Diversity Is More Than Just a Buzzword: How to Cultivate a Workplace Culture That Celebrates — Not Stifles — Employee Diversity

Diversity in the workplace is not just about demographics—it’s about cultivating an environment that’s welcoming to and encouraging of a range of different backgrounds and ideas | Image Source: Flickr user ghfpii

Diversity in the workplace is not just about demographics—it’s about cultivating an environment that’s welcoming to and encouraging of a range of different backgrounds and ideas | Image Source: Flickr user ghfpii

Hiring for diversity is an especially hot topic in the world of HR right now. But diversity in the workplace is about so much more than filling hiring quotas; having a diverse workforce can position companies to succeed in places where a more homogenous group of employees might fail. Business leaders are increasingly concerned with fostering a workplace culture that values and encourages employee diversity — and great leaders understand how to use that diversity to a company’s advantage. Is your company or organization up to snuff on diversity in the workplace? If not, here are some key concepts to keep in mind when building, maintaining, and harnessing the power of a diverse workforce.

Why Diversity?

Before you pledge to make your pool of talent more diverse, it’s important to understand why creating a diverse workforce is truly in your business’s best interest. Workplace diversity has a whole host of benefits, and one such benefit comes in the form of serving customers successfully. When you hire employees with diverse backgrounds, they’ll be able to connect with customers from diverse backgrounds far more easily. Another big diversity benefit? Employee innovation. When the members of your workforce come from different walks of life, they’ll often approach solving your company’s problems in different ways, opening up more avenues toward success.

Fostering diversity in your organization also makes recruitment of top talent easier. According to a survey conducted by Glassdoor, [1. “Two-Thirds of People Consider Diversity Important When Deciding Where to Work,” http://www.glassdoor.com/press/twothirds-people-diversity-important-deciding-work-glassdoor-survey-2/] over two thirds of job seekers cite a diverse workforce as an important factor in deciding where to work. When potential new employees (or even potential customers) see diversity in your company, they’ll know that you’re committed to hiring and working with the best of the best, regardless of background.

So how do you create a workplace culture that’s welcoming of employee diversity? Consider these factors.

Flexibility Is Key

Employees from different backgrounds will have different needs in the workplace, so that’s where a company that touts its flexibility could get ahead in the diversity game. Flexible work schedules, including the ability to work remotely or come in early or stay later, are especially important factors to mothers and new parents. Some companies are even providing on-site child care services to ease the burden on parents and allow them to focus more on their jobs. Flexible schedules that allow for time off for religious and cultural holidays can also be considered. And don’t forget to examine your dress code. Make sure your workplace dress code allows for culturally different ways of dressing (while still remaining workplace appropriate, of course).

Be Mindful of Who You Mentor

Creating a diverse workforce — particularly in the higher ranks of a company — starts from the top. Often, business leaders gravitate to promising young employees who remind them of themselves, and therefore their backgrounds will share a lot of similarities. It’s important, then, to encourage your employees in leadership positions to keep diversity in mind when picking younger employees to mentor (and make sure you keep that in mind yourself!).

If your organization is large enough, you might also consider setting up affinity groups, or cross-organizational groups, of employees that share similar cultural backgrounds. This can help employees of certain backgrounds feel welcomed in your company, rather than isolated.  

Focus on Diversity of Thought

Instead of solely focusing on outward signifiers of diversity, like gender or race, remember to keep in mind that “diversity of thought” also helps drive a company forward. If companies hire employees that all think the same way — even if they’re highly skilled — teams can run into issues of groupthink and lack of true innovation. To ensure you have “diversity of thought” in the workplace, consider hiring from outside your industry, or consider candidates with skills not typically called for in a position but that are transferable.

For example, a teacher with lots of experience in planning, delegating, and keeping track of classroom goals could perform comfortably in a project manager role. And, as always, it’s imperative that you focus on engaging employees — and not just “getting the most out of them” — when building successful, diverse teams.

Establishing and maintaining a diverse workforce and welcoming company culture doesn’t happen overnight, but it can set up your business for future success. If you’re interested in learning more about how to cultivate a successful, diverse workplace culture, consider Applied Vision Works’ Culture Connection Program. We’ve identified 15 Culture Principles that we instruct leaders to follow to help them understand cultureship and how to develop a strong sense of culture in their own organizations. To learn more about our Culture Connection Program, tools, and resources, contact our expert guides. It only takes 30 minutes to get started!

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