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Opinion: Why is diversity important in the workplace?

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Diversity has become a hot topic in the workplace and in public discourse. Is diversity just another politically correct theme or is it intrinsically a good idea?

I propose that we need to give diversity a chance because it is important, it is good, and it is advantageous for business.

Diverse individuals bring different perspectives and look at situations through various lenses. They often provide numerous and new ideas to improve efficiency in companies. When people from diverse backgrounds are allowed to share their viewpoints freely, they may contribute to the efficacy of the team in solving problems. Bringing different perspectives to the discussion table often results in the heightened effectiveness of the company, especially in the ever-changing business environment.

The exchange of ideas in a diverse group of employees will not only increase productivity but also enable companies to understand their diverse customer base from a variety of backgrounds. Understanding customers is a key component of success in any business. Because a diverse company provides an atmosphere for employees to cultivate a willingness to keep learning and investing in differing skills to embrace the market dynamics, a company’s success will improve. When customers are understood and satisfied, companies thrive.

People who belong to the same background and culture tend to analyze matters in the same manner, but employees stemming from different cultures have the ability to analyze situations from a variety of perspectives, resulting in more creativity in solving issues. This is because people from different cultures usually have multiple ways of thinking. This creativity will then lead to innovation, which in our current environment is a prevalent need. A diverse team is a creative and innovative team.

Many studies have been conducted with the outcomes that companies with a high value of diversity attract talented workers and increase employee retention; this is especially true for the younger generation workforce (millennials and Gen Z), as they value workforce diversity. It is believed that workforce diversity enhances critical thinking and problem-solving as well as improving corporate attractiveness and employee professional skills. Talented employees will be attracted to companies with diversity, and openness to a diverse workforce also improves the talent pool.

One of the reasons employees enjoy working with diverse groups of people is that it allows them to feel at ease, free from the fear of unfriendly biases. Each of us, regardless of our background, has been an object of unconscious bias. An employee’s sense of belonging increases as unconscious biases become less. The sense of belonging and being accepted contributes directly to an employee’s sense of being empowered and valued.

Working with people from a variety of backgrounds cultivates relationships and potential friendships without discrimination. The diverse workplace provides this opportunity; otherwise, this potential benefit would not happen. In a diverse work environment, there is the likelihood of exchanging ideas and thoughts that comes from doing life together with people from different cultures and backgrounds. It has been documented that a diverse workplace improves company culture, as employees build respect for one another and create healthy workplace relationships.

As workers learn to operate within a diverse environment, stereotyping will be reduced and healthy competition will be enhanced, which in turn will increase employee retention. Cultural diversity in the workplace expands the employees’ perspective and keeps the company culture flourishing. It also allows employees to see beyond themselves to a broader world and to an expanded global marketplace.

Many of us in Springfield deal with suppliers and supply chain management involving different parts of the world to facilitate the making of our products locally. With a diverse workforce, understanding purveyors from different backgrounds and locations will be less problematic if there is already a cultural diversity within the company. With a stronger company culture, dealing with external stakeholders will become more efficient. Furthermore, understanding our competitors will be less strenuous with the creativity, innovativeness and effectiveness of our own diverse workforce within the company.

Even though some see the negative aspects of diversity – such as communication gaps and resistance to change – companies will do well to acquire strategies that promote an empowerment culture, as well as to foster communication and camaraderie within a diverse workplace. These efforts will nurture respect, acceptance and productivity, and increase profits in organizations of the future.

Eveline Lewis is business department chair at Evangel University. She can be reached at lewise@evangel.edu.

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