Having a diverse workplace is something many companies strive for nowadays. Since cities, states, and countries are projected to grow increasingly diverse for the foreseeable future, why would a workplace be any different?
The importance of diversity in the workplace extends beyond having a work environment where everyone feels comfortable and included—there are actually proven benefits that directly improve your company’s bottom line.
Keep reading to learn what diversity in the workplace looks like, why it matters, and exactly how it can help your business.
What Is Diversity in the Workplace?
When different employees bring their own experiences, personalities, and cultures to the table, a vibrant and successful community can be formed as a result.
But having diversity in the workplace is more than just having one or two people who are a different race or ethnic background than the rest of the staff—in fact, hiring someone to fill a quota under the guise of diversity can be a disservice to everyone.1 Not only can it be insulting for the employee and bad for your reputation, but that decision may also be far less likely to actually change anything in terms of creating a well-rounded, multifaceted work environment.
So, how do you create a diverse workplace that does benefit your company?
How to Create a Diverse Workplace
Despite 98% of companies having diversity and inclusion programs, only 25% of employees that belonged to these companies’ diverse groups (women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ community) said they personally benefited from them in any way, according to a study by the Boston Consulting Group2.
Diversity and inclusion practices can be short-sighted, focusing on putting up a good front and looking altruistic simply because the idea of diversity has long been presented as a necessity.
This pressure to create a certain image, fill quotas, or use funding that exists specifically for that purpose is what must be overcome. True diversity tends to be ingrained into every level of a company and its culture, and these tips will help guide you in establishing a diverse work environment.
Tip #1: Aim for Long-Term Goals
Having a sustained focus on diversity outside of the hiring process is key to making startups and established companies a truly diverse place to work—here are some ways to establish big-picture goals:
- Be mindful of your early hires – As a new company, consider who your early hires are so you’re actively establishing a diverse workplace from the get-go.3
- Let diverse employees represent the company – Consider asking diverse employees if they’d be willing and interested in representing the company. For instance, are they willing to attend a conference on the organization’s behalf? Not only can that give them an opportunity they may not have at other jobs, but your company may establish itself as a welcoming place with a diversified workforce—potentially attracting other diverse applicants in the future.
- Provide ongoing training – Make sure your company has regular, mandatory training programs to keep everyone in the workplace up to date on the latest unconscious bias and sensitivity training.4
Tip #2: Push Inclusivity on Every Level
Making inclusivity a priority on every level of your business, from employees to supervisors and executives, can help create a unified front when it comes to diversity. Having only some diverse departments or teams may not be nearly as effective as having inclusivity running through your entire company.
To accomplish this:
- Look at your leadership teams – Having diversity in leadership positions can help diversity become a clear mission of your company that influences first impressions and employee behavior.
- Have inclusive structures on every level – Whether you establish diversity top-down or bottom-up, every level should strive to have programs that help diverse members of your community feel more comfortable in their current position, or have opportunities for advancement.5
Tip #3: Offer Group-Focused Benefits
In the same Boston Consulting Group (BCG) study, specific programs and benefits for each diverse group became evident. By having some of these options available within your company, it can help solidify the fact that the diverse members of your community are important. Beyond your current employees being happy to be part of your work environment, it may also helps attract more members of these groups in the future.
Here are the group-specific findings that the BCG calls “hidden gems:”
- For women (all races) – Women want a viable path towards career advancement, as well as tools to help them balance career and family responsibilities. Women also want to see responsible and relatable role models in positions of leadership—without it, they fear advancement isn’t possible. Other benefits, in order of importance, include parental leave, appropriate health care coverage, and childcare assistance programs.
- For racially and ethnically diverse employees – The biggest things employees of color want to aid their advancement are bias-free day-to-day experiences and promotion decisions. This may be able to be accomplished with the help of antidiscrimination company policies, formal cultural competency training, unconscious bias training, and sponsorship roles to create individual action plans with the help of higher-level members of the company.
- For members of the LGBTQ+ community – LGBTQ+ employees may also care about mainstreaming and normalizing their experiences through the same tactics of removing bias in day-to-day work and promotion decisions. With some of these employees not yet out in the workplace, creating a safe space where intolerant jokes and derogatory statements are unacceptable can be crucial. They may also care about participating in external events and receiving appropriate healthcare.
What Are the Benefits of a Diverse Workplace?
Offering equal opportunities and making people feel comfortable as a part of your company is incredibly important, and it comes with added benefits. Having a diverse company may help give you a competitive advantage, allowing you to outperform similar companies in the industry, and see better profits.
Here are 10 benefits that contribute to the importance of a diverse workplace, as studied and reported by the talent acquisition software company TalentLyft6:
#1 Variety of Perspectives
Companies with higher workplace diversity have immediate access to a wide variety of different perspectives, which is highly useful when it comes to planning, implementing, and executing business strategies.
#2 Increased Creativity
Different perspectives lead to new ways of thinking and problem-solving. When people have had similar experiences and upbringings, they are more likely to problem-solve the same way. Adding other people to the mix improves the creativity of your workforce.
#3 Higher Innovation Rate
Varied perspectives and increased creativity results in diverse workforces having higher innovation rates. Inclusive companies have been proven to innovate at a higher rate and in a more impactful capacity—they are 1.7 times more likely to be leading innovators in their market, according to TalentLyft’s source, Josh Bersin7.
#4 Faster Problem-Solving
With different experiences, thought processes, and higher innovation rates, it’s to be expected that diverse workplaces can problem-solve faster than other people—but it’s also been proven by the Harvard Business Review8.
#5 More Successful Decision-Making
Not only does a diversified workforce solve problems faster, but it has more success in the results of its decisions. Researchers have found that when diverse teams make business decisions, they outperform individually thinking decision-makers significantly and frequently—according to research from Cloverpop, inclusive decision-making outperforms other methods up to 87% of the time9.
#6 Greater Profits
Companies with more diverse teams were better financial performers, according to research conducted by McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm that studied 180 companies in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
#7 Higher Employee Engagement
People are more excited to come to work when they feel like they’re valued and heard. When employees feel included they’re more likely to be more engaged in their work and with others in the workplace10.
#8 Lower Employee Turnover Rate
Workplace diversity is directly related to employee retention. Similar to employee engagement, when people feel like they’re part of a community that sees them as an important member of their team, they’re less likely to leave.
#9 Better Overall Reputation
Taking the time to establish diversity and inclusion practices shows that a company is serious about people and isn’t just interested in making money. The ironic thing is that by caring about people and having an inclusive environment, your company is more likely to make more money anyway.
By putting in the effort to promote diversity different types of people with different backgrounds can relate to your brand, making your company more visible to new markets, business partners, customers, and future employees.
#10 Successful Hiring Results
Once you establish your brand as one that understands the importance of diversity in the workplace, your company becomes a more desirable place to work—especially if you offer those “hidden gems.”
As you attract diverse talent pools, you have a higher likelihood of finding yourself with highly talented, top-performing applicants. A diverse workforce is an increasingly important factor when considering a place to work, so your company’s commitment to diversity will continuously pay off, creating a positive feedback loop in your business.
Preparing for Diverse Business with Alliant
Now that the importance of diversity in the workplace is more clear, getting an education that prioritizes diversity and inclusivity may help better prepare you to enter the world of business.
Alliant International University is reputable for its business degrees and offers masters in organizational psychology as well as a variety of undergraduate, graduate, and non-degree seeking academic programs that are beneficial to all aspects of business. Alliant has also won the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award (HEED) several times, has programs that directly benefit diverse groups, and accredited business degrees with flexible scheduling, committing to a diverse student body, and future leaders in the workforce.
- “What Is Diversity in the Workplace and Why Should You Care?,” Knowledge Leader - Colliers Commercial Real Estate Blog, accessed December 14, 2021, https://knowledge-leader.colliers.com/editor/what-is-diversity-in-the-w…;
- Matt Krentz et al., “Fixing the Flawed Approach to Diversity,” United States - EN (United States - EN), accessed December 14, 2021, https://www.bcg.com/en-us/publications/2019/fixing-the-flawed-approach-…;
- “Diversity in the Workplace: Workplace Diversity,” PeopleScout, accessed December 14, 2021, https://www.peoplescout.com/insights/managing-diversity-in-workplace/.
- “Unconscious Bias Training That Works,” Harvard Business Review, accessed December 14, 2021, https://hbr.org/2021/09/unconscious-bias-training-that-works.
- Expert Panel®, “Council Post: 14 Important Benefits of a More Diverse Leadership Team,” Forbes (Forbes Magazine), accessed December 14, 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2021/06/24/14-importa….
- Anja Zojceska, “Top 10 Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace,” Blog, accessed December 14, 2021, https://www.talentlyft.com/en/blog/article/244/top-10-benefits-of-diver….
- Joshbersin, “Why Diversity and Inclusion Has Become a Business Priority,” JOSH BERSIN, accessed December 14, 2021, http://joshbersin.com/2015/12/why-diversity-and-inclusion-will-be-a-top…;
- “Teams Solve Problems Faster When They're More Cognitively Diverse,” Harvard Business Review, accessed December 14, 2021, https://hbr.org/2017/03/teams-solve-problems-faster-when-theyre-more-co…;
- PM Editorial, “Diversity Drives Better Decisions,” People Management, accessed December 14, 2021, https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/experts/research/diversity-drives-be…;
- Thomas Barta, Markus Kleiner, and Tilo Neumann, “Is There a Payoff from Top-Team Diversity?,” McKinsey & Company (McKinsey & Company), accessed December 14, 2021, https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/people-and-organizational-p….