Think You Know the Meaning of a Diverse Workforce? Think Again!

Beth Miller |

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These days, diversity means more than employing a workforce with varied backgrounds. It’s not about being politically correct or even inclusive. It means employing an assortment of personalities, with different backgrounds, skill sets and opinions to gain the best advantages for your company.

What is diversity?                                                   

Diversity can be of tremendous importance to your business. But first, you have to be clear on what it is diversity means to your organization, and how to leverage it effectively. In today’s world, diversity is not just represented by race, religion or gender. Diversity in the workplace is about gaining access to a range of diverse ideas, thoughts and perspectives that can add value to strategic conversations; and allow your business to become more successful.

Diversity in the workplace drives innovation and can help establish a competitive advantage in the marketplace because you’re the direct beneficiary of a much broader point of view; you receive a fresh and different perspective on any situation.

Implementing workplace diversity 

Focusing on creating a diverse workplace in the stereotypical sense of the word can easily backfire. Instead, consider the systems you can implement to ensure diversity is used effectively within your organization. Instead of getting caught up in making a goal created specifically around diversity, take some time to examine your corporate goals and consider how a more diverse workplace will help you attain those goals.

These goals may include something as simple as increased revenue. What does your current customer base look like? You may have a customer base that appeals to Generation Y members, for example. How do you expand that appeal to baby boomers? Get a baby boomer’s perspective. As a result, that perspective lends diversity and a point of access into expanding your client base and in turn, your profits.

Business leaders best handle this diversification. From a systematic perspective, you as a business leader need to take ownership of implementing a workplace diversity program. Too often this responsibility can fall on the shoulders of human resources employees when in reality, it’s the business leaders who are in tune with the organization’s strategic goals on a daily basis.

Challenges in diversity

Implementing any new program isn’t without its challenges, and diversity in the workplace is no exception. Consider possible hurdles, such as lack of leadership or ownership in the process, managing change, the “what’s in it for me” attitude, potential individual biases, perceived biases in a geographic region due to majorities, and the recruitment process. Leaders may need to be trained to recognize how their personal biases can act as roadblocks to a more diverse workplace. Each of these can present difficulty when designing a diversity program.

Think about the ‘Big Picture’

To help you get started on your workplace diversity program, think about the subject in the broadest terms. Evaluate your organization in its current state and examine its present diversity. This will help you pinpoint gaps, and better understand how filling those gaps can improve your organization’s performance and productivity. Again, it’s important to find the connecting link between your corporate goals, and how a more diverse workplace will help you and your company reach those goals.

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Beth Miller

Beth Armknecht Miller’s passion for learning, and dedication to helping others, are strands woven throughout her distinguished career, which continue to guide her work with Executive Velocity, a top talent and leadership development advisory firm. As a trusted executive consultant, Vistage Chair, and committed volunteer, Beth holds herself to a rigorous standard of excellence, and she encourages her clients to do the same when pursuing their goals.

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