Workplace diversity encompasses more than race and gender. Diversity includes individuals of different ages, education, income levels or religions. Companies with diverse workforces enjoy the benefits of fresh ideas, as people from dissimilar backgrounds think of solutions that are different from the norm. However, diversity isn't always rosy; it can sometimes breed conflict among employees.
People with similar backgrounds tend to see the world through the same filters. When your team is diverse, however, each employee brings a unique life experience to the table. This allows team members to see the same problem and come up with different ideas that cover a larger range of options and solutions -- more ideas than a homogeneous group might generate.
Particularly in an age-diverse group, your team benefits from the wisdom brought by employees with many years of work experience. Such wisdom can also come from highly educated people. When combined with other team members who don't have the same experience or education, the group is better able to sort through ideas and determine the best ones based not only on creativity but logistics and overall merit. The younger, fresher crowd can express new ideas while the older, wiser crowd sifts through them to find the most feasible options.
As our market becomes more global, flexibility is key to a company's success. When a workplace is diverse, the company is better able to handle the changes necessary to move the business forward. This flexibility can attract a larger, loyal customer base, according to the Human Resources department of the University of California at Berkeley. Having a diverse group of employees also can help you find new customers and retain old ones -- people like to do business with similar people, and a diverse workplace gives more customers a contact person they can relate to through age or race, for example.
Workplace diversity isn't always easy. Some employees don't respect different ideas or backgrounds, which can negatively affect team performance. A lack of respect for another worker's intelligence or beliefs can lead to intense debate over minor topics, which reduces the team's productivity. Management can help teach employees the value of diverse ideas to help reduce discrimination and increase morale and productivity, states a 2000 report by Stanford University.
- Stanford University: Study on Diversity in the Workplace
- University of California Berkeley: Human Resources: Why Diversity Matters
- Career Thought Leaders: Age Diversity in the Workplace
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Diversity in the Workplace: Benefits, Challenges, and the Required Managerial Tools
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