A diverse workforce means you have different people working for your organization. Seems simple enough, but the reality behind diversity is more complex than that.
Two out of three people looking for a job say they consider diversity in the workplace to be an important factor when choosing a job, and 57 percent of employees think their workplace isn’t doing enough to achieve diversity.
When companies think about diversity, they often focus on equal gender representation and racial or ethnic diversity. And these of course not only create better company cultures, but pay off in numbers as well: women-led companies perform three times better than male ones, ethnically diverse companies outperform the median by 35 percent, and companies with high racial diversity bring almost 15 times more sales revenue than those with less racial diversity. One more component often discussed is age diversity and the challenges and benefits it brings about.
To read more on generational diversity, check out this piece of ours:
How to Lead a Multigenerational Workforce
Yet diversity is more than gender equality and a healthy mix of different ages, cultures, and ethnicities. The concept of diversity is transforming with the new generation, and now diversity in backgrounds, personalities, and thoughts is becoming more and more valued.
Why Do I Need Diversity in Background?
Diversity in background refers to having people with different life experiences, work experiences, and educational backgrounds. Hiring people from different educational backgrounds leads to different knowledge bases and through this, to different perspectives to problem-solving and ideation. As workplaces are transforming quickly, having a specific certificate might become irrelevant if the job description requires the ability to constantly learn on the job.
In many places, a certificate guarantees the employee knows what they need to know – you can’t be a doctor with a lawyer’s degree -, but people making hiring decisions should think twice when hiring for a job that requires first and foremost a specific attitude or methodology for working. Especially in tasks that require creativity, out-of-the-box thinking and ability to adapt to changes quickly, a strict guideline on educational background might rule out people who would excel at the job and bring a completely new perspective to the work.
Why Do I Need People With Different Personalities?
People with different personalities differ in their methods of working, in the ways they prioritize matters and in the ways they, well, exist in the world. When you have employees who work in different ways and at different times, you are able to allocate and distribute work in ways that make your company more effective. For example, people who like to sleep in and prefer working in high-energy spurts instead of slower and steadier pace might enjoy high-paced tasks with a lot of responsibility, such as overseeing the change of shift at the beginning of a night shift. In turn, someone who enjoys a steady workflow might be more comfortable with overseeing a constant project flow. Making sure people are hired, promoted and re-allocated with keeping their personality in mind ensures your employees find their job pleasurable.
Having people with different personalities also means employees are able to learn from each other’s perspectives and ways of working. Employees are more likely to have insights and improved ideation sessions when their approaches to work differ.
Why Do I Need People Who Think Differently Than Me?
If every person is like you and thinks like you, you are likely to have a harmonized workforce with a consensus on everything. The problem is that while your workplace can be homogeneous in thoughts and opinions, the real world isn’t. When people think differently and aren’t afraid to express their thoughts, you are likely to see the different types of problems arising with new solutions. An organization with thought diversity is less likely to be surprised by competition, demands in changing market or by the needs of different types of customers.
You are also more likely to have more and better innovations when brainstorming isn’t just bouncing the same idea from one person to another, but the thoughts are able to formulate and become different. New ideas are more likely to be born out of discussions with people who think differently from one another. People who think differently approach problems from different viewpoints and they have different “obvious solutions” and “obvious answers”, which ensures your workforce isn’t just an echo chamber of like-minded people.
Thought diversity can be cultivated in other ways than just in the hiring process. Managers can actively promote thought diversity by fostering an open culture of communication, encouraging constructive criticism and not taking initial consensus as an answer. Seeking out a culture of disruption might sound counterintuitive, but falling behind on development and innovation because your company is stuck in a silo of homogenous hivemind is worse.