Diversity in the workplace means that a company employs a wide range of individuals with different characteristics. By nurturing a more accepting, diverse culture, organizations will experience a substantial positive effect on individuals and a stronger bond within teams.
As a result, organizations will become more inclusive of individuals of varying genders, ages, religions, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, education levels, and more.
However despite these benefits, organizations are still struggling to successfully foster diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Most discussions about diversity focus on demographic variables (e.g., gender, age, and race). However, the most influential aspects of diversity are psychological (e.g., personality, values, and abilities), also known as deep-level diversity.
There are several advantages to focusing on deep-level variables as opposed to demographic factors. Different from demographic variables which emphasize age, ethnicity and gender, deep-level diversity focuses on the individual, allowing a much more granular understanding of human diversity. Group differences are trivial when compared with differences between individuals, even if they are part of the same group.
Why Embrace Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace?
1: Diversity Expands Innovation, Creativity and Productivity
Studies conducted by the Harvard Business Review revealed that the more diverse the team is in terms of demographics and deep-level diversity, the more creative and productive they are likely to be.
Increasing diversity in the workplace enhances creativity and innovation. Teams that see the same thing in different ways are more likely to get a wider range of perspectives and an infusion of fresh ideas, improving the productivity of the workforce.
2: Knowledge-Sharing Leads to More Resources at Work
Knowledge-sharing between cultures is a key component that is needed to ensure a successful, diverse and inclusive work environment. A culture of knowledge-sharing paired with increased diversity bring many benefits to both individuals and organizations.
Studies show that people of diverse backgrounds also tend to view information-gathering and knowledge-sharing differently, which helps to bring a variety of resources, skill sets and attitudes to a project.
Through knowledge-sharing and diverse perspectives, organizations and teams benefit from more collaborative planning and project execution and strategy.
3: Cognitively Diverse Improves Problem-Solving Skills
Cognitive diversity is defined as differences in perspective or information processing styles. Harvard Business Review studies show that individuals with diverse cognitive abilities — as opposed to gender, ethnicity and age — show faster and more advanced problem-solving skills when working together in teams.
Tackling new challenges requires a balance between applying what we know and discovering what we don’t know that might be useful. It also requires individual application of specialized expertise and the ability to step back and look at the bigger picture.
Employees from diverse backgrounds have different experiences and views, which is why they are able to bring varying solutions to the table. Thus, the best solution can be chosen sooner, which leads to faster problem-solving.
4: Organizational Diversity Leads to Increased Profits
Companies with greater workplace diversity achieve greater profits.
The Peterson Institute for International Economics conducted research that shows that companies with more diverse leadership teams are also top financial performers.
In fact, gender diversity in management positions actually increases profitability more than previously thought. The latest data shows that companies in the top 25th percentile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21% more likely to experience above-average profits.
In addition to advantages in gender diversity, companies with more culturally and ethnically diverse executive teams were 35% more likely to see better-than-average profits.
At the board of directors level, more culturally and ethnically diverse companies were 43% more likely to see above-average profits, showing a significant correlation between diversity and performance.
5: Inclusivity Increases Employee Engagement
The connection between workplace diversity and employee engagement is pretty straightforward - when employees feel included, they are more engaged.
Reports show that when organizations capitalize on the strengths and unique values of their employees, and actively leverage their differences, employees are more engaged.
Engaged employees perform better, resulting in better company performance overall. What many organizations don’t know, however, is that engaged employees also help them develop better products and get through organizational change more smoothly.
6: Diversity Results in Better Decisions
When employees with different backgrounds and perspectives come together, they come up with more solutions, which lead to improved decision-making processes and results.
The online decision-making platform Cloverpop found a direct link between workplace diversity and decision-making. Diverse teams were shown to make decisions faster than individual workers and benefited from a 60% improvement of decision-making. Researchers also found that when diverse teams made a business decision, they outperformed individuals up to 87% of the time.
7: Diversity Reduces Employee Turnover
When employees feel accepted and valued, they are happier in the workplace and tend to stay longer. As a result, companies with greater diversity in the workplace have lower turnover rates. Employees feel a sense of belonging to the organization and are less likely to leave.
Everyone wants to feel accepted and accommodated at a new job, and people become dissatisfied quickly if they don’t connect with their peers or feel that their ideas and contributions are appreciated or given the same acknowledgement as their colleagues.
Organizations that foster diverse workplaces and cater to different work and learning styles tend to keep talent invested in their jobs long term.
8: Workplace Diversity Is a Competitive Advantage
Often, professionals prefer to work with organizations that embrace diversity, feeling it is an important part of a company’s culture. According to McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to financially outperform their industry peers.
Setting aside social and moral reasons for encouraging a more diverse workplace, diversity is one of the key workplace trends in 2021. With the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations have turned to the global workforce and started hiring more and more diverse teams while working remotely.
9: Diversity and Inclusion Will Improve Your Organization’s Reputation
Diversity broadens organizations’ customer bases. By having a diverse workforce, they are more likely to learn about the concerns and preferences of various population segments. This allows them to adjust their products or services to make them more enticing to different populations, potentially leading to an increase in your number of customers.
Companies that are dedicated to building and promoting diversity in the workplace are seen as humanitarian and socially responsible organizations, which ultimately creates a better reputation.
10: HR Recruits from a Larger Talent Pool
According to a survey conducted by Glassdoor, 67% of job seekers said a diverse workforce is important when considering job offers. Organizations that promote diversity find more qualified candidates.
Hiring from a larger talent pool provides greater options for companies to identify top talent. In contrast, minimizing the size of this pool at the hiring stage could risk missing out on the right candidate and narrowing the field of creativity, productivity and innovation that can come from diversity.
The gender pay gap between men and women is the result of limited diversity awareness and value. Women make up to 20% less than men for the same role, which devalues women’s contributions to an organization’s success. Despite much negative attention surrounding the gender pay gap, many companies have yet to achieve parity. More focus is required on eliminating the barriers and biases that lead to these discrepancies.
Companies’ bottom-line results have been impacted by the demographics of women and minority recruitment, retention and diversity; as stated earlier, companies with more diverse employee populations outperform those that don’t.
Leaders Must Train Employees on the Importance of Diversity
Companies that want to motivate employees to engage in new behaviors that complement and accelerate inclusive efforts may find thoughtfully designed training to be an effective tool. Successful diversity training gets employees in the habit of thinking about inclusion and how they can take actions that make the workplace more inclusive for everyone.
Training also helps to promote workplace sensitivity. When employees are encouraged to understand the different perspectives and comfort levels of others, they are more likely to think about how their actions could unintentionally offend others. This can go a long way toward preventing discrimination and harassment.
Once systemic changes are in place, make diversity training in your workplace a priority. As a result, organizations lay the foundation for an authentically inclusive environment that fosters innovation and ensures positive performance from all employees.
About the author
With over 20 years experience as a business leader in the corporate training and technology services industry, Amy has extensive experience spearheading and directing training companies and departments; including strategic planning, change management, organizational development, and project management. Amy also possesses extensive experience developing quality training teams and programs, and rolling out corporate enterprise initiatives.