How To Manage Diversity Effectively In The Workplace

Remember Barney?

Yes – the purple dinosaur who’s been either your own or your child’s best friend?

“Barney & Friends” is one of the finest examples of diversity that comes to mind.

With the perfect representation of all ethnicities, genders and varying age groups – Barney couldn’t really go wrong when it came to inclusion!

With organisations across the world seeking increasing global relevance, embracing and managing diversity gains tremendous importance.

So apart from engaging a heterogeneous workforce that includes all genders, employees across age groups, ethnicities and races, diversity also means inclusion of everyone so that they feel comfortable and can contribute to the success of the organisation.

Creating this heterogeneous workforce that helps to create innovative products, services and business practices that can set the organisation apart and differentiate it to create a competitive advantage.

Many countries have regulations that ensure or even demand diversity; organisations themselves have seen tremendous benefits by embracing diversity.

Here’s a quick look at some of them:

  • Innovation: One of the most positive effects of diversity is the boost it provides to innovation at the workplace. Diversity encourages employees to learn from others and share ideas by brainstorming and sharing experiences. It also makes them more receptive to trying out new things thus increasing the innovation and creativity at work.
  • Reduced turnover: Often employee conflicts with managers and colleagues lead to stress that could increase the employee turnover at the workplace. Not only does this lead to loss of productivity but increases the recruitment and training cost as well. However by ensuring inclusion the organisation can create an informal culture that in turn increases the employee loyalty and the employees’ sense of belonging in the organisation.
  • Attract top Talent: Firstly diversity in recruitment broadens the pool of talent that the organization can recruit from. It also helps build an employer brand that is seen as inclusive thus becoming an aspirational organisation for top talent.
  • Increased Adaptability: Workplace diversity can increase the organisation’s adaptability in the market as a heterogeneous employee base will ensure better understanding of consumer requirements and demands leading finally to better decisions. 

Managing Diversity

While diversity provides many benefits to the organisation, its also essential for managers and employees to understand how to manage diversity to the organisation’s as well as their own benefit.

Organisations and managers alike need to consciously take steps and initiatives to encourage more heterogeneous groups that ultimately lead to better market understanding and decision making.

This requires managers to understand their own backgrounds and behaviours better and understand how it affects their perspectives and decision making.

A successful manager should be in a position to manage diversity by building a culture of tolerance through education, training, communication and conflict management strategies.

Here are some tips on making your teams diverse and reaping the benefit:

Hiring

Very clearly the inroads into the organisation should mirror the approach that the organisation has towards building a diverse team. It’s said that the workforce should resemble the community or country in which it is set up.

For the initial impetus required for policy adherence, it may also be necessary to incorporate tangible aspects of the recruitment policy in a each individual team manager’s performance evaluation.

Overcoming bias in the interviewing and assessment process is also another important aspect of hiring for diversity.

By incorporating a diverse interview panel the organisation can ensure that the selection process is free of any biases and prejudices and the candidates are selected based on suitability to the job requirements.

Policies & Practices

With the growing diversity, an organisation needs to ensure that the overall policies and practices are inclusive to all and do not discriminate against or favour a particular set of employees.

It’s important for the policy makers to consider the differential impact that all policies and practices have on the diverse group of employees.

Apart from this its essential to ensure that all the unwritten rules of the organisation are also explained to the all the employees to ensure inclusion from the initial stages itself.

Lastly it’s also essential to constantly take feedback on policies and practices from the employees.

Alongside seeking feedback, the organisation should be willing to challenge and change practices that may currently be perceived as barriers to different groups.

Diversity Training

Organisations may at times have full- fledged diversity training programs, specially in circumstances like mergers and acquisitions. At times there may be diversity training only for specific purposes like providing feedback to employees.

For example: Diversity training for the art of providing feedback.

A manager needs to be able to understand the cultural nuances before providing feedback to employees from different countries and backgrounds.

Another important way to ensure diversity inclusion is to make the workplace and policies more compatible for inclusion of the diversity.

For example: Providing flexi-hours to employees, allowing employees to choose their own holidays according to their religious preferences.

Providing a workplace that is conducive to accommodate the needs of employees with physical disabilities is also very important.

Diversity Awareness

Diversity awareness deals with creating a workplace where individuals understand and respect the differences in race, gender, religion, cultural values and thinking styles.

A huge element of this understanding is self awareness which plays an important role in helping employees understand their own cultural biases, prejudices and stereotypes.

To create diversity awareness it’s essential to improve self awareness of the managers through assessment tools and training.

The assessment could even begin with a 360 degree feedback the results of which could be used to determine the next set of interventions that may be required.

At times coaching or mentoring sessions after a 360 degree feedback may be ideal to increase self awareness thus leading to better diversity management on their part.

We can thus conclude that encouraging diversity is the way forward for organisations in the increasingly global business scenario and organisations successfully managing this will have a definite competitive advantage over others in terms of differentiation, innovation and being an employer of choice.

Many Thanks

Mark Williams

Head of Training and Development

(Image courtesy of stockimages  at freedigitalphotos.net)

http://www.mtdtraining.com

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Mark-WilliamsMark Williams

Mark Williams is a learning and development professional, using business psychology and multiple intelligences to create fascinating and quickly-identifiable learning initiatives in the real-world business setting. Mark’s role at MTD is to ensure that our training is leading edge, and works closely with our trainers to develop the best learning experiences for all people on learning programmes. Mark designs and delivers training programmes for businesses both small and large and strives to ensure that MTD’s clients are receiving the very best training, support and services that will really make a difference to their business.