In recent years, this country has undergone a paradigm shift, particularly when it comes to inclusion. More and more, professionals that may have once faced discrimination are now speaking up – and the smartest companies are beginning to take notice. To combat this, companies utilize workforce diversity and it’s not as much a term as it is a strategy that is set in place to strengthen an organization’s face, skillset, and livelihood.

Definition of Workforce Diversity

What is workforce diversity?

According to Workology, workforce diversity “is the bringing together of a variety of people to one workplace.” It’s a concept that does something that many other business-related concepts don’t – it diverges from the professional and fundamentally concerns the personal.

When speaking about representation in the workplace within the concept of workforce diversity, several key points about a specific employee roster are being illustrated. Among them are:

  • Experience – If a company has its eyes set on expanding its diversity, a candidate with a more varied level of professional experience might be preferred over one that has followed a more “cookie cutter” career path.
  • Background – Not to be confused with on-the-job experience, the background goes deeper into the personal story of the employee. Examples of this might include, where the person was raised, the school that they attended, and other skill sets that they possess that are not strictly related to everyday duties.
  • Characteristics – Here, we are speaking of characteristics that have no direct relevance to their professional knowledge, but instead ones that could add variety to the workplace. These include race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, ability, sexual orientation, and more.

Benefits of Workforce Diversity

As you’ve likely surmised, there is a slew of different benefits that come with implementing a diverse workforce. We all know that adding a fresh set of eyes into an already established business provides a perspective that a group of workers of similar backgrounds and mindsets might not be capable of seeing on their own.

Yet, what’s most amazing about diverse workforces is that implementing them brings forth an impressive reality – they naturally work to maximize productivity and workflow. Let’s take a look at these statistics:

  • Research conducted by HR consultant, Josh Bersin, shows that the companies that subscribe to the diverse workforce philosophy enjoy 2.3x more cash flow per employee over a three year period.
  • According to McKinsey, ethnically-diverse companies, outperform the least ethnically-diverse companies by a staggering 35%. This is because these companies tend to attract better talent, a fact that improves customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision-making.
  • The data shows that companies that break new ground are the most diverse ones. A report published in Harvard Business Review states that diverse firms are 70% more likely to capture a new market than their homogeneous competitors.

In addition to these powerful returns, studies also show that workers are simply much more interested in being part of a diverse workplace. As a matter of fact, 67% of candidates want to join a diverse team, while another 57% want diversity to be prioritized in the workplace. These figures illustrate that today’s workers see intrinsic value in working alongside people who may come from entirely different backgrounds and cultures.

Challenges of Workforce Diversity

It’s time to address the elephant in the room – discrimination. It may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s not unheard of to learn of instances in which companies don’t outwardly proclaim diversity as they are afraid that it might leave them open to ugly accusations. Included in these might be tired arguments concerning affirmative action, age discrimination, etc, etc.

While the aforementioned data plainly illustrates that implementing a diverse workforce usually helps a company’s bottom line, it’s not surprising that a well-intentioned HR executive might get skittish when the idea is proposed. By reviewing the EEOC’s discrimination laws, your company’s managers can get a better idea of what they can and cannot do when it comes to strategic hiring.

Aside from antiquated hiring perceptions, there are a handful of other challenges that can arise upon the implementation of a diverse workforce. In the Hult International Business School Blog, author Katie Reynolds describes some of the potential conflicts inherent in the practice, particularly in terms of cultural differences.

In her post, Reynolds highlights international companies that regularly assemble cross-cultural teams. Although the company will assuredly reap the above-mentioned rewards, there can also be a handful of issues present, such as language barriers, cultural barriers (some cultures do not promote women into executive roles, for instance), and differences in professional etiquette.

But, like many other challenges in your sector, with careful planning, education, and cultural unity, your company can evolve into a diverse, innovative, and harmonious powerhouse.