Diversity- how can you build an effective workforce?

Diversity- how can you build an effective workforce?

Do you know of a company which claims to be culturally diverse through hiring multiple nationalities? Have you come across an organisation that embraces gender equality by citing single Board representatives? Consider the companies you work with or know of – just for 5 minutes?

Many of these firms will have a token female on the board, or a number of supervisors and general workers who fulfil the diversity criteria. If you took a diagonal slice of the company there would be significantly limited distribution. I would suggest that many companies mean well yet operate at a level of “tokenism”. This is a complacency which can lead to non-engagement, needless misunderstandings and unexpected disassociation, especially of newly recruited or younger team members.

Embracing diversity in the workplace requires effort to ensure consistency, focus and big picture thinking. It is how you DO THINGS. Pragmatically, we all know that multiple diversities create more effective organisations.
However, creating a truly cultural and gender diverse workforce will not work if you stick to the same old beliefs, behaviours and assessment processes. It will not work if you have limited understanding of gender issues, the cultures of nationalities or other diversities in people you are seeking to employ/work in or with.

Every single employee brings different backgrounds as well as personalities. You will be trying to weave quite a complex tapestry so here are some tips

  • Ensure you mix up gender, nationalities and diversity generally throughout the workplace. With a good cross-section of people you will instigate insightful thinking, generate environments that foster creativity and significantly increase efficiencies.
  • Understand how emotionally intuitive your managers are. Vary your people, especially at decision making level. Be conscious that “group think” can lead to negative behaviours and practises. Encourage these managers to celebrate differences, become more self-aware and understand their own biases. If you embed the differences not just the similarities, you will create a workplace that is energetic and going places.
  • Review your interview and procurement techniques. Consider your current processes and practises in the light of diverse thinking. Understand what your decision making criteria are. Do they underpin “sameness”? Are people or contractors selected on the basis of “right” answers to questions or different approaches?
  • Know the DNA of your team and what works to build trust. Assess differences not just similarities. What way are some nationalities wired? Who in your team is more analytical? Is there a big picture thinker who talks with enthusiasm? Are they someone who is culturally direct or who has the gift of conversation? Maybe they are people who can ask clear, specific questions and understand their impact? Perhaps they are naturally quiet and do not like to assert themselves?
  • Actively set-up a reverse mentoring scheme. Place diverse people in your organisation alongside the most senior people. They will have things to learn mutually and the benefit will be huge.
  • Consider what a homogenous culture really would look like. Diversity is a reflection of who people are and in some measure, governs how they think and behave.

So, going back to your company – is it operating a policy which is truly diverse? If your employees are uncomfortable being themselves at work, their strengths will be subsumed by their desire to be “the same”. If you are supporting a level of tokenism you may very well have inadvertently stifled the very talent and diversity you were seeking to develop!!