Why Organisations Should Embrace Diversity.

Demographic changes in society are forcing organisations to rethink their understanding and management of diversity. Just as surfers understand the need for many shapes, sizes and board types in their quiver – so too should organisations when it comes to employing a diverse workforce.

More than ever, workers and the workforce are diverse, as are the households and communities in which they live. Increasing globalisation has also placed the management of cultural differences on the agenda for most organisations. Leading firms have recognised the need to attend to diversity, reflecting the attitudes shared by most workers, especially younger generations who have grown up in more diverse settings.

While the demographic necessity alone is compelling to implement diversity initiatives, there needs to be a greater understanding of how diversity can add value to an organisation. This means truly embracing diversity rather than just viewing it as a ‘nice to have’.

Defining diversity

The first step in establishing a better understanding of diversity is for organisations to clearly define what it means. Diversity in essence encompasses many different aspects. It can be classified into two categories; surface-level or demographic diversity, which includes attributes such as age, race, gender and ethnicity, and deep-level diversity, which is based on psychological features involving personality traits, values, attitudes, preferences and beliefs.

Why is diversity important?

Aside from the ethical and social considerations, diversity in organisations is important and provides many benefits, including greater efficiency and innovation. Diverse attributes amongst employees are valuable resources, as they imply different perspectives, cultural learning and experiences. Exposure to different or opposing perspectives also encourages exploration of issues and enables a deeper understanding of problems as well as providing alternative solutions 

A diverse workforce can present unique challenges, however, the opportunities and benefits outweigh any potential hurdles. Without diversity, organisations run the risk of stifling creativity, initiative and enthusiasm by emphasising a corporate culture of conformity and sameness.

Having a diverse workforce – one that can provide all employees with opportunities to develop their skills, gain meaningful employment and build life-long careers – is an important part of doing business. Effectively managing diversity facilitates the acceptance of all individuals of the organisation by managing without disadvantaging or providing unnatural advantage for any member. If organisations are able to do so, they will be better positioned for a competitive edge.

Embracing diversity in the workplace

Historically, organisational success demanded individuals to conform to a company’s culture and norms, which meant employees abandoning some of their distinct and diverse attributes - this is no longer the case. The goal for organisations, in effectively managing diversity, should be to develop a capacity to accept, incorporate and empower the diverse talents of their employees.

The key to embracing diversity lies in finding commonality and connection rather than ostracizing or alienating others because of their differences. Surfers already represent a diverse culture based on riding the waves. Surfing attracts members from a broad population demographic reflecting the need for greater harmony in order to maintain a culture of sharing on the beach.

Organisations will be better prepared for future economic and demographic changes by creating a diverse workplace, where every employee can realise their potential and where individual differences are valued. Just as the waves should be shared, so too should opportunities in the workplace. 

Posted by: Jaclyn Knight, on April 30, 2014
Categories: Articles

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