It’s Time We Look Further, And Accept All Social Groups
By SANDY CLARKE
Diversity is one of those concepts that looks great on a mission statement, but is significantly more complex to implement than many realise.
What does it mean to be diverse in the workplace? Simply put, diversity is the practice of encouraging people from different backgrounds, races, genders, abilities and creeds to be a part of your organisation.
Over the last 30 years, there have been great leaps made in promoting diversity. To take America as just one of many examples, the incumbent president is the first African-American to sit in the Oval Office in the country’s 240-year history.
In November this year, he’s likely to be replaced by the first female president. Thirty years ago, this scenario would have been unthinkable.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of campaigners throughout the world, we’ve seen a strengthening of diversity and a rejection of outmoded views. Much has been done, particularly in the advancement of the feminist cause that strives to ensure equality for women.
It’s bizarre that we’ve had to wait until the 21st century to realise that women perform just as well as men in leadership roles (better, in a lot of ways), but I suppose it’s better late than never.
It can’t just be about gender and ethnicity inclusion anymore. . .
While we should celebrate the progress made, we must avoid resting on our laurels. The progressive causes of promoting the qualities of women and ethnic groups are important causes, and efforts should continue to further the progress that has been made.
But, there are other groups who find themselves languishing in the shadows of stigma, prejudice and fear.
Within the workplace, it’s the job of leaders to push for the development of far-reaching diversity policies that recognise the value, not just of women and ethnic groups, but also of those with physical disabilities, mental illnesses, and those who have sexual orientations outside a heteronormative position that’s been seen as “the norm” for too long, meaning anyone outside this so-called norm becomes unfairly labelled for who they are and love.
The fact that we see these groups as “different” strongly suggests there’s still a long way to go not only in accepting people within these groups, but acknowledging their considerable potential and value in how they can contribute to society.
The late Christopher Hitchens once said that,
If Third World and developing countries are serious about eradicating social issues such as poverty, the best way to do this is to empower women.
His point was that, through suppressing and denying those who have so much to offer but can’t because of judgements made of characteristics outside their control, the whole society suffers as a result.
By looking beyond the make-up of a person and focusing on their value, everyone is uplifted and we all benefit from this simple act of acceptance.
From diversity comes wide-ranging benefits from which we all reap handsome rewards. And what better place to begin practising acceptance than in the workplace?
It’s here that leaders can truly lead by example by showing that it’s our attitude, imagination and drive that determine what we can achieve – not our gender, race, condition or orientation.
5 Advantages Of A Diverse Workplace
1. Boost in productivity
People from different backgrounds, who possess different skillsets and ways of thinking, can combine excellently to work towards common goals, aims and objectives. Different perspectives can give birth to an array of possible and expedient ways to move forward.
2. Increased sense of belonging
A diverse workplace is one that caters for all kinds of people, which makes it more likely that those working in such an environment will feel included, valued and respected, and therefore team members will have a deeper sense of loyalty, drive and commitment to the organisation.
3. Enhanced communication
Diversity fosters wide-ranging perspectives, which in turn promotes increased communication among colleagues within and from different teams or departments. This allows synergy to flourish and inspires stronger cohesion throughout the organisation.
4. Robust best practices
Organisations who have a strong diversity policy will have developed practices that address the needs, responsibilities and development of a diverse staff. This promotes ethical business practice and enriches the quality of relationships through respect and fair treatment, providing numerous benefits for all concerned.
5. Promoting a positive image
With the world becoming more diverse, inclusive and connected, businesses that embrace diversity will not only enjoy a diverse customer profile, but will see their reputations strengthen as they become known as beacons of progress, inclusion, and equality.
7 Ways To Improve Diversity
- Know what you want to achieve through diversity in line with business values and objectives.
- Acknowledge, understand and engage with the differences that exist between people.
- Treat others as they would wish to be treated. Some company practices may not be suitable for everyone.
- Encourage and embrace fresh ideas from different perspectives.
- Communicate the value of diversity and the benefits it brings to the team.
- Make sure people have the proper tools and resources needed to perform their role well.
- Avoid having an overall one-size-fits-all approach to employee engagement.
Sandy is a freelance writer for The Star and Leaderonomics. He believes that diversity is an excellent strategy in tackling any challenge or problem that presents itself. To connect with Sandy, follow him @RealSClarke on Twitter. For more HR Talk, click here.