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Diversity – Just another option or necessity?

“Diversity: The art of thinking independently together.” – Malcolm Forbes

When the owner of the world-famous Forbes magazine with a net worth of nearly a billion dollars said that, it is time to stop and listen. In the concept of a ‘global village’ that is redefining world economics, diversity is not just an option anymore. If you are looking to be a name in the ‘Who is Who?’ list of top entrepreneurs, then diversity in your organization could be the game-changer that will get you on that list.

Diversity is described as the understanding that each individual is unique. It is about acceptance and respect while acknowledging our differences. These may be based on region, gender, age, status, physical abilities, beliefs and myriad other parameters; the list can be endless. A diverse workplace means that there are all kinds of people that make up an organization, and it is this medley of humanity that can achieve success in the long term.

A study conducted recently by the Boston Consulting Group found that “increasing the diversity of leadership teams leads to more and better innovation and improved financial performance. “ The study involved 1700 different companies across 8 countries, with varying industry and company sizes. Companies that have diverse management teams had a 19% increase in revenue. They also outperformed competitors and even ranked better in Employer ratings. This proves that diversity within an organization is not just about being ‘glamorous’ in the business world. It actually pays, literally, to be open and willing to be all-inclusive about real people out there who can add value to your company, regardless of who or what or where they are coming from.

Following are some of the strong reasons to bring in more diversity into an organization’s workplace.

  • Productivity – When you have many minds working on any task, there are bound to be multiple ideas being pitched forth. Now, if those minds were from different backgrounds with varied perspectives and a variety of skills, then what you have is a treasure trove of unique executable ideas that can spell magic in the business world. Having a diverse team means tasks get completed faster and in a more effective way, which directly increases productivity.
  • Creativity and Innovation – Creativity is the ability to come up with fresh new ideas. This is not to be confused with innovation, which is an extension of creativity. Innovation is about getting those creative ideas to be of practical use to someone or to achieve something. All this becomes easier when you have a diverse workforce striving to achieve a common goal.
  • Faster problem solving and decision making – Oscar Wilde was very astute in understanding the concept of diversity when he said that, “Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction.”

When a varied team put their heads together, troubleshooting and decision making becomes easier since with diversity comes a huge amount of experience and many ideas are put forth and invariably some of them may be the solution to a given dilemma.

  • Increased employee performance and better company reputation – An organization that encourages diversity is seen as progressive and so, employees feel more secure when in an inclusive environment. Such organizations also rate as better employers, while also improving employee engagement due to increased team rapport.

The above reasons look great on paper. However, there is a catch here. Being diverse does not mean you bring in people from all over the globe and give them a job in your company. It means being inclusive. Here are a few points to implement to ensure that diversity is actually a thriving concept in your workplace

  • Say ‘NO’ to societal stereotypes – Many time companies are guilty of paying heed to prejudices based on most commonly, gender and ethnicity. There may be hidden attitudes that may make some feel unwelcome. This has got to stop if the organization wants to see real progress.
  • Educate the team – Top management should strive to make diversity alive and happening in the workplace by educating the team about the importance of being accepting and inclusive. Also implementing evaluation metrics that look at performance in a non-prejudiced way would be a good idea. The goal is to make everyone appreciate an achievement while acknowledging the person who made it possible regardless of other factors.
  • Inclusion strategies – Making diversity and inclusion a strong part of the organization’s vision, mission, marketing and HR strategy go a long way in projecting the company as being inclusive. This works to project the company as result-oriented and a great place to work in.
  • Be mindful of ethnic and cultural factors – If you want to embrace cultural diversity in your company, what better way than to acknowledge the holidays and festivals that team members may hold dear? This can be done by drawing up a holiday calendar that lets team members take leave or work flexible timings on important days.
  • Taking responsibility – Differences can create discomfort. Hence, diversity and inclusion do not fall under the prerogative of the HR department alone. To be truly diverse, the entire organization starting from the top leadership to the junior-most employees should take responsibility to be all-inclusive. Only then can everyone feel valued and content.

As human beings, we are naturally social creatures. The need to belong is almost as important as basic survival needs.  Striving to be happy and feel appreciated while being a part of the bigger picture is as relevant today as it was many millennia ago. Diversity at the workplace will ensure that the innate human need to belong is utilised for progress.

“Divinity in diversity we believed,

Humanity is what we achieved!”