Diversity in the Workplace in a Homogeneous Population

Employees who share different backgrounds find more creative solutions to problems at work.

Employees who share different backgrounds find more creative solutions to problems at work.

A homogeneous workforce is made up of employees who have a lot in common, such as their racial, marital and educational status. As a result, it's possible that their similarities result in similar problem-solving methods when it comes to facing challenges in the workplace. Supporters of workplace diversity believe that great things can happen when you stir up workplace demographics. They contend that diversity is the spark that triggers innovative styles of thinking and allows challenges to be addressed in new, and potentially far more effective ways.

Comfort Zones

Human nature drives people to seek the company of others who are a lot like them when it comes to behaviors and opinions, according to Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. In many offices, a large portion of employees have attended the same schools and undergone very similar training in their careers. The perception is that people who mirror each other tend to have fewer disagreements. But what's really happening is that in a homogeneous employee population, employees often support their allies’ viewpoints because it's a way of being a team player, not because their suggestions are the best moves for the company.

Catalyst

An office newcomer may feel like an interruption in the flow of normal business when her demographics are unlike her co-workers’ experiences. She may have been raised and educated in another state, belong to a different faith or hold different political beliefs. In short, she views the world differently. While this may result in some resistance from your existing workforce, disparities in opinions can force colleagues to stretch in ways that polite conversations cannot, according to researchers at Kellogg School of Management. They theorize that employees will be more discerning with an outsider because they're hearing a different perspective. And in the midst of those debates, a fresh idea is born.

Inclusion

Employers are using diversity as a way of casting their nets and drawing a broader pool of new talent. Organizational leaders want a workforce that represents a mixture of genders, ages, religions, ethnic backgrounds, marital and parental statuses, sexual orientations, and educational and income levels. A homogeneous employee base can prevent a business from attracting a wider range of customers, which can be detrimental in a global economy. A cross mix of employees can more effectively empathize with customers who share the same social demographics. That allows a company to better understand what consumers want.

Results

L’Oreal and Mattel both saw the power of using diversity as a competitive advantage, according to “Forbes.” The cosmetics giant knew that non-Caucasian women required different foundation creams and powders than women of color. A research leader herself recognized this need because she also was a nonwhite consumer who couldn’t always find appropriate makeup shades. At the same time, Mattel introduced a new line of minority-sensitive dolls. The toymaker’s first step was to solicit input from their African-American employees on whether the skin tones and facial features were authentic. Their insight turned the new idea into a hit. In both instances, these organizations broke away from homogenous thinking.

 

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