In the past, the metrics used to define corporate diversity were fairly straightforward. Factors such as varying cultural background, religion, and sexual orientation contributed to the creation of a workforce that embraced a broader spectrum of perspectives and beliefs. Today, that list of attributes continues to evolve. Companies that care about reaching out to a wide audience of customers and clients, as well as increasing internal diversity, need to consider a broader range of of employee qualities.
What is Diversity?
The attributes that people have or develop outside of the office certainly have an impact on their professional lives. They continue to define themselves within the workplaces as well, however, by means of their personal practices and ethics, as well as their interactions with coworkers and clients. Is it possible, therefore, for a company to develop diversity?
A recent study sponsored by global research and analysis firm Economist Intelligence and talent management software firm SuccessFactors indicated that a majority of corporate leaders believe that growing diversity within the workplace is both possible and as important as seeking it out in the first place. The survey reached out to 228 human resource executives worldwide and asked how diversity played into their success rate in achieving corporate goals. According to the data, 83 percent of respondents said they believe managing diversity can “help access a rich talent pool.” Furthermore, 80 percent of the executives cited successful diversity management as a competitive advantage for companies.
“Organizations are beginning to acknowledge this shift by distinguishing between inherent (e.g. race, gender) and acquired diversity (e.g. cultural fluency, global mindset, language skills),” wrote the study’s authors, as quoted by Bloomberg BNA.
In short, it’s not just what an employee knows, it’s also the skills that an employee learns and hones throughout his or her professional career. This may include language proficiency or intercultural understanding, but can also expand to include abilities such as leadership and management or customer service. A productive workforce requires different types of people with varying strengths and capabilities. A company that hires only like-minded individuals may seem to embody a specific environment, but it may make the business less receptive to the different needs and desires of each client.
Can Companies Develop Diversity?
How can a company go about increasing the professional diversity of their staff? While it may seem like cultural fluency and language skills require years to acquire, a comprehensive and consistent employee training plan can promote these abilities without necessitating international travel. Consider in-office or online language-learning programs and courses that educate workers about global practices and traditions, particularly those related to business.
Furthermore, companies can encourage a global mindset by centering corporate policy around principles that promote understanding and acceptance. Employees should be trained to recognize the value of differences, in terms of both inherent and acquired qualities and skills.
The question sometimes arises: Why does diversity matter? It is important to realize that simply hiring people with the required set of skills is not enough to qualify a workforce as capable of managing the many responsibilities and issues that can occur on a day-to-day basis. Responding to diverse customer requests requires employees themselves to be able to think creatively from varying perspectives. This may include responding to complex client concerns— a task that requires staff to be highly trained in personalized customer service—or ensuring that product outreach extends to include a diverse audience. A company that can relate to a wider range of businesses and individuals will have the greatest likelihood of success.