In an age where we’re looking to celebrate our differences fully, valuing the contributions of all employees becomes even more important. But it can also help your business thrive.
Workplace diversity. It would be easy to label as modern jargon: an attempt to raise a company’s reputation, or a lofty goal of inclusion to keep up with social trends. But an increasing amount of research these days shows that it can also be a real benefit to your business – and your bottom line.
What does workplace diversity mean?
Let’s start with the basics. Diversity in the workplace means that as a business you employ a wide range of workers across all walks of life. So, people of varying age, gender, race, ethnicity, cultural background, sexual orientation, education and more.
The theory is that by doing so, your workplace will become a hive mind of inclusion. A stronger, more accepting culture for all, where everyone shares their different approaches, unique perspectives and personal experiences to achieve more holistic, positive outcomes for your business.
Fad or financial sense?
If this is all beginning to sound a little trendy or new age, it is also worth considering that workplace diversity is more than simply some politically correct fad.
Indeed, by its very nature, diversity means taking into account multiple angles for any challenge a business faces, thus potentially resulting in a stronger, more relevant and well-rounded solution. The end result? Smarter business, and a better financial performance. Far from a fad in anyone’s book.
The Covid factor
The pandemic, too, has played a major role in bringing diversity to the fore. The remote working style forced upon us during lockdown meant that companies started turning to a wider, more diverse workforce – sometimes even hiring beyond our borders.
In fact, according to Southern Cross’ own Workplace Wellness Report 2021, working from home (WFH) has permanently changed the business landscape. More than one in three businesses surveyed said they had changed their views on WFH, and that now – due to worker demand – they would continue to offer it as an option to their employees.
Conversely, WFH also brought about some negative impacts for many, with 73% of those organisations who implemented it reporting that some of their employees felt isolated, missing the face-to-face team environment of the office. This figure rose to an alarming 80% among smaller businesses. Diversity at the expense of diversity, you could say.
The diverse benefits
Nevertheless, workplace diversity is here to stay, and with good reason. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits your business can embrace by implementing a more diverse workforce.
1) Gain fresh perspectives
The first benefit we’ve already touched upon. Get a variety of world views in the same room and you’re more likely to come out with better ideas at the other end. Why? Because everyone will have a slightly different approach, and that means you’ll be more in tune with what your customers want. They’re a diverse bunch too, after all.
2) Foster creativity and innovation
In the same vein, a more diverse spread of opinions also means saying goodbye to the same old same old. It’s logical really: if you only employ people from similar cultures with similar perspectives, then you’re limiting your potential to try something different - much like your social media bubble can prevent you from seeing the bigger picture. But diversity breeds freshness, and new ways of tackling things.
3) Increase your productivity
Greater creativity and innovation can naturally lead to greater productivity. When people feel they don’t fit in, they’re likely to be more cautious in their work – there is a pressure to conform. But when everyone feels accepted and happier, they’re more likely to excel in their roles too. And up their work rate.
4) Inspire employee engagement
And when employees are happy and their fear and stress levels are reduced, the only way is up for any business. They are more likely to feel they belong, which reduces staff turnover. Harvard Business Review research also suggests that more cognitively diverse teams also solve problems faster.1 A serious business advantage for increased profits.
5) Make better decisions
Speed is not the only bonus. Workplace diversity can also ensure that the decision-making process is improved too. In fact, some research found that when diverse teams made a business decision, they outperformed individual decision-makers up to 87% of the time.2 There’s that fresh perspective again.
6) Boost your reputation
Let’s be honest here. When you hire a more diverse workforce, it looks better for your brand, and rightly so. Because your business then better reflects the community in which you operate. It can also improve your reputation in the marketplace, and thus attract a higher standard of applicants for roles within your business.
7) Make a difference in the world
Last but by no means least, creating a more diverse workforce makes a difference not just within your business, but to the world at large. It communicates that you understand that human life is full of richness and culture that should be embraced on all plains to promote fairness and equality everywhere. It may sound a lofty ideal, especially for a small New Zealand business, but it matters.
To summarise, then, taking a more diverse approach to your teambuilding may sound like a difficult transition to make. It can mean adapting work practices and learning about new cultures. But it also brings with it a fresh and potentially more productive perspective on your business challenges. And when all your employees work in a place where they know they are respected, valued and cared for, the results can be rather wonderful.
Southern Cross Workplace Wellness Report 2021