Why Embracing Diversity Is Important
As the workplace becomes more diverse and inclusive, leaders need to learn how to integrate employees with different backgrounds and experiences into a collaborative environment. Diversity is not limited to skills, age, gender, sexual orientation, culture, academic background, or language. Culture refers to beliefs, values, and customs (Narver, 2016). Effective cross-cultural leadership and diversity management will ensure that all team members feel accepted and understood in their organization.
Issues Solved / Expected Outcomes
With the growing heterogeneity of the workplace, discrimination can occur to the minority groups. For example, women often face the glass ceiling effect, salary gaps, and marginalization (Janssens & Steyaert, 2003). The negative consequences include higher turnover, lower job satisfaction and group conflicts. Leaders need to know how to identify and address these problems. The positive effects of this would be higher employee morale, which leads to enhanced productivity.
One of the definitions of diversity refers to, but is not limited to, “people with different ethnic backgrounds, nationalities, age, religion, and social class, sexual orientation, education level, disabilities” (Janssens & Steyaert, 2003). There are four types of effects that diversity can affect the workplace:
- Affective includes involvement, satisfaction, role, perception of discrimination. Leaders need to identify when people are facing negative emotions from working with people of different genders or ethnic backgrounds. Otherwise, group collaboration is stalled.
- Cognitive suggests that the team’s ability to engage in critical thinking of information and form conclusions. A diverse group will be able to conjure a greater variety of ideas, challenge each other, and come up with more realistic conclusions. Leaders need to learn how to manage the conversation in order to reach positive outcomes.
- Symbolic refers to when a person of diversity is shown as a symbol for the organization to promote its diversity and inclusion initiatives. This enhances social perception of the organization, which attracts people because they view the organization offers equal opportunities for everyone.
- Communicative suggests that communication within heterogeneous groups is usually more formal than within homogenous groups. This may hinder team bonding and collaboration. A good leader needs to know how to break down the barriers between different team members of the group.
In Canada, our population is aging and birth rates are decreasing. This means that immigration is increasing to fulfil labour gaps (Narver, 2016). Organizations that embrace diversity the best do not have separate programs and they also instill accountability in all levels of the hierarchy (Thomas, 2016). Diversity in the workforce brings new skills, knowledge, and experience that can positively impact performance. Employers can attract and keep the best employees in their organizations by understanding and embracing different values and perspectives. This can be a competitive edge, if organizations know how to manage and promote diverse work environments (Plifka, 2016).
Implementation (Narver, 2016)
- Learn about the different dimensions of culture to gain an understanding of how people from certain cultures will behave differently in certain situations
- Develop self awareness about your own cultural behaviours and how this affects your perception of others
- Set expectations with your team and provide examples for acceptable behaviour and awareness of other cultures
- Develop a Team Charter to ensure that everyone is aware of how they should interact with each other on the team
- Monitor team progress and create an open atmosphere for your team members to give feedback on the system
Remember to keep an open mind and always strive to learn about the individuals on your team. Not everyone from a particular culture will value the same things. It is important to refrain from stereotyping individuals, since it could lead to more harm than good.
Narver, D. (2016, October 19). Five Criteria for Cross-Cultural Leadership. Retrieved April 07, 2018, from https://www.hrvoice.org/five-criteria-for-cross-cultural-leadership/
Janssens, M., & Steyaert, C. (2003). Theories of diversity within organisation studies: Debates and future trajectories. Milano.
Thomas, D. (2016, September 20). What do leaders need to understand about diversity? Retrieved April 08, 2018, from https://insights.som.yale.edu/insights/what-do-leaders-need-to-understand-about-diversity
Plifka, J. (2016, December 01). Leaders Embrace Diversity as a Competitive Edge. Retrieved April 08, 2018, from https://aboutleaders.com/leaders-embrace-diversity/#gs.PQR6oco