How to Create Diversity in the Workplace and Why it’s Important
Diversity is important in all areas of life and diversity in the workplace is especially important. It makes sense that diversity would lead to the best outcome for your business. When working towards new ideas and innovation, perspective is important. So of course, it makes sense that a wide variety of people will come up with a larger variety of ideas.
In this article, we’ll cover the different types of diversity, the benefits of a diverse workplace, and steps you can take to increase diversity within your business.
Different Types of Diversity in the Workplace
While diversity is important, sometimes you don’t know it’s missing until it’s pointed out to you. This is especially true when you’re part of a majority. If you’ve grown up in an area where the majority of people are similar to you, you may not even notice a lack of diversity. If you feel like this applies to you, don’t worry. We’ll break down the different types of diversity you can find in the workplace.
Race and Ethnicity
We’ll start with the most common form of diversity, race and ethnicity. It’s a very common misconception that race and ethnicity are the same things, however, they are very different. To put it simply, race is a biological factor while ethnicity is a learned factor.
There are many different factors that combine to create someone’s ethnicity. Factors including culture, history, nationality, heritage, language, ancestry, and geographical background mix together to create ethnicity. For example, someone can be ethnically Latinx, but racially Asian.
Now let’s look at the other side – race. As we touched on, a person’s race is biologically determined, something they are born with. These two characteristics can overlap in several areas, which is where the confusion lies. Cultures are vastly different all across the globe, which is why diversity is so important for learning and growing!
Along the same lines as ethnicity – language! Requests for bilingual employees is becoming more and more common. This is understandable seeing that there are at least 350 languages spoken in U.S. households according to the United States Census Bureau. If you have bilingual or multilingual employees, this opens up your customer base even more. It also helps you to better connect and help your community if you live in a diverse area.
Age and Generation
Another one of the most common forms of diversity in the workplace is age. With Millennial employees hitting the workforce, the difference between generations of workers has become more apparent. The disparities in age tend to occur to younger and older generations.
With different generations valuing different aspects of their jobs, this combines to create a cohesive, well-rounded business. With this being said, some workplaces are still struggling to fill the gap. When an employee enters their 50’s, age discrimination is more noticeable – with 58% of workers experiencing age bias.
Gender identity has been a hot topic recently. The legislation is working to catch up with the social understanding of the gender spectrum. It’s okay if this is all new to you and you have to learn the proper terminology and regulations. If you’re concerned about gender identity discrimination within your workplace, reach out to an HR Professional. Until you’re familiar with everything, it’s best to have an expert help you with each step of the way.
Sexual orientation is another form of diversity in the workplace. While it’s likely you won’t know an employees’ sexual orientation (it’s actually illegal to ask – so DON’T), it’s important to make everyone feel comfortable. As with most situations, assume employees can be any orientation – heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, etc. Assuming you have a diverse workplace makes you think more inclusively.
While some states don’t have laws in place that protect their employees based on sexual orientation, there are other ways you can make your workplace more inclusive. Not only will your employees appreciate it, but likely your client base as well. Customers like knowing the businesses they support are inclusive, forward-thinking, and respect their employees.
While we may not think anything of employees having children, it’s important to point out. The reason being, recent generations aren’t having kids at the same rate as previous generations. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, birth rates are at an all-time low. So, don’t assume employees have children.
Once again, this different shifts perspective. No matter which position they’re in, non-parents likely don’t think about things the same way parents do. If they’re in a management position, it’s important they understand the needs of employees with children. As we’ve said a few times now, having a mixture of employees gives a different perspective.
For a full list of the different types of diversity in the workplace, take a look at this article from Built In that discusses 34 types of diversity. Now that we’ve covered different forms of diversity that can appear within the workplace, let’s take a deeper look into how this benefits your business.
The Benefits of Having Diversity in the Workplace
We’ve mentioned it a few times now – a cohesive pool of employees combines to create the best outcome for ideas. However, there are many more reasons you should add diversity to your workplace.
As we’ve mentioned, diversity leads to a combination of perspectives. When you have a diverse group of people working and experiencing your business together, it’s more likely that they’ll collaborate in different ways. This doesn’t just lead to better ideas and innovations, but it also results in better decision-making. According to People Management – 60% better!
Continued innovation is another important reason to add diversity to your workplace. Think about it – when you talk to people with similar backgrounds, family structure, socioeconomic status, etc., you usually have a lot in common. While this is great, it’s also less beneficial when brainstorming. So a more diverse employee group will lead to different ways of thinking. A way that is different from yours and leads to better collaborations.
When employees feel comfortable being themselves at work, they have less to worry about and think about. If an employee feels comfortable in general, it likely means they’re more comfortable throwing out ideas. This means more brainpower and energy to spend on work, leading to greater productivity.
Some Challenges That May Arise
While diversity in the workplace is great for business, it’s hard to achieve if you’re just now starting on it. If you want to diversify your workplace, good for you! However, there are some challenges to take into consideration as well.
Training is an important part of diversity and inclusion. As the boss, you’ll need to make sure all employees are properly trained and on board with the ways of diversity. You’ll also need to ensure your mission statement and goals solidly state your commitment to a diverse workplace – so everyone is on the same page right off the bat.
A downside to diversifying your workplace is that there may be some people not on board. If this is the case, you’ll need to make a decision about working with the employee or if termination is necessary. It only takes one terrible comment to stain your work towards diversity.
Simple Steps Towards Diversity
Now that you know how great a diverse workplace is, let’s discuss how to get there. While these few things won’t automatically create the diversity of your dreams, it’s a start. These small steps can lead you towards furthering the diversity within your company.
The first step towards a more diverse workplace is to make your intentions known. Develop a clear plan and let all employees know this is now part of your company’s culture. This will help set a standard when you begin hiring new employees. However, you’ll first need to attract diverse talent.
Instead of not choosing a diverse hire, you may not even attract diverse candidates. If you feel like this is the case when recruiting for your business, think about how you hire. You may not seem welcoming to diversity or be well-known for it. This doesn’t mean you’re actively trying not to be diverse – it just points out what we mentioned above. The perspective you’re used too isn’t one that diverse people may be used to. So get some input from the start – make sure your hiring technique and methods scream diversity.
Creating a diversity council lets you check your progress and maintain standards. According to SHRM, your diversity council should, “be involved in goal setting around hiring, retaining, and advancing a diverse workforce.” This council should meet at least once a quarter to discuss everything revolving around their duties. Obviously, you’ll also want to make this council as diverse as possible.
Listen to Your Employees
The phrase, ‘straight from the horses’ mouth’ may be dated, but is still relevant, especially when shooting for diversity. What better place to learn about your business’ inclusion and diversity than your employees? They’re going to have the feedback and information you need to adjust and better your diversity goals.
While building diversity in the workplace, it’s important to learn and grow. If you’re not sure about your business’ diversity, consult with an expert. As long as you strive for improvement and stay open-minded, you’ll soon see the benefits that come with diversity.