The United States has long been thought of as a melting pot. This metaphor insinuates that people of all races, ethnicities, genders, national origins and religions come together and adopt one shared identity as U.S. residents. Although well-intentioned, this metaphor can also be troublesome. It suggests that everyone in the U.S. should look, think, act and feel the same, and that the country should strive for homogeneity.
In actuality, it is our differences that enrich life and broaden our perspectives. Diversity in the workforce, in schools and in all other places throughout society is crucial because it enables us to learn from one another and to grow as human beings. Workforce diversity can encourage greater acceptance and appreciation for the differences that make us unique.
Creating Diversity in the Workforce With Diverse Teams
When you think of diversity in the workforce, what comes to mind? Perhaps an office with workers of various national origins and ethnicities? Yes, but workforce diversity encompasses much more than this.
Here’s a look at the different types of diversity in the workforce:
- Cultural/ethnic diversity
- Racial diversity
- Religious diversity (including the lack of religious faith)
- Age diversity
- Sex/gender/sexual orientation diversity
Another type of diversity involves degrees of ability or disability. A workplace should welcome people of varying physical and mental ability levels. For example, a company may do this by building wheelchair ramps and making accommodations for those with cognitive disabilities.
The above types are those that are often thought of when considering workplace diversity. However, truly inclusive companies go above and beyond to cultivate an inclusive culture with respect to the following:
- Socioeconomic background
- Education level
- Life experiences
- General worldview
Indeed, diverse worldviews and opinions in the workplace can prove particularly valuable, as they allow workers to consider a range of possibilities when tackling various problems. However, it’s also important to bear in mind that, in some cases, diverse worldviews may actually hamper inclusivity in the workplace because some worldviews are by nature discriminatory and exclusionary. For example, a company cannot allow one employee to direct hate speech at a minority simply for the sake of nurturing diversity in opinions.
For the most part, however, businesses that have diverse teams of employees can bring various perspectives and mindsets to the table, each with their own unique value. Having diverse employees also creates many networking opportunities in social and professional life that can promote growth. Furthermore, a commitment to diversity is an appealing quality of company culture that can draw in prospective employees.
Does the U.S. Have a Diverse Workforce?
Although important strides have been made during the past few decades, the country’s employers still have a long way to go. Diversity in the workplace falls short across all levels of organizations.
According to Mercer's When Women Thrive report conducted in 2020, 64% of support and operations staff members are white, 12% are Black, 8% are Asian or Pacific Islander, and the remainder comprises other races. As one moves up the corporate ladder, the percentage of white employees increases, while the percentage of minorities declines. At the C-suite level, for instance, 85% of employees are white and only 2% are Black.1
The Importance and Benefits of Diversity in the Workforce
Historically, minorities have been at a disadvantage in the workplace. Strides have been made toward greater inclusion, yet much work remains to be done. When workplaces embrace diversity, everyone benefits.
Here’s a quick look at some of the many benefits of diversity in the workforce.
- Innovation – Many corporations lack a diverse leadership team, even if the rest of the workforce is relatively diverse. Yet, companies that have a diverse leadership team are more likely to report greater revenue from innovative products and services than companies with a homogenous leadership team. In fact, companies with a diverse leadership team reported innovation revenue 19 percentage points higher (45% of their total revenue).2
- Financial performance – Another study discovered that companies with inclusive and diverse teams perform up to 50% better compared to those with less diverse teams. It’s been predicted that through 2022, 75% of companies with diverse decision-making teams will outperform their financial objectives.3
- Talent retention – A company’s human capital is its most valuable asset, and diversity is crucial for cultivating that talent. In a recent Yello survey, 70% of respondents said they would consider applying for employment elsewhere if their current employer was not diverse and inclusive.4
- Employee engagement – When employees are engaged and invested in their company, they are motivated to do their best every day. One survey reported that 83% of millennials were far more engaged at work when their company demonstrated a commitment to an inclusive and diverse culture.5
Workforce diversity can help to drive a company’s innovation forward, optimize its financial performance and create a positive workplace culture that employees respond to with enthusiasm. Inclusive teams make better decisions 87% of the time that lead to 60% better results because they feature individuals with a broad range of perspectives and experiences.6 In short, when executives and managers cultivate workplace diversity, they can expect favorable results.
Diversity in the workforce has other benefits, as well. For instance, the public is more likely to view a company in a positive light if it maintains a commitment to diversity and inclusion. Many consumers intentionally choose to spend their dollars on brands that share their values.
How Employers Can Cultivate a Diverse Working Environment
In order for employers to nurture a truly diverse workforce, close scrutiny of the organization’s policies, procedures and practices is necessary. The first place to start is with the company’s recruitment and hiring practices. After all, in order to have a diverse company, it’s necessary to hire diverse talent.
The hiring team in the human resources (HR) department should itself comprise people from all backgrounds and walks of life. Job ads should be written with an eye toward inclusivity, such as by using gender-neutral pronouns and by separating the minimum, mandatory prerequisites from those that are merely preferred.
It’s also important to acknowledge the role of unconscious biases, which are something that everyone has. For example, a hiring manager may pass over a certain resume because the name on it looks “foreign” and the hiring manager subconsciously suspects that the applicant may not speak English well. To combat this, the HR department should consider blindly reviewing résumés without such identifying details.
Care must also be taken to eliminate biases when training, promoting and offering professional development opportunities to employees. Some policies may need to be amended, such as by allowing employees to take time off for any religious holidays. Other strategies for promoting diversity and inclusion are as follows:
- Strengthening the language on diversity and inclusion in the employee handbook
- Offering onsite daycare
- Conducting periodic training on workplace multiculturalism and diversity
- Conducting anti-discrimination training and ensuring that every employee understands their rights and responsibilities
- Establishing an employee-led diversity task force to promote new ideas
- Developing mentorship programs to ensure all employees have equal access to advancement
- Using anonymous surveys to periodically conduct audits of employees’ experiences with inclusivity and diversity at the company
Remember that true diversity isn’t only the presence of minorities in a company’s workforce. It’s also about equal access to opportunities and equitable treatment in the workplace. Managers should strive to ensure that all employees are being treated fairly, such as by conducting a payroll audit to determine whether women are being paid less than their male counterparts.
To further explore workforce diversity and other important issues of the 21st-century workplace, consider applying for enrollment in one of Grand Canyon University’s graduate programs in business and management. The Master of Science in Leadership (MSL) and Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree programs prepare corporate leaders to take the next step in their career and learn how to more effectively lead diverse teams, cultivate positive organizational change and leverage human capital. Click on Request Info at the top of your screen to begin planning your next academic achievement at GCU.
1Mercer, Mercer's When Women Thrive report in January 2020
2CNBC, Companies are making bold promises about greater diversity, but there’s a long way to go in October 2021
3Gartner, Diversity and Inclusion Build High-Performance Teams in October 2021
4Yello, Diversity in the Workplace Statistics: Job Seeker Survey Reveals What Matters in October 2021
5Deloitte University, The Leadership Center for Inclusion, The Radical Transformation of Diversity and Inclusion in October 2021
6Forbes, New Research: Diversity + Inclusion = Better Decision Making At Work in February 2022
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.