Diversity in the workplace means having employees from a wide range of backgrounds. This can include having employees of different ages, gender, ethnicity, physical ability, sexual orientation, religious belief, work experience, educational background, and so on.
In Australia, there is legal requirement for workplaces to provide an environment that is free from discrimination. Over and above this, there is much to be gained from having an inclusive and diverse workforce. More businesses are becoming global; markets are expanding internationally and those organisations that can adapt are succeeding. Researchers summarise extensive studies which reveal that diverse organisations are more innovative and are better able to move into emerging markets.
Diverse teams have broader knowledge and experience, which increases their effectiveness. Expression of diverse opinions can force team members to be more alert and critical in their valuation of problem-solving strategies, which may result in more effective decision making.
However, there is also evidence of greater conflict in diverse teams, which can impact their ability to realise these benefits. Poor communication, biases and conflict, can prevent diverse teams from excelling. When diverse teams can develop a mutual understanding, they far outperform more harmonious homogenous teams. They also have a higher job satisfaction and sense of belonging at work. There are many things that diverse teams can do to achieve this:
- Understanding different cultures, for example people from some cultures are less likely to speak up in a group, because they are more comfortable sharing their ideas with an individual;
- Respecting a person’s ability, for example, allowing a person with a disability to define what they can and can’t do and creating an environment that allows them to function optimally;
- Appreciating that people of all ages have experiences and perspectives of value, for example, a younger person may be able to contribute a good understanding of a digital interface and an older person may be very good at adapting to change having done so many times.
- Knowing that people’s abilities and ambitions may be unrelated to their family situation, for example a person who is a primary care giver to children or an older person may be very willing to accept a promotion that requires more travel.
- Understanding an individual’s perspective of their faith might be different to others with the same faith, for example people who belong to the same church or even the same family will have very different views about aspects of their faith.
Very often, the differences within a group is greater than the difference between groups. hose who take the time to understand the individuals within their group and to appreciate their unique perspective, will find their efforts are rewarded. This means having a respect for the strengths team members bring to the workplace regardless of culture, ability, gender, sexuality, faith, age, and work life flexibility.
Inclusion occurs when a diverse group of people (e.g. of different ages, cultural backgrounds, genders) feel valued and respected, have access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute their perspectives and talents to improve their organisation.
If you would like to enhance your ability to thrive in a diverse workgroup, contact your EAP on 1800 627 277 or email email@example.com
1. Hofhuis, J; van der Rijit, P.; & Vlug, M., Diversity climate enhances work outcomes through trust and openness in workgroup communication (2016) 5:714 DOI 10.1186/s40064-016-2499-4
2. Ayub, N., & Jehn, K., National diversity and conflict in multinational workgroups: The moderating effect of nationalism (2006), International Journal of Conflict Management; 2006; 17, 3; Psychology Database, pg. 18