A diverse group of women review data on a computer while sitting at a desk.

Diversity in the Workplace: Benefits, Resources & Tips for Creating a Diverse Company Culture

The modern workplace continues to rapidly embrace advanced technology, innovative office and staffing situations and new methods of generating profit and revenue. In spite of all this, glaring issues and struggles remain for workers of diverse backgrounds. Women are still struggling to obtain equal pay. Workers from foreign countries may encounter language barriers or discover their cultural customs are not welcomed and embraced by the larger office environment. Those of diverse ethnic backgrounds may face discriminatory statements or practices.

Diversity in the workplace is an important and serious topic; one that has been embraced more readily over the past few years by offices, companies and organizations. Understanding proper procedures to respect diversity among workers can reap benefits for employees themselves and companies, all while reducing workplace inequalities. Even organizational leaders who do acknowledge the benefits of embracing diversity may not know the various tools and resources that can help bring a larger cultural awareness to their workplace.

Importance of Diversity in the Workplace

Embracing diversity in the workplace can help build connections between individuals of unique backgrounds and generate larger cultural awareness. It may also help generate more tangible and direct benefits for workers and organizations. Choosing to embrace diversity is a process that empowers employees and can help improve multiple facets of a given company.

Increased Revenue and Profits

Companies that embrace cultural diversity can help their employees develop and appreciate more unique perspectives. But this same acknowledgement of workplace diversity may also positively impact an organization’s profits and revenue.

According to a report published by the Boston Consulting Group, teams and organizations have gained notable advantages by embracing diversity. The report showed that companies with above-average diversity scores generated more revenue through innovation than those that did not.

“In other words, nearly half the revenue of companies with more diverse leadership comes from products and services launched in the past three years,” the report states. “In an increasingly dynamic business environment, that kind of turbocharged innovation means that these companies are better able to quickly adapt to changes in customer demand.”

Awareness of Diverse Perspectives

According to a Forbes article, “A perspective is not right or wrong by default. It just is what it is: the point of view of a single person based on their life experiences and values, among other things. We each have one; sometimes we share it with others, and sometimes we do not.”

One of the most immediate and tangible benefits of diversity in the workplace is that it enables others to become aware of, and appreciate, diverse perspectives. Individuals who are of unique racial or ethnic backgrounds can illuminate others about their experiences. Those who follow diverse religious beliefs can shed insight about their respective beliefs. And a person who comes from an international culture can help provide information and perspectives about how life may be different in certain locations.

Improving Company Reputation

All companies and organizations have a larger role than just creating a product or delivering a service to individuals and audiences. For example, an industrial factory may significantly reduce costs by disposing of its waste in nearby environments. However, the negative environmental impact may generate criticism from business partners, associates and members of the community. Even though the company is saving money, the blow to their reputation may not make that cost-cutting measure worth it.

How the public views and perceives an organization is vital. Companies that embrace diversity can develop a strongly positive reputation within their industry. According to research gathered from the global nonprofit organization Catalyst, “a majority (78%) of American adults consider gender diversity in the workplace important.”

More Engaged and Dedicated Workforce

A 2017 article in Forbes focuses on the findings of recent research that deals with workplace diversity and inclusion efforts — and how they impact employment environments. According to the research, “inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87% of the time,” and “decisions made and executed by diverse teams delivered 60% better results.”

Similar to how diversity can generate an appreciation for diverse viewpoints, it can also lead to employees taking more pride in their work making stronger contributions to the overall organization.

More Equitable Employee Treatment

At one company, there may be an historic imbalance between the salaries of individuals of different ages, genders and races. At another company, employees who have disabilities or who face challenging physical or mental health conditions may not have their concerns taken seriously by management. Even though workplace equality is widely accepted as important among companies and employees, actually achieving it is a much more difficult task.

Embracing diversity, though, often works hand in hand when achieving workplace equality. An article in the Houston Chronicle notes that “beyond legal considerations, organizations must define inclusion and communicate diversity values to current and prospective employees,” and that when “organizational leaders demonstrate a commitment to equality and diversity, the workforce will follow suit.”

Resources and Tips for Creating a Diverse Company Culture

Diversity helps to not only improve a company’s operations and procedures, it also creates a more fulfilling and engaged workplace. Companies who wish to create and improve on their diverse cultures can benefit from the following tips and resources.

Diverse Hiring and Retention Initiatives

One of the most fundamental steps in creating a diverse workplace and company culture is actually attracting individuals of unique backgrounds to join the company in the first place. This can be achieved through extensive and successful diversity recruitment and retention efforts.

However, critics of diversity hiring initiatives have claimed that said programs may create “reverse discrimination,” where individuals who don’t possess as expansive diverse or cultural backgrounds are not favored for employment opportunities.

In an article published on HR Dive, Cheryl Roubian, Director of Talent for Greenhouse Software, Inc., was quoted as saying “stacking your top of funnel with a diverse slate doesn’t work if your interviewers aren’t focused on the right things (or aren’t focused). And focusing your interviewers doesn’t work if all the candidates in your funnel look just like you.” Recruiters need to carefully mix the need for diverse employees and the requirements for specific roles.

For companies who already embrace the advantages of hiring diverse employees, successful retention efforts can include mentorship programs and initiatives for said workers, as well as more robust diversity and inclusion classes and programs for the entire company — according to a diversity post from the American Institute of Graphic Arts.

Cultural Awareness and Training Seminars

Simply hiring and keeping diverse employees is not enough to create an inclusive and rewarding workplace culture. And just because someone is from a culturally unique background does not mean that they necessarily know, or are familiar with, other backgrounds.

This is where workplace diversity, inclusion and cultural training programs can help companies and organizations. A diversity and inclusion seminar that is delivered to new employees during their onboarding — where they learn about necessary language, practices, protocols, etc. — can help reduce discriminatory incidents and generate larger cultural awareness. Programs that are regularly conducted and delivered throughout the year can help employees become more interested and invested in growing their knowledge of different cultures. Through both initiatives, employees can gain a deeper appreciation for their colleagues and their diverse perspectives and backgrounds.

When developing cultural awareness and training seminars, it is important to not just focus on reducing biases but to emphasize the value of positive intervention. In an article published in the Harvard Business Review that featured insights from academic experts, they discussed how required bias reduction training can actually cause employee hostilities to increase. “That’s why we move beyond attempting to reduce bias and toward putting inclusion into action,” according to the writers of the article.

Establish Strong Company Cultural Values

There is an increased dedication among companies and employers today to increase diversity and cultural awareness throughout their organizations. Some companies have made genuine efforts to broaden the cultural scope and landscape of their offices. But others may face criticism for not taking their diversity programs and initiatives seriously. Some companies who espouse diversity and inclusion may be seeking more to improve their outward public perception as opposed to their organic internal culture.

Companies and organizations whose established core cultural values help shape their business and guide their activities are more likely to be successful in their diversity initiatives. Values can range from creativity to innovation or simply having fun. As long as these values are established and prominent, so that both employees and the public are aware of them, they can help a company thrive.

According to an article from Inc., items to keep in mind when defining core values include: making them detailed and visible, acknowledging employees’ success in adhering to them, and regularly reviewing said values to determine if any need to be altered or improved.

Acknowledge and Address Unexamined Biases and Discrimination

Even in companies that embrace cultural values and diversity in the workplace, there can be some presence of biases and discrimination. Often times these biases and discrimination may be unacknowledged.

For example, a group of employees may have an unacknowledged bias and actively choose to ignore or treat a diverse colleague poorly, such as not socializing or being cordial with said employee. In another case, managers or senior staff may actively choose not to hire candidates because of their skin color, or choose not to give a raise to an employee of a specific gender.

Many times, biases and discrimination can be implicit and go unacknowledged, where individuals act in a way that is discriminatory against those of diverse backgrounds often without realizing it. According to a report from the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America (TIAA), interventions that examine such implicit biases as well as showing employees how to address them can help leaders successfully manage these issues.

The TIAA report also notes that “approaching people with an assumption of innocence in intent, but with an emphasis on the impact of their behavior, is more likely to successfully gain their attention than is presuming ill intent” and how objective measurements can help provide feedback on performance regarding such issues.

For example, if a person makes a remark that is offensive to an employee of a diverse background, the offending person may not be aware of the comment’s power to harm. Initially assuming that the comment was made in innocence, while providing measurements and guidelines for how that person can improve their future remarks, can lead to reductions of such events and improve overall diversity and cultural awareness.

Building truly diverse cultures within the workplace takes more than hiring individuals of different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds. It takes training professionals to appreciate the differences that exist among cultures and employees, helping people identify potential instances of discrimination and harassment, and providing the tools for these individuals to acknowledge and remedy their own biases.