Diversity at Work

    Paula Fulghum

    Diversity can be a hot topic in many organizations. With a rapidly evolving workforce, increased globalization, and emphasis on innovation in today’s industries, companies must learn to manage for and take advantage of diversity. The problem is many people think about diversity way too narrowly. First thoughts about diversity usually revolve around race, gender, or ethnicity. These factors are important to incorporate a variety of perspectives into the workplace. Diversity at work, however, can mean so much more. When thinking about building a diverse work force, you should consider so much more than demographic factors. A company can create broad diversity in deeper-level factors. People can be diverse in their personal values, beliefs, and attitudes as well as personalities and intellectual abilities. Workers can also bring diversity to a workplace through their task-related knowledge, skills, and abilities. Employers need to take time to consider the diverse characteristics and skills of employees, and how those differences can help to maximize productivity potential.

    Companies can select employees that add diversity to the workplace. Organizations can get in the habit of hiring the same types of people that get the job done. In some cases, hiring similar employees can prove to be a useful strategy. However, when people are too much alike, they might struggle to understand various viewpoints or take new perspectives that could lead to innovation. Managers can take steps to recruit employees with different cultural backgrounds for a company that deals with businesses internationally. Employees from different educational or career backgrounds could also be great assets to a company. For example, if you have a team coming together design an innovative product, you might not want just a team of product development specialists. Individuals with economic or marketing backgrounds might add an interesting perspective for what is selling now or what might be a marketable product.

    Diversity can be perhaps most important for selecting employees that are going to work in a team. Teams can benefit from having diverse members through increased creativity or more perspectives in decision making. Diverse teams made up of members with various backgrounds working together can help to create innovative ideas or solutions to problems. Some of the greatest ideas can come from collaborating with people that are very different from you that bring to light questions or ideas you would have never considered. Having multiple perspectives can help to solidify good ideas and provide a chance to stop decisions that could be destructive and revise them into a better solution.

    It is an important job for managers to be aware of diversity in a group and in the organization as a whole, and how that diversity can help or harm progress. Managers have to remember that diversity doesn’t always come without a price. Sometimes you can choose people to work together that are just too different. Groups with viewpoints that are too contradictory can waste time trying to make a decision that no one will ever agree on or engage in interpersonal conflicts. So putting together people that have fundamentally opposing viewpoints and hoping they will join together for a brilliant solution is not very probable. Also problematic, some teams may simply choose to only associate with members more like themselves and form subgroups. This is where a manager must do the best he or she can to create job environments that encourage people to work together. If managers can be keen to notice opportunities for diverse people to thrive together, it can lead to great successes for the organization.

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