There are a ton of benefits to having diversity in the workplace. Diverse groups of people are more innovative, produce more revenue, and make smart decisions faster. If you’re an executive who has made diverse hiring a priority, congrats; you’re clearly good at your job.
But just because diversity within the workplace is beneficial doesn’t mean that it can’t present challenges. Diversity refers not only to ethnic and cultural differences within a group, but also differences in age, experience, opinion, and other attributes as well. Put simply, diverse employees view the world and their job in a wide variety of ways. That can make things complicated.
If you want to optimize your workforce, here are five diversity issues you should know about.
Understanding Diversity and the Differing Communication Styles
Styles of communication vary based not only on our cultures and experiences but also on our personalities. One of your employees might prefer to receive information as succinctly as possible. Others perform best when addressed in a more conversational style. You must know how to effectively communicate with each of your employees. They must also understand how to communicate with each other.
Crude, demeaning, discriminatory, or otherwise unprofessional communication styles constitute harassment and are never appropriate – or legal. But within these parameters, different communication styles are equally valid.
An important first step is making your employees aware that different communication styles exist. This sounds silly, but each of us has a tendency to assume that everyone thinks exactly as we do. Personality tests like the Enneagram can be powerful tools for helping your employees understand and master a diversity of communication styles.
From middle school to the C-suite, we naturally form cliques with people like us. In workplaces, employees of similar ages and experience levels often form the strongest bonds. Foster collaboration and strong professional relationships between employees of different generations. Everyone will benefit from the connection. It’s a great way to use diversity in the workplace as a strength.
Needs for Special Accommodations
Diverse employees will have different needs. If an employee comes to you with a request for special accommodations, hear them out and work to find a solution. Some needs could include:
- Employees with physical disabilities require “reasonable accommodation.” This includes the ability to physically access not only the office but also conference rooms and bathrooms.
- Safe and respectful bathroom access in the workplace is imperative for transgender and nonbinary employees. These employees should always be addressed in their declared pronouns.
- Employees from different religious backgrounds might require time off from work for observance of holidays. If their religions mandate prayer throughout the day, they must be given time and privacy to do so.
Your employees don’t have to agree on everything. In fact, they shouldn’t. You hired them for their unique perspectives and skills. But they do need to respect each other. That means not badgering or criticizing each other for convictions that have nothing to do with work.
Sometimes, one employee may unintentionally offend another. Continual diversity training is the best way to minimize these occurrences and ensure they remain one-offs. If the insults continue, you’ve got a bigger problem on your hands.
Holding Your Employees Accountable
There’s a big difference between an honest mistake and a pattern of bigotry. Either way, it’s your job to both protect employees who have been targeted and hold the offenders accountable. Employees who have been harassed or discriminated against need to know that they have a safe channel through which to make a report. Offenders must be disciplined.
You worked hard to build diversity within the workplace. Be sure you’re maintaining an environment where it can flourish.