applications put forward are representative of the range of applicants.
These steps can prevent prejudice or unintentional bias from influencing the hiring process.
Employers can follow government suggestions to ensure inclusivity throughout the hiring process. Organizations must also recognize that individuals’ backgrounds significantly affect their opportunities, and this must be accounted for when hiring.
For example, a candidate who achieves an ‘A’ from a failing school in a crime-ridden neighborhood may, arguably, have more drive and ambition than their peer who received their ‘A’ from a private education at a highly reputable school.
As an employee, don’t be afraid to demonstrate how you have overcome struggles to get to where you are today. Grit and tenacity are excellent qualities that are highly valued by employers.
Workplaces must be adapted to be accessible and welcoming to all employees, including adequate wheelchair access, disabled bathroom facilities, nursing or prayer rooms and allowing service dogs if possible.
Invisible disabilities are often overlooked but must be accounted for in any accessibility considerations.
An employer can make ongoing efforts to integrate employees from different social groups and backgrounds together. Encouraging social events and team-building experiences can help gel a team together and prevent groups from forming.
A hotdesk style of working means that employees don’t always sit at the same desk, helping to prevent small groups or cliques. Frequent moving around allows people the opportunity to build relationships with colleagues they may not naturally gravitate towards.
As an employee, a diverse team makes it easier to find someone with whom you can relate and share common interests.
Asking for feedback from employees can also help an employer monitor whether their efforts are effective and what they can do to improve the working environment for minority groups.
If you are job seeking and you value an inclusive approach, look at how diverse the workforce is at every level of an organization. When the top-level management is on board with encouraging diversity, this positive attitude filters down and creates an ethos of tolerance and acceptance.
If diversity is present at board level, it reflects well on the overall culture of the company.
Of course, companies should be working hard to address the gender pay gap, as well as ensuring fair salaries and equal opportunities for all employees.
Diversity in the workplace is not merely a check-box exercise. When done well, it can improve employee satisfaction, increase output, push up revenue and help create a more fair and equal society.
As an employee, working within a diverse team has numerous advantages. You are more likely to find like-minded people, and you’ll feel confident that you are valued and appreciated for what you bring to the table.
Many employees are proud to work for a company that promotes equality and practices inclusion. As an additional benefit, companies that see the value in diversity also tend to generate a higher revenue than other companies, meaning that you can expect better job security, a generous salary and attractive bonuses.