Learning the Importance of Diversity in the Workplace

Long-standing and accepted practices that respect uniformity more than uniqueness make the transition to an open and welcoming work environment challenging. Built-in biases and "professional denial" can create significant deterrents to implementing diversity in the workplace.

With piercing accuracy, noted minister and civil rights activist William Sloane Coffin, Jr. presented a central truth that deserves attention. By recognizing the difficulty of living with diversity, he cited it as the most dangerous thing not to have in society. His thoughts from half a century ago may have more relevance now more than ever as a trend toward diversity reaches global proportions.

A partial review of the literature reflects the views of HR experts who find only positive values in diversity. Increasing awareness of its importance introduces a range of approaches that create a diverse workplace.

Understanding the Scope of Influence


Diversity affects every aspect of corporate culture, and Glassdoor reports that it matters to 67 percent of active and passive job seekers. A diverse workplace makes an even more significant difference to people of varying abilities, ages and genders, cultural backgrounds, education levels, ethnicities, languages, races, religions and sexual orientation. Survey responses by women, Blacks, Asians and Latinos ranked its importance higher by up to 22 percent.

Enhancing Workplace Productivity


Diverse employees bring different sets of talents to reach a common goal. Companies can benefit by their ability to learn from each other's experiences and approaches to work projects. Exposure to alternative experiences and perspectives can broaden and expand knowledge, creating fresh ideas and new problem-solving techniques.

Components of productivity include creativity and innovation, pathways to increasing productivity and profits. While not synonymous, both contribute significantly to competitiveness in a global market that demands it. Creativity develops unique concepts while innovation transforms them into new entities. Both increase with exposure to expanded world views and perspectives.

Diversity allows talented people to work together to achieve better outcomes from the combination of their different skill sets. Increases in creativity occur as well. The different experiences that people share can introduce unique perspectives that lead to higher levels of creativity. When people with varying backgrounds view the same thing, the synergy produces new ideas that improve the workforce's creativity. Teams that enjoy a diverse set of approaches to problem-solving can develop better solutions.

Corporate profits tend to increase with a diverse workforce that can produce better decisions faster, resulting in a considerable advantage over competitors. When companies can adopt diversity into corporate culture, outperforming the competition and achieving greater profits reinforce its importance.

Fighting Biases


Preconceived notions provide a basis for presumptions, and both tend to occur in the absence of validation or proof. Unconscious biases can affect hiring decisions that may benefit the well-being of a company on a variety of measures. When recruiters fail to choose the right people, the loss of the best candidates constitutes a waste of resources.

Research confirms that unconscious bias lets judgments about job applicants on prohibited factors that include race and gender among many others. Groundbreaking research conducted in 2003 and confirmed in subsequent studies shows a statistically significant difference in callback rates. The original analysis revealed a 50 percent gap in the rate of callbacks to applicants whose names "sounded white." The ramifications of race bias appear in the evaluation of resumes as well. White applicants with better resumes received 30 percent more follow up calls than others with lower-rated resumes. However, the difference between quality levels for job candidates with African-American names did not produce similar results.

Blind hiring offers an alternative approach that can minimize errors of bias. SHRM suggests setting a goal to achieve a specific objective. Other options include thinking about stripping names and home addresses from applications and training employees to recognize unconscious bias. Workplace diversity helps broaden employees' outlook and promotes corporate growth.

Bettering Workplace Culture


Diversity in the workplace increases the availability of various skills and the production of more products and services. A more mixed and culturally divergent workforce encourages interaction outside the work environment, providing access to new or unfamiliar backgrounds. Employees can gain insights that broaden and expand their awareness of others, reducing tension and misunderstanding. The insights reduce unacceptable feelings of sexism, homophobia and racism.

Workplace culture reflects the personality of a company, and approaches may range from casual to less informal. Whether it conforms to specific guidelines or adopts a more free-flowing interaction among employees often depends on the company size, goals, environment and work ethics. Employees in diverse settings enjoy working with others, and the experience increases ease and relieves fears of not belonging. Healthy workplace relationships benefit workers and contribute to the continued growth of a company.

Hiring and Retaining Employees


Research by Deloitte shows that engagement in the workplace occurs as an "outcome of diversity and inclusion." Harnessing employee skills and talents promotes engagement and feelings of inclusion. The research shows that engagement lets employees experience membership in groups that affirm self-worth and welcome. The link between a diverse work environment and employee engagement seems clearly defined in a company's ability to retain new hires.

Workplace diversity reduces employee turnover and contributes to employee retention. Companies that provide an inclusive environment welcome diverse individual characteristics and unique perspectives. The desirable atmosphere of diversity and inclusion lets employees feel valued and appreciated. Not surprisingly, companies have lower turnover rates when they create diversity in the workplace.

Enhancing Company Reputation


The pursuit of a good name in the community can start with establishing a culture of diversity. An employment outreach that recruits applicants from many different backgrounds tends to create a positive reputation. Companies can attract potential clients and more business by respecting cultural differences and making them feel valued and welcome. Employees with diverse backgrounds can better understand clients whose interests, experiences and backgrounds differ from the norm, helping employers provide effective service to customers worldwide.

As a company's reputation gains acceptance, brand awareness expands as well. A dedication to embracing diversity promotes the appearance of companies as socially responsible and relatable. A diverse workforce helps businesses access new markets, a wider range of customers and potential investors and partners.

Diversity in the workplace can perform a vital service by building a reputation for fairness and equality. The immediate return on investment can include an increase in profitability while providing equal opportunities for employees. Increased brand recognition may accompany consumer respect for a company that endorses and practices ethical standards and fair employment practices.