In today's dynamic and interconnected world, diversity has become a crucial element for success in the workforce. It’s no longer enough to merely assemble a group of individuals with similar backgrounds and experiences. Instead, organizations must strive for a diverse workforce that encompasses a wide range of perspectives, skills, and insights.
Diversity, in its essence, is about embracing the richness of human differences. It recognizes that individuals bring unique perspectives shaped by their backgrounds, cultures, and life experiences. When organizations foster diversity, they create an environment where these different perspectives can converge, leading to enhanced creativity, innovation, and problem-solving.
Diversity Benefits Employers and Employees
Having a diverse workforce offers 3 proven benefits for both employers and employees.
Hiring and retention
According to a 2020 report from Glassdoor, "More than 3 in 4 employees and job seekers (76%) report a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers.”
Productivity and innovation
A 2018 study by consulting firm McKinsey & Company found that companies with higher levels of diversity are more likely to have above-average financial returns. The study also revealed a correlation between diverse teams and increased creativity and innovation.
Accenture found that "42 percent of shoppers would pay a premium of five percent or more to shop with a retailer committed to I&D."
Visual Diversity Vs. Experiential Diversity
While diversity encompasses a broad spectrum of attributes, it is essential to distinguish between visual diversity and experiential diversity.
Visual diversity refers to the observable characteristics of an individual, such as race, ethnicity, gender, and physical appearance. Experiential diversity, on the other hand, delves into the lived experiences and perspectives that individuals bring to the table.
The observable, visual component is often the first aspect that comes to mind when discussing diversity. It is undoubtedly important to have a workforce that reflects the visual diversity of the world around us.
However, focusing solely on the visual aspect can lead to a superficial understanding of diversity, overlooking the value of experiences and perspectives that individuals possess. Experiential diversity encompasses a wide range of unique life experiences that individuals bring to the table. This diversity can greatly enrich perspectives and problem-solving approaches.
Here examples of what constitutes experiential diversity:
Varied socioeconomic backgrounds influence how individuals perceive and navigate issues related to wealth, poverty, and opportunity. People from different socioeconomic statuses offer diverse perspectives on problem-solving, innovation, and understanding customer needs across various strata of society.
Educational experiences shape one's knowledge base and critical thinking skills, affecting our approach to problem-solving. Diverse educational backgrounds can foster a multi-faceted approach to innovation, allowing a team to harness different areas of expertise and methodologies.
Living in different regions or countries exposes individuals to distinct environments, climates, and social norms. These varied experiences can cultivate a global mindset, enabling the team to better understand and serve a geographically diverse customer base.
Age and life stage, such as childhood, adolescence, adulthood, or retirement, can impact perspectives on life's challenges and priorities. These varied life stages can enable the team to address the needs and challenges of different age groups more effectively.
Unique life events like travel, personal achievements, setbacks, or life-changing moments contribute to a person's experiential diversity. These experiences shape an individual's worldview and approach, bringing a valuable depth of insight to the team.
Disabilities and differently abled experiences offer insights into accessibility and inclusivity concerns. These insights can pave the way for innovative solutions that cater to a broader demographic, thereby fostering a culture of inclusivity and respect.
Gender and Sexual Orientation
Gender identity and sexual orientation can lead to varying perspectives on issues related to identity, relationships, and societal expectations. These perspectives can open up discussions on inclusivity, tolerance, and understanding, fostering an environment receptive to different viewpoints.
Diverse career paths, industry experiences, and job roles bring different problem-solving skills and industry-specific knowledge. This unique blend of experiences contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of market trends and customer needs, driving business growth and competitiveness.
Family structure, dynamics, and relationships shape one's understanding of interpersonal connections and support systems. This understanding can assist teams in fostering a cooperative and supportive work environment, enhancing productivity and satisfaction.
language and communication
Multilingualism or exposure to different languages can influence how individuals communicate and understand language nuances. These communication skills can aid in navigating cross-cultural interactions, fostering better understanding and collaboration within a diverse team.
personal interests and hobbies
Varied interests and hobbies provide unique insights into niche topics and areas of passion. These interests can lead to innovative ideas and fresh perspectives, further enriching the diversity of the team.
health and wellness
Health conditions and wellness journeys affect how individuals approach self-care and healthcare advocacy. These experiences can illuminate the importance of health awareness and wellness initiatives within companies, contributing to an overall healthier and more conscious workforce.
racial and ethnic identity
Racial and ethnic backgrounds influence perceptions of identity, discrimination, and social justice issues. These diverse backgrounds can contribute to a deeper understanding of cultural sensitivities and biases, promoting a more inclusive and respectful work environment.
Religious or spiritual beliefs
Different religious or spiritual beliefs can impact moral values, ethics, and perspectives on life's purpose. These varied beliefs can foster a broader understanding of ethical considerations and principles, promoting respect and tolerance within a diverse team.
Experiential diversity encompasses these and many other facets of a person's life journey, making it a valuable source of fresh perspectives and problem-solving approaches in various contexts.
The Benefits of Experiential Diversity
Experiential diversity offers a multitude of benefits for organizations that prioritize its cultivation. These benefits include:
- Increased Creativity and Innovation. Diverse teams bring a wider range of perspectives and approaches to problem-solving, leading to more innovative solutions and a greater ability to adapt to changing market demands.
- Better Problem-Solving and Decision Making. Experiential diversity fosters a more comprehensive understanding of complex issues, enabling teams to consider multiple perspectives and make informed decisions.
- Improved Employee Engagement Satisfaction. A diverse and inclusive workplace fosters a sense of belonging and appreciation for individual contributions, leading to higher employee engagement and satisfaction.
- Stronger Customer Relationships. A diverse workforce better reflects the customer base, allowing organizations to understand and meet the needs of a wider range of customers.
Challenges of Fostering Experiential Diversity & How to Overcome Them
While experiential diversity undoubtedly offers a myriad of benefits, cultivating it within an organization can present unique challenges. Employers seeking a strategy for enhancing all types of diversity can consider partnering with an employee assistance program to capitalize on their knowledge and experience.
Unconscious bias refers to the automatic, often unintentional, stereotypes that influence our understanding and decision-making. These biases, deeply embedded in our subconscious, can inadvertently shape our attitudes and behaviors towards others, sometimes leading to unfair judgment or discrimination.
To address unconscious bias, organizations can initiate a multi-faceted approach. They could start by conducting comprehensive unconscious bias training for all employees, helping them identify and understand their own implicit biases. Regular workshops and seminars can keep this topic fresh and at the forefront of employee minds.
Encouraging open discussion and feedback within the team can foster awareness and ensure ongoing improvements in combating unconscious bias. All these efforts should be underpinned by a strong organizational commitment to a diverse and inclusive work culture.
Lack of Awareness
Limited exposure to different cultures and perspectives can create barriers to effective communication and collaboration within a diverse workforce.
To combat this lack of awareness, organizations should promote and prioritize cultural awareness and understanding. This could be achieved by instituting cultural exchange programs, celebrating multicultural events, or providing resources for employees to learn more about different cultures and experiences.
By fostering an environment where employees can openly share and learn from each other's experiences, organizations can bridge cultural divides and foster unity within the team. Moreover, leaders should also model this behavior by actively participating in these initiatives and demonstrating their commitment to a diverse and inclusive workplace.
Inefficient Hiring Practices
Traditional hiring practices may inadvertently overlook diverse talents leading to a less diverse workforce and hindering the organization's ability to innovate and grow.
To rectify this, organizations need to implement inclusive hiring practices. This may involve reevaluating job descriptions and requirements to ensure they are inclusive and non-discriminatory, implementing blind recruitment to reduce bias, and seeking out diverse pools of candidates.
Organizations could also consider establishing partnerships with organizations that focus on promoting diversity in the workforce. These strategies will not only lead to a more diverse workforce but also send a powerful message about the organization's commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Limited Opportunities for Advancement
Limited opportunities for advancement for diverse employees can lead to feelings of disengagement and underappreciation. It's important that all employees feel valued and see a clear path to career advancement within the organization.
To address this, organizations can develop diversity and inclusion strategies that extend beyond hiring. Mentoring programs, leadership training, and clear, objective promotion criteria can help ensure all employees have equal opportunities to advance. Regularly soliciting and acting on employee feedback can also help to ensure that these strategies are effective and continue to evolve as per the organization's needs.
Visual and Experiential Diversity - An Inclusive Approach Offering Many Benefits
By embracing and actively promoting a diverse and inclusive workplace, organizations can harness the full potential of their employees and foster growth and innovation. Successful companies understand that real diversity is more substantive than just what is observable, but also includes the many unique attributes of the members of the workforce.
When you partner with Ulliance, our Life Advisor Consultants are always just a phone call away to teach ways to enhance your work/life balance and increase your happiness. The Ulliance Life Advisor Employee Assistance Program can help employees and employers come closer to a state of total well-being.
Investing in the right EAP or Wellness Program to support your employees will help them and help you. Visit https://ulliance.com/ or call 866-648-8326.
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Delivering Through Diversity; Dame Vivian Hunt, Lareina Yee, Sara Prince, and Sundiatu Dixon-Fyle; McKinsey https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/delivering-through-diversity
Diversity & Inclusion Workplace Survey; Glassdoor
How Inclusion and Diversity Drive Shoppers’ Behavior; Accenture
Diversity is More Than Skin Deep; Dan Rector; Disaster Recovery Journal
The 3 Types of Diversity That Shape Our Identities; Celia de Anca and Salvador Aragón; Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2018/05/the-3-types-of-diversity-that-shape-our-identities