Why diversity matters in the workplace

While Americans seem to be more deliberately divided than ever before, especially politically, most of us still recognize the value of diverse people in our lives. Don’t believe me? A recent Pew Research Center survey found about 58 percent of U.S. adults believe “an increasing number of people of different races, ethnic groups and nationalities in the U.S. makes the country a better place to live.”

And, like many other employers, I see the many advantages that come from a diverse workforce.

Diversity is not only a lack of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, age, gender, physical abilities or sexual or religious practice. It also includes variety in secondary traits such as communications style, professional experience and work habits. Believe me, some of these differences can make for interesting conversations in the kitchen and refreshing discussion at staff meetings.

Diversity is also good for business. A diverse workforce brings diverse skills and produces diverse ideas, all of which can contribute to better solutions for your customers. A diverse workforce is also a happy workforce, which benefits customers, staff – and management.

So why isn’t every employer looking for diverse staff?

Well, it can be hard to find qualified candidates. Some staff members or managers may see a different language, or a culturally diverse environment, as unfamiliar and challenging.

If that sounds like you or your team, it’s time to get over it. Change is inevitable and often exhilarating. But it will have to start with your C-suite.

To achieve a diverse workforce, the tone must be set at the top. The whole management team must be committed to hiring diverse staff and agree on a game plan for creating one. Check with local colleges and universities for interns or recent graduates. Join organizations that can help you network with people who don’t look, sound or act like you.

Engage as many employees as possible in formulating diversity initiatives in your community. Listen and encourage staff to express their ideas and opinions. Promote from within. For here is one more reason for having a diverse workforce: Your employees will likely take a more positive view of you.

Do it for them, and for yourself.

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