“Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without”.
(William Sloan Coffee, Jr.)
Merriam-Webster defines diversity as the condition of having or being composed of differing elements. Clear as mud, right?
Organizations with diversity initiatives need to ensure they fully understand what diversity means. Simply making a statement does not ensure diversity in the work environment will happen. Diversity must be examined in order to identify how it can be fully implemented and embraced in the work environment.
Some organizations define diversity on very short-sighted components i.e., men, women, race. These components are all intertwined when discussing diversity but there should be more components included in a truly diverse work environment.
Leveraging background dynamics, educational and life experiences as well as demographic components will help generate a new level of diversity for organizations who truly seek this in the work environment. There are some organizations who say they want diversity but continue to hire clones of the staff currently working there. This is the opposite of the Merriam-Webster’s diversity definition.
“We need diversity of thought in the world to face the new challenges”.
Diverse work environments value different perspectives. This includes skills, experiences, backgrounds and education. This concept brings a variety of ways to get things done. Bringing diversity into the work environment allows the organization to grow and avoid the groupthink mentally that stifles new thoughts.
New thoughts in the work environment leads to increased creativity when facing a problem, change or new procedure. True diversity brings together people who will see the same problem from different perspectives and sharpens everyone because of this exposure. The creative impact on the organization increases because staff hear, see, feel, think differently and exposes others to different ways to get things done. This creativity process may also impact innovation within the organization.
Decision making and problem solving are other areas a diverse work environment can enhance. Again, a diverse work force brings new thoughts, ideas and ways to get things done to the workplace. Leadership receives diverse solutions to organizational problems and has multiple options to select from. This leads to faster problem solving and allows the organization to tackle new challenges.
A caution, leadership must be willing to accept the diverse solutions and not revert to business as usual. The worse thing that can happen is for leadership to say “we always do it this way OR that will not change as long as I’m here”—the quickest way to deflate staff and eliminate their voice in the work environment.
A diverse work environment can also help retain staff members. A diverse and empowered work environment helps staff members feel accepted and valued. This creates a happier work force and may lead to staff staying with the organization longer.
So, let’s examine the Merriam-Webster diversity definition again:
- The condition of having or being composed of differing elements.
A few elements to consider for workplace diversity:
- Gender / Identity
- Education / Educational Institutions
- Geographic region
A final thought on diversity is it impacts your clients as well. A more diverse work force can enhance an organization’s ability to attract diverse clients. Example: a university office with a diverse staff will be able to attract diverse students because they see someone who’s like them. Don’t overlook the importance of how diversity impacts your clients.
What does your organization do to ensure a diverse work environment? How can diversity be improved?
“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance”.
Thanks for walking with me!