The Benefits and Challenges of Diversity in the Workplace
Workplace diversity refers to the differences between people in an organization. That sounds simple, but diversity encompasses race, gender, ethnic group, age, personality, cognitive style, education, background and more.
Diversity not only involves how people perceive themselves, but how they perceive others. Those perceptions affect their interactions with each other.
An organization’s success and competitiveness depends upon its ability to embrace diversity and realize the benefits.
When organizations embrace diversity, multiple benefits are reported such as:
Advantages of Diversity in the Workplace
Workers with diverse cultural backgrounds bring unique experiences and perceptions to the table. Pooling this wealth of knowledge and skills can benefit companies by allowing the organisation to adapt quicker to changing market conditions.
Job seekers are drawn to companies with diverse workforces because it is evident that the companies do not practice employment discrimination. Potential employees want to know that employers treat their staff fairly. Not only are such firms able to attract new talent but they can also retain existing talent because of high employee morale resulting from workforce diversity.
- A diverse collection of skills e.g. language and cultural understanding allows a company to provide service to customers on a global basis.
- A diverse workforce that feels comfortable communicating varying points of view provides a larger pool of ideas and innovative solutions.
- Spending time with culturally diverse co-workers can slowly break down the subconscious barriers of ethnocentrism and xenophobia.
- Diversity in leadership within a firm allows managers to bring in new skills and methods for achieving unity within their teams.
According to EthnoConnect, a consulting company specializing in workforce diversity, employees from diverse backgrounds bring in a variety of solutions on how to achieve a common goal. As more diverse ideas are suggested, the chances of finding a workable answer are improved.
Customer service representatives can be paired up with customers from their specific demographic, making the customer feel comfortable with the representative, and thus with the company.
Challenges of Diversity in the Workplace
Taking full advantage of the benefits of diversity in the workplace is not without its challenges. Some of those challenges are:
Effective communication can be a challenge between employees of diverse cultures, which can directly dampen productivity and the cohesiveness of small groups.
Social integration at work can only be influenced to a small degree. The formation of cliques and exclusive social groups is a natural process that is impossible to control.
There are always employees who will refuse to accept the fact that the social and cultural makeup of their workplace is changing. The “we’ve always done it this way” mentality silences new ideas and inhibits progress.
As the economy becomes increasingly global, our workforce becomes increasingly diverse. Organizational success and competitiveness will depend on the ability to manage diversity in the workplace effectively. Evaluate your organization’s diversity policies and plan for the future, starting today.
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Adapted from an article by Josh Greenberg