Diversity is not about the differences between groups, but the differences among individuals.
When we allow an individual or a small group to speak for the larger group, we are allowing ourselves accept stereotypes, put up a wall, and not learn about that individual. Think about the backlash to Arab Americans in the United States following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. We as a society allowed 19 people to speak for an entire population, which increased the fear and hatred of an entire group of people.
Hostile stereotypes negate an individual person’s experiences. This is problematic because those unique experiences can benefit your workplace.
“How?” you may ask. I often lead trainings on diversity, and am regularly asked or read the comment, “Why should I care about diversity?” Well, here are five ways diversity improves organizations:
- Diversity drives innovation and creativity – We have all heard the adage more hands make lighter work. Consider the idea that more – and differing – perspectives bring new and innovative ideas that can grow the company, organization, team, or person.
- It increases productively – If the above is true, then more people working to solve a problem means the organization can come up with solutions in a more effective manner, and they can develop the solution faster. The McKinsey Global Management Consulting group reported that companies that embrace and value diversity are on average 35% more productive.
- Diversity makes recruitment easier – Glassdoor reported 67% of people polled stated that they considered the organization’s diversity when deciding whether to accept a job, and 57% said there needs to be more done to increase the levels of diversity in the workplace.
- Turnover decreases – Millennials will make up nearly half of the workforce in less than three years, and a key component of millennial culture is the value placed on multiculturalism and the understanding of the globalization of the job market. If a company does not value these, then that population will leave and increase turnover.
- There’s a reduction of lawsuits – The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission monitors the charges of discrimination and harassment in the U.S. workplace. 97,443 charges were filed in 2016, costing companies over $482 million. Keep in mind, these are the people who came forward. Research shows that three out of four victims never speak out.
A closing thought on diversity:
Just like stereotypes, belittling the need for diversity negates an individual’s unique perspective. If we consider that the experience and perspective of a serviceman or servicewoman as being part of who they are, how do you think people would react in this time of heightened patriotism if the experience of a solider was negated by saying something like “I don’t see your service”?
Perhaps you think that’s outlandish, but there is something to be said for that military service being part of who that person is and shaping their perspective, much as the experiences of an African American, a woman, and a member of the LGBTQ+ community have shaped their perspective.
About the author
Robert Jones is an Employee Assistance Program Trainer with The Village Business Institute. Robert has a bachelor’s degree in History and a master’s degree in Education with an emphasis in counseling and leadership. He also has a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies, and is working on his Educational Doctorate in Leadership. Robert has nearly 20 years of experience in the hospitality field and has been doing freelance training for almost 10 years.