When we think about Diversity, what comes to mind? Gender, Race, Age?
That’s definitely an aspect of it, and whilst we are seeing a notable difference of gender in the workplace, the pace of change with other elements of diversity still has some way to go. The truth is, diversity in its entirety actually means much more, and includes an array of characteristics such as socioeconomic status, language, sexual orientation, and education. It can be anything that sets one individual apart from another.
Valuing diversity means creating an inclusive environment and culture that embraces and respects all differences, enabling each employee to authentically contribute to the organisation. Increasingly, studies have been able to prove that the more diverse a workplace is, the more success it achieves, hence organisations are looking to learn more about how to increase and embed their diversity programmes.
Businesses have understood that diversity and inclusion in the workplace is a necessity, not just a legality or quota fill. By businesses encapsulating a range of backgrounds, it will give them greater scope to serve their clients by better representing their customers, identifying with them and ultimately building products and services to meet their demands and requirements.
Ironically, there is also another way to think about diversity, and that is Thought Diversity. This new phenomenon refers to a diverse collection of thinkers in the workplace, and the many benefits it can bring to your organisation. There is an array of types of thinkers; to mention a few some are creative, others analytical, some are meticulous planners whereas some thrive off spontaneity. This isn’t about employing any one type of thinker, but rather leveraging from various cognitive approaches within a team to promote creativity, innovation and engagement.
An array of thinkers can also steer away from GroupThink, a common tendency where groups of employees tend to believe that the approach to getting a final decision is through consensus, usually at the expense of making the right decision for the business.
So how can organisations ultimately benefit from this double-sided sword of Diversity. Here’s some ideas to get you started:
Understand the scope of diversity: whilst characteristics such as race, gender and ethnicities are all visual indicators of building a diverse workforce, an embedded diverse culture can be largely invisible. Thought Diversity brings together those who think and approach challenges differently. A reactive thinker and a reflective thinker look no different at first glance, however, giving a reflector extra time to process the information and develop their ideas gradually will foster an open environment.
Hire differently by encouraging managers to hire candidates that can answer questions no one else could, not just the candidate who scored the top numbers. It is natural to hire a “like minded” team of people but having individuals with varying points of view can lead to better decisions and ultimately benefit your organisation.
Develop a culture that recognises the advantages of criticism and conflict to gain honest feedback where all opinions are truly welcome. Employees can often keep themselves from contributing their authentic ideas or challenging the status quo due to the fear of conflict. However, paying attention to the individual styles and encouraging everyone to present their ideas and perspectives can offer a range of results for the organisation. Contributing all ideas should be coupled with an organisation that is open to ideas of those who think differently than they do.
Diversity takes many forms, and has become multifaceted, with many perspectives to define and quantify diversity levels in an organisation. Successfully embedding diversity can bring a competitive advantage to any organisation benefiting both the organisation and the employee.
Written by Pooja Pankhania, Veran Performance