It's Time to Embrace Diversity in the Workplace

What Exactly Is Diversity and Why Is It Good for the Workplace?
Diverse group of coworkers sitting in chairs in a line with each other

Violence at political rallies, videos of individuals shouting racist hatred, or images of hate scrolled on a building have brought the topic of diversity to the forefront of the nation’s conscious. Diversity has become a key societal discussion, and an increasingly important topic in the workplace.

Workplace Diversity

According to statistics referenced by the Society of Human Resource Management, 10 days following the 2016 presidential election, there were 867 incidents of hate in this county, 18% of which happened in the workplace.

It is time to embrace the idea and importance of diversity in the workplace because the landscape of workplaces is changing. The shift is already evident when you consider that in the 1950s, women made up about 29% of the workforce, and now they make up more than 47%. According to the Center for American Progress (2012), it is estimated that by 2050 there will be no racial or ethnic majority in the United States.

However, it seems like you cannot turn on the TV or log onto social media without seeing people who are fighting this shift in society. Their attitudes are reflected in comments like “they should be like us” or “be American.” This is the practice of assimilation, and history has proven that it does not work as it negates the talents and experiences that make that person who they are.

Definition of Diversity

Diversity is often defined as “the inclusion of different types of people in a group or organization.” This is a safe and sterile definition, but is missing something. The definition adopted by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs seems to capture what diversity really means a bit better:

“Diversity is the mosaic of people who bring a variety of backgrounds, styles, perspectives, values and beliefs as assets to the group or organization with which they interact.”

This is a better definition because of two words: perspective and asset.

Race, ethnicity, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, and other attributes all influence an individual’s perspective. These perspectives shape how we look at things and play a significant role in creating our values and the way we address changes and problems we face.

Diversity within an Organization

If we believe the experiences that have shaped others are not an asset to our organization, then our organization will become stagnant and eventually falter. New and different ideas lead to growth and change, which keep organizations relevant.

We as team members have to place a value on a person’s perspectives and experiences. If we do not, we will only push people out the door.

5 Ways Diversity Improves an Organization

1. Diversity drives innovation and creativity

We have all heard the adage more hands make lighter work. Consider the idea that more – and differing – perspectives bring new and innovative ideas that can grow the company, organization, team, or person.

2. It increases productively

If the above is true, then more people working to solve a problem means the organization can come up with solutions in a more effective manner, and they can develop the solution faster. The McKinsey Global Management Consulting group reported that companies that embrace and value diversity are on average 35% more productive.

3. Diversity makes recruitment easier

Glassdoor reported 67% of people polled stated that they considered the organization’s diversity when deciding whether to accept a job, and 57% said there needs to be more done to increase the levels of diversity in the workplace.

4. Turnover decreases

Millennials will make up nearly half of the workforce in less than three years, and a key component of millennial culture is the value placed on multiculturalism and the understanding of the globalization of the job market. If a company does not value these, then that population will leave and increase turnover.

5. There’s a reduction of lawsuits

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission monitors the charges of discrimination and harassment in the U.S. workplace. 97,443 charges were filed in 2016, costing companies over $482 million. Keep in mind, these are the people who came forward. Research shows that three out of four victims never speak out.

Just like stereotypes, belittling the need for diversity negates an individual’s unique perspective. If we consider that the experience and perspective of a serviceman or servicewoman as being part of who they are, how do you think people would react in this time of heightened patriotism if the experience of a solider was negated by saying something like “I don’t see your service”?

Perhaps you think that’s outlandish, but there is something to be said for that military service being part of who that person is and shaping their perspective, much as the experiences of an African American, a woman, and a member of the LGBTQ+ community have shaped their perspective.

The Village Employee Assistance Program

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