It is safe to say that whether recruiters are convinced by the argument for equality or not, there is a tangible effect a diverse workforce has on the well-being of the workplace in general and the individuals it comprises. In fact, in purely business terms, research from McKinsey have found that diverse businesses deliver 35% better results than non-diverse business.
A diverse working environment promotes acceptance, respect and teamwork, despite differences in race, age, gender, native language, political beliefs, religion, sexual orientation or communication styles among employees.
Effort is required to get it right.
It takes a deliberate effort to achieve a diverse workforce, given the landscape of the workforce and the availability of labour. And even when there are people of all identities and demographics available, there are still many things that can hinder an employer’s ability to achieve equal representation in the workplace.
Despite the progress made by women, most employers are still scratching their heads about how to achieve a diverse workforce.
One example of this is, gender imbalance in workplaces, which has become commonplace and affects most industries. The advertising industry for example, is run by mostly white university-educated men, while women make up the majority of NHS staff, (roles in traditional caring work), but are still in the minority for senior roles.
Why workplaces aren’t diverse and how to fix this
A successful diversity policy will encourage managers to hire people based on the value they can add to a team, rather than to a specific role. In reality, most recruiters tend to do the opposite.
‘Hiring the right person for the job’ is a common reason recruitment managers give for not hiring across the board, despite the fact that it is vague and loaded with unchecked biases.
One of these biases is that most people will hire in their own image, and then find perfectly rational reasons to justify their decision. One of these justifications being, that someone doesn’t have the right set of skills. And so, we often hear about there being a lack of skills on offer, as if skills are the only decider of what a person has to offer.
Perspective a key factor in workplace diversity.
What we never hear about when trying to remedy an underachieving team, is that it is lacking in a variety of perspectives. Even though it is far easier to teach a skill than a perspective.
Perspectives are an accumulation of a lifetime of unique experiences by an individual of any given social or cultural background and brings with it a richness in knowledge and an understanding of the world that is impossible to achieve with a homogeneous workforce.
With a lack of perspectives, comes a lack of scope and nuanced knowledge of a particular area. Put simply, if everyone in a team has the same opinion, there will be no real critical conversations had and little progress made.
Unfortunately, it has become such a common reason for not hiring across the board that it goes almost unquestioned, even though diversity in the workplace is a tried and tested method for securing an exceptional team.
How a lack of diversity impacts staff and workplace well-being
Being the odd one out in an otherwise homogeneous workforce, can lead to feelings of isolation, open up opportunities for sexual and other types of harassment and workplace bullying. These effects in turn can lead to loneliness, lowered self-esteem, more serious mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety and an overall decrease in quality of life.
The effects of an homogeneous workforce have negative effects on the well-being of individual employees, and this tends to ripple through the organisation.
- Male dominated workplaces can become toxic when competition trumps teamwork and people who aren’t inclined to overpower, are overlooked or pushed out of the way.
- If left uncured, the atmosphere can turn sour.
- These organisations also tend to have a high staff turnover.
- Women tend to leave because of a lack of female peers, or lack of upward mobility and lack of support.
If the well-being of your employees and your organisation concerns you, you might be aware by now that changing the culture in a workplace may take some time, especially if it’s through changing the underlying currents that leads to the lack thereof. In the meantime, an Employee Assistance Program can help aid employees experiencing the effects of isolation and a lack of peer support at work.
Benefits of diversity in the workplace
To conclude, the benefits of diversity in the workplace is exactly 35% in increased delivery. A diversity in perspectives policy will make your team creative and critical in ways necessary for delivering products and services to a diverse market, while training staff in technical and other skills that can be taught.
A training approach will also help open up opportunities for individuals new to an industry, who first have to contend with the concrete floor before they can get to the glass ceiling. Employees who are able to grow in their roles will go the extra mile and are unlikely to leave for a better opportunity. In return, you will get a longstanding team with unbridled knowledge and nuanced understandings of your organisation.
Employees who work in an environment where they don’t feel left out or become the butt of the joke because of their accent, their age, their fasting, their baby or what they do over the weekends, will be more confident about themselves and their work and feel a sense of cohesion with their team.