Diversity means bringing together a group of people from different backgrounds, with different skills and characteristics, which make them unique from each other. While a broad array of different individuals can bring many benefits to a company, there can be a downside to the challenges that might arise. A holistic approach can help companies to reap the benefits of a diverse workforce.
A diverse workforce consists of employees who look different, think different, and act different, working together to solve complex problems. There are many benefits that come along with these differences. Therefore, having a diverse workforce is becoming increasingly important for companies striving to improve their competitive advantage in the market. Diversity in the workplace is a reality and is set to become a key to success in a globalized world. However, to truly benefit from the uniqueness of their employees, companies need to learn how to successfully manage a diverse workforce, fostering inclusion and well-being, in and out the workplace.
As the war for talent is intensifying, employers need to widen the talent pool to recruit from. This results in a more diverse workforce, made of people with different characteristics, backgrounds, and lifestyles. The unique traits of a diverse workforce include race, origin, ethnicity, gender, religion, political ideologies, sexual orientation, age, physical abilities, and socio-economic status.
The differences that each unique person brings to a workplace directly affects what takes place within the company, from the corporate culture to the management style. Employees of different generations and from different countries or cultures, might have different views and needs. This diversity brings both benefits and challenges.
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Employers are awakening to the fact that a diverse workforce represents a potential strength. Diversity gives them access to a greater range of talent and encourages creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation because every team member brings a variety of experiences, skills, and perspectives to the table. It also fosters a new work environment where employees are usually more community-minded.
With a broad range of ideas developing from within a diverse team, companies can offer a broader array of products and market their goods to a larger customer base. They are also able to understand the needs and motivations of different clients and better assist the customer base. This makes companies more effective, more successful, more profitable. According to a McKinsey & Company report, companies that have good efforts to promote diversity and inclusion outperform other non-diverse companies by 15%.
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In a globalized work environment, companies with a more diverse workforce are often seen as a more desirable employer and tend to have higher job acceptance rates. According to Glassdoor, for 67% of job seekers diversity is important when considering job offers.
Apart from attracting top talent, employer branding is also important for retaining them. Actively cultivating diversity demonstrates sustained commitment to all employees. And when employees feel appreciated and are engaged, they highly contribute to a strong employer brand through, for example, online employer reviews. Therefore, they can become real employer brand ambassadors.
While the benefits of diverse teams are often cited, it shouldn’t be ignored that more diversity in the workplace can also bring more challenges. If there is a lack of acceptance of the diverse cultures, ideas, and beliefs among employees, then prejudice, discrimination, and conflicts may arise. Misunderstandings might also arise when employees from different backgrounds and cultures have different professional etiquettes.
When diversity is not accepted or is subject to misunderstandings or ambiguities, employees might not feel free to participate and share their ideas openly and fearlessly. This might undermine their productivity, create discord within the team, and even lead to talent loss. This is why a diverse workforce needs to be managed differently, paying particular attention to the needs of different employees, from the recruiting, through the onboarding to the mentoring phase.
To reap the long-term benefits and overcome the challenges of a diverse workforce, employers need to promote an inclusive workplace environment where employees feel able to participate with their ideas and achieve their potential. Holistic programs that foster an inclusive corporate culture, where diversity is not only accepted but is also celebrated, can help companies to prevent frequent turnover.
These holistic programs should go beyond legal compliance and contribute to employee well-being and engagement — inside and outside of work. To perform best and use employees’ talent to the full, employees should be encouraged to express their ideas openly and fearlessly. They should also be provided with the tools they need to fully integrate into their new company — and when it comes to expat employees also to their new country.