Diversity in the workplace

Diversity in the workplace

Diversity in the workplace should be more than just ticking a compliance box; it should be embraced because it can boost performance and create unique workplace cultures.  It also helps in building a society that is more accepting.

Diversity at work is often thought of as just being about race, but it is more than that.  Diversity encompasses so many other attributes, such as age, gender, ethnic group, personality, work style, education, sexual orientation and gender reassignment.

Diversity in the workplace — How to create it 

When considering how to effectively manage workplace diversity, Managers often find themselves asking:

  • How can I lead by example every time? 
  • How can I make everyone feel valued equally?
  • How can I ensure the team work together effectively?

There isn’t a single way of creating work place diversity – it all comes down to assessing your workplace to create a strategy that’s right for you; i.e. assess the culture, the current workforce and the business needs.  Creating a diversity strategy is all about opening manager’s minds to appreciate what diversity actually means and the benefits of it. 

The appreciation of diversity is often acquired through experience, but if your business lacks that experience, education is key.  This often comes in the form of training managers.  Failure to appreciate diversity usually is through a lack of understanding, rather than a lack of desire to have it.

Do prejudices affect your recruiting and staff management decisions?

To be a success leader, it often means consciously avoiding any stereotypes and biases you may have and overcoming these. Identifying these mental barriers can be hard but is so important.

Any business at some point be either hiring, promoting or rewarding staff. In doing this, they should think hard about why and how they made the particular decisions in the past. Any criteria used should be job-related and verified.  This is when good HR policies and practises come into play to help ensure consistency and fairness.

Office banter - helping to promote good workplace relationships?

Casual and “jokey” comments at work are often seen as a way to build workplace relationships.  However, whether it be unintended, or not, thoughtless teasing can often make other colleagues feel uncomfortable. With the topic of diversity in mind, any banter can easily go against anything you are trying to achieve from introducing a workplace diversity strategy, especially if it is related to their age, sex or race, which often some jokes or comments people make are.  These casual remarks can be considered as ’Micro-aggressions’ and can also be considered as a form of either direct or indirect discrimination, pending on how they are shared. This can be very damaging to relationships in the workplace.  It is also important to be aware that under the Equality Act 2010, minority groups have protection of employment law to not be discriminated against, no matter what their length of service may be.  Putting considerations as to how to manage behaviours in the workplace should be key to your diversity strategy.

Does treating everyone the same means I am promoting diversity?

Not necessarily!  Many people who believe in equality assume they should treat everyone the same. 

This is good practice in the recruitment selection process, however, it’s important to remember that in managing teams, although we are all equal, we’re not all the same. For example, if you are taking your team out for lunch, don’t choose a restaurant where employees who are vegetarian or Muslim won’t be able to find something on the menu to eat. Or, if an employee has transferred from a different country, you may give them extra support until they adapt to their new surroundings and the new culture they are now living in. These examples demonstrate that using a tailored approach can work better than choosing a ‘one size fits all’.

How to manage diverse teams

In general, most teams are diverse. Whether you have people from different cultures, ages, sexes, or people who have different viewpoints, conflict, no matter how small or large is difficult to totally avoid.

However, conflict doesn’t have to be a bad thing, it can generate innovation and positive change. Ensuring conflict can be managed positively will again go back to the experience and education of your managers.  A manager who can successfully deal with conflict resolution is truly an asset to any organisation. 

Fostering a culture where all employees are not be afraid to speak up is invaluable. By training staff to communicate effectively, it helps create better results, even more so sometimes than workplace diversity training.

The importance of communication

Giving feedback is an essential part of being a manager.  Although it can be awkward, it is necessary. Employees need to know how they are doing in their role, whether it be good or bad. It is wise to be as transparent as possible, in case there is any speculation towards a decision you have made that effects a member of staff. For instance, if you gave someone a pay rise, some employees might presume you did it because of favouritism. This kind of speculation can be quite damaging within the team. If you are very clear about how they met the criteria for a rise in pay employees will understand you aren’t making decisions based on particular preferences.

Transparent communication will also help you and your managers become more aware of decision making processes and you will be less likely have any unconscious biases.

Encouraging collaboration

The more team members communicate and collaborate with each other, the less likely they are to hold onto, or have,  any prejudices in the workplace.  If possible, try to pair up employees with cultural, educational or other differences for small projects. As an example, when hiring a new employee, try assembling a hiring team with diversity in mind. This can also help you hire more people from minority groups, since most women and ethnic groups prefer companies who show they have a diverse workforce.

In international companies, it might also be useful to get your entire team to collaborate with other teams on things such as corporate events, this can help teams build cross-cultural competences.

 

In conclusion

Workplace diversity is crucial for all companies, but it’s even more important for those that are interested in success.  

Diversity boosts performance whilst promoting creativity and innovation.  Workplace relationships often become enriched through appreciating and embracing difference.  Therefore, if you have not thought about your diversity strategy already – we encourage you to start thinking about it now - it will bring you so much reward in the long run.

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