Workplace diversity is mostly interpreted to mean a well-balanced team in regards to race, gender, religion, age, sexuality, and physical ability/disability. But it is more than that. Diversity also covers personality differences, employees’ cognitive abilities, marital status, experience, cultural beliefs, and level of education.

If some of your staff members feel different from others concerning inborn and/or acquired traits, beliefs, or physical appearance, what you have on your hands is a diverse team. Please note that whether or not you intended to have a diverse workforce, it is your job to ensure that no employee is discriminated against for being different.

The good thing about having a diverse team is that everyone brings to the table different perspectives, fresh ideas, both core and soft skills, and life experiences. Such are strengths that you can leverage to yield greater innovation, build higher engagement, and improve decision-making processes in the workplace.

Diversity also depicts a high-tolerance and discrimination-free organization, a reputation that every company needs in today’s business landscape for increased top-talent pull, reduced employee turnover, improved lead generation, and increased profits.

But how can you leverage these strengths? Here are 4 ways how:

1. Don’t boss employees. Challenge, guide, and trust them to excel in their roles

A team filled with workers who consider themselves different is harder to engage compared to a homogenous team. As a leader, you constantly feel like you are being watched and judged for how you treat “some” people.

You have to prove every day that you don’t discriminate against people who are different from you and that you don’t favor people that are perceived to “look like you”. Simply put, the need for (or lack of) political correctness in the workplace can pose huge barriers to building team engagement. That is why you must make a conscious decision to let go of your supremacy and allow everyone to excel in their own way.

Here is the catch:

Diverse employees want to prove their worth. They feel like it is their job to prove to the world that they (and the people they represent) can take on the world and excel. They want to feel challenged, empowered and trusted to take on the world.

They yearn for the freedom to explore, learn, and grow, even if that would mean taking on more advanced assignments. It is an intrinsic desire that you can never go against and win, so you should encourage it and find ways of benefiting from it.

In summary, here are tips for pulling that off:

  • Encourage each employee to be their authentic selves as opposed to conforming to what others want them to be.
  • Rethink each employee’s job description. Assign tasks that utilize an individual’s most positive capabilities to help them thrive and to create the outcomes you desire.
  • Empower to discover potential; take a back seat and observe them make mistakes, rectify them, and grow.
  • Build diversity in positions of influence. Put outstanding employees from minority groups in leadership positions and give them the freedom to make real change.

Note that taking a back seat and allowing employees to explore their strengths isn’t going to be easy, but it is totally worth it. Once the team is fully engaged, you will not have to constantly worry about political correctness.

Everyone will be too busy sharing knowledge and growing their careers to even find time to scrutinize your political correctness. And speaking of knowledge sharing, if you and your team are sharing large files of information it’s best to use the technology at hand, software such as WinZip to easily zip and unzip files. Also note that optimal engagement won’t be achieved overnight so you have to keep pushing, failing, and pushing again.

2. Have their backs and be consistent while at it

Employees from minority groups are very vulnerable and that makes them extra cautious about the people they trust. They aren’t out to play mind games with anybody– they will easily disengage if they detect the tiniest shred of dishonesty from the leadership.

That is why you cannot afford to be inconsistent with your approach and style. Have their backs, value their input, prioritize their career development, and be seen to have their best interests at heart at ALL TIMES. Be loyal to them without any hidden agendas.

Be consistent in your communication and ensure that everyone knows where you, and the company, stand on different emotive and divisive social discourses. Be more emotionally intelligent to build a healthy rapport with the team.

3. Regularly audit your inclusiveness

Your team is diverse, but is it inclusive? Are you managing diversity in the right, most effective manner? You can’t know the answer to these questions unless you ask the employees themselves. Pose the following questions to them:

  • Are senior executives fair to all employees? Do they keep all employees informed about growth opportunities?
  • Do you as an employee feel treated with respect? Do you feel valued?
  • On a scale of 0-10, how free do you feel when expressing your opinions and/or grievances? Are diverse opinions and ideas implemented?
  • Do you feel like your unique talents are being put to the best use?

Such questions will help you audit your company’s inclusiveness and improve where appropriate.

4. Be conscious of unconscious bias

Of course, you would want to think of yourself as rational, inclusive, unbiased, and objective. It is hard for anyone to see their own prejudice. However, subconsciously, we as human beings love to associate with people who look and think like us.

We like to categorize the world around us, and then treat/perceive each category with some level of unconscious bias. This is a reality that you need to make peace with and, instead of denying them, make genuine efforts to counter your biases. Some of such efforts include:

  • Identify your subconscious preferences for certain employees or groups of employees. Admit that those preferences can and actually do unintentionally influence your decision-making. Make a conscious decision to not allow the preferences to cloud your judgment or, better still, recuse yourself from making decisions that affect the employees involved.
  • Choose to never give instant responses to opinions you strongly disagree with. Take your time to craft a constructive counter-opinion rather than give a negative response.
  • Acknowledge other people’s feelings even as much as you don’t understand them.
  • Seek clarification whenever something is unclear to you, be it religious, racial, gender-related, or sexual. Avoid assumptions. That will help you avoid fallacies and prejudices.

Bottom line

This is not a choice: You have to know how to manage diversity in your company. If not for anything else, you need to shield your organization from legal penalties that could arise from discrimination in the workplace.

Note that minority groups are protected under federal nondiscrimination statutes. But you don’t have to worry about these statutes if you understand the gains of inclusiveness.

Related article: Best Strategies for Managing Your Workforce

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About Are Morch

Hi, I am Are Morch. Your Digital Marketing Coach and Customer Experience Expert specializes in creating effective digital customer experience offer for hotels while growing and scale customer acquisition and revenue.

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