Cultural diversity in the workplace extends beyond national origin and includes many factors pertaining to employees’ heredity and experience in areas such as religion, language, political views and moral codes. For any organization to perform up to its potential, it’s important to understand the ways in which diversity manifests in the work place and how to tap into it rather than stumble over it.
A common example of cultural diversity in the workplace is a multilingual workforce. Language diversity can introduce communication complications, but can also provide benefits for your business. Potential customers may leave your business because the staff can't understand their orders. Linguistic diversity helps you project a clear image of inclusion to the public. A multilingual staff can help ensure clarity of message when addressing a culturally complex world and when you want to target a diverse marketplace.
Age is often overlooked when considering workplace diversity but can be a point of major divergence in experience and knowledge. Consider the common stereotype that younger people are more tech savvy, whereas older people are opposed to contemporary trends. Even if this is the case, this range of perspectives allows for a more dynamic business approach than one perspective could on its own. In companies where the stereotype is standard, you can benefit from both the experience and insight of older employees and technical implementation from the younger staff.
Employees can bring varied belief systems and degrees of religious observation with them into the workplace. These differences can sometimes manifest in overt needs, such as getting certain holidays off, dietary restrictions, clothing and prayer requirements. The differences may be more subtle, simply informing employee personalities and the character of their interactions with others. Religious diversity in the workplace creates a need for effective communication, respect, and empathy among workers. Just as with other points of cultural diversity, differing beliefs have the bonus of additional perspectives. For example, a religious Jew on the staff may notice advertising that would alienate other religious Jews before you produce it.
Racial diversity continues to present American businesses with challenges. The history of segregation in the United States is well-documented and continues to be a hot button in business. While disparities in equality might be less pronounced than they were in the early part of the 20th century, equality is still questioned, especially when it comes to equal representation in upper management. Business and governments continue to work on integrating their workforces to better reflect the general population because it’s good for business. Companies that hire a racially diverse workforce consistently draw more customers and reap higher profits than those businesses with a less diverse staff, reports a 2009 "Science Daily" article.
- Career Lingual: Cultural Diversity in the Workplace and its Implications
- Science Daily: Diversity Linked to Increased Sales Revenue and Profits
- The CPA Journal: Meeting The Challenge of Age Diversity in the Workplace
- David McLauren: Benefits of Workplace Diversity
- The American Prospect: The Segregated Workplace
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."