How to Promote Diversity and Resolve Conflicts?

Sep 14, 2018

Workplace diversity refers to employing people of different background. Diversity in the workplace is about creating an inclusive work environment — employing people of different backgrounds without any discrimination.

According to the Health and Safety Executives (HSE), diversity is about creating a productive and effective workforce through valuing, recognising, and taking account people of different backgrounds, skills, knowledge, and experiences.1

In the UK, the Equality Act 2010 has outlined certain protected characteristics such as race, colour, gender, religion, and disability. The legislation aims to prevent unfair employment practices and promote a more diverse society. Employers have the legal obligation to ensure that diversity is practiced in the country.

When selecting a recruitment company, employers need to make sure that a diverse team is hired based on competency and skills. Hiring a diverse team can add value to the organisation. Here are some of the benefits your organisation can gain by focusing on diversity in the workplace.

But the question is why a company should promote diversity in the workplace focus? What's in it for the company by ensuring workplace diversity?

1. Drive Innovation

Innovation is crucial for the growth, success, and even survival of organisations today.2 Companies can no longer rely on exnovation or "tried and tested" processes to survive in the long run. They need to constantly improve their processes, practices, and products to ensure that they remain profitable.

A diverse workforce thinks differently that can drive innovation. When people with different background come together and discuss issues, it can result in the generation of novel and breakthrough ideas. It can give a company the competitive edge in deploying products and penetrating the markets quickly. This can result in greater opportunities for a company to earn above average profits.

2. Improved Profitability

Another benefit of a diverse workforce is that it can result in increased profitability. A diverse workforce brings together different experiences. The difference in experiences helps in finding novel solutions to existing workplace problems. A graduate from Huawei will approach a problem differently than a professional from California or a graduate from China or India.

The range of expertise of diverse workplace results in increased team competency. Studies have also shown that a diverse team performs better.3 In an organisation where diversity is appreciated, workers work more productively as they feel included.

Diversity can breed a positive competition among the employees. It will stretch the employees to perform to the best of their abilities. The positive competitive environment ensures that the employees don't settle for the status quo and continue to improve their work. Diversity will drive the employees to set and achieve new productivity targets. As an article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) has concluded working in a diverse team results in an improved outcome since it's harder and more challenging than a workgroup consisting of homogeneous teams.

3. Gain a Competitive Edge

Companies that focus on a more diverse workforce instead of a homogenous team are more competitive. This is particularly true for companies that compete on a global scale.

A survey carried out by McKinsey had found that racially diverse companies were 35 percent more likely to earn above average income.5 For a gender diverse workforce, the figure is about 15 percent according to the report. The research report had also found that every 10 percent increase in diversity of the senior-executive team resulted in a 3.5 percent increase in earnings.

Hiring a culturally diverse workforce will help in understanding local regulations, customs, and making local connections. This will give the company a competitive edge when entering foreign markets and improve profitability position.

4. Increase Retention Rate

A research by Glassdoor had found that nearly 67 percent of individuals preferred a diverse workplace.6 Also, around 72 percent of women had shown interest in working in a diverse workplace. The report had also revealed that nearly above 80 percent Black and Asian respondents preferred working in an organisation that favoured diversity.

So, creating a diverse workforce will result in increased team morale. It will reduce the turnover rate and increase the chances of retaining key employees.

5. Customer Satisfaction

Hiring a diverse customer rep, sales and marketing team leads to more effective customer service and marketing strategy. Today customers in the UK are more diverse. There are male and females, young and old, and also people from diverse race and cultural background. Catering to the diverse target market will be easier when a company focuses on diversity in the workplace.

Companies with a diverse team will be able to make a solid reputation. The company's branding efforts will more likely connect with the customer base. This will result in increased chances of creating a loyal and dedicated customer base, which will have a positive impact on the company's bottom line.

How to Ensure Diversity in the Workplace?

The hiring process should support people of all backgrounds — age, gender, race, and religion. In the job advertisement, the right wording should be used to ensure that the hiring process appears inclusive. Any terms that reflect stereotype or biases should be avoided.

Make sure that the hiring managers are trained to ensure a fair and impartial hiring process. They should be educated about racial and gender biases.

Another important thing to remember is that diversity for the sake of diversity should be avoided. Hiring should be based on merit. The only factors that should influence the hiring decision should be skills, abilities, and knowledge.

Setting quotas actually undermine the goal of diversity.8 While it may seem to be promoting diversity, quotas create implicit biases. The approach risks overlooking individuals who might be the best fit for the company.

Promoting a diverse hiring practice is about removing barriers including stereotypes. It's about creating the best team based on merit without any biases against a particular group.

In addition, organizational policies should protect the rights of every employee. The policies should not just be compliant with the government legislation. They should go above and beyond by actively promoting and celebrating a diverse workforce.

The management should create and modify policies according to feedback — positive or negative —received from the employees. The policies should accommodate cultural requirements such as prayer times or holidays. You would certainly gain respect from employees if the policies are accommodating to their cultural needs.

Preventing Conflicts in a Diverse Work Environment

Managing a diverse workforce comes with its own set of challenges. In order to resolve conflicts, you need to focus on the interests of the team, instead of a particular group. Don't jump to conclusions and make a decision based on facts.

Here are some tips that can help in reducing conflicts due to a diverse workforce.

1. Training

To prevent diversity conflicts in the workplace, it's important to establish rapport by showing the willingness to listen and address the concerns.Frequent communication is important to ensure that there are no conflicts between the group members.

Consider regular training of employees to increase awareness about diversity. Teach employees about the benefit of embracing diversity to prevent conflicts. Diversity training will help in reducing the chances of workplace stress.

The management should actively support and encourage diversity training. When individuals leading the organization attend training sessions, it will send a positive message to other employees. During the training, it's important to be mindful of the words used. Avoid using 'us' versus 'them' approach during the training. Instead, it's important to use positive language that promotes and also celebrates diversity within the workplace.

2. Avoid Stereotyping

An important advice to ensure a peaceful resolution of workgroup conflicts is to avoid stereotyping or overgeneralising an entire group. Stereotyping involves having a pejorative attitude towards others based on personal opinions or encounters.

Stereotyping can involve personal bias against a particular race, gender, religion, nationality, or educational background. For instance, the Irish in England are stereotyped as lazy, ignorant, violent, and asinine, which is nothing more than a myth. Also, black people are generally stereotyped as violent or feckless that is also not true. These biased views result in low employee morale, reduced confidence, diminished productivity and conflict within the team. So, it's important the gender and racial stereotypes are addressed through the diversity training program.

3. Empower and Train Supervisors

The supervisors should be empowered to diffuse conflicts before they escalate. They should be provided training on how to minimize disruptive diversity conflicts. The leaders should be trained to identify conflicts and resolve them before an employee seek redress through filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

4. Appreciate Cultural Differences

To proactively resolve diversity conflicts, cultural differences should be identified and promoted. Consider setting aside a day where employees with different cultural background share important aspects of his or her culture. Ask the employee to give a presentation on ceremonies, foods, and other cultural aspects. When employees come to know about the cultural differences, they will more appreciate and respect the culture of others.

5. Zero Tolerance Against Abuse

The company needs to have zero tolerance about gender or racial abuse. No bullying, slurs, or name calling should be allowed within the organisation. Policies need to be put in place so that strict disciplinary action is taken against employees who abuse the views and beliefs of others.

Every employee regardless of gender, race, religion, or colour should be made to feel safe in the workplace. They should be encouraged to report any inappropriate behaviour by co-workers.

6. Diversity Team Building Toolkit

Dr. Willian Sonnenschein has written a practical guide for helping managers maintain a high-performance diverse team.7 With the help of the diversity toolkit, managers can adapt to a diverse workforce through different techniques.

Some of the techniques mentioned in the toolkit include active listening, honest feedback, self-awareness, and understanding of people with different backgrounds. Following the techniques mentioned in the book will help managers to treat every employee with equal importance regardless of the cultural background.

7. Group Discussions

Group discussions are a great way to diffuse workplace conflict. Consider holding a group discussion session where employees should get to know each other. Let the employees discuss topics such as the impact of stereotyping, the importance of workplace diversity and respect of belief of others. The group discussions should be lead and moderated by the manager to avoid negative situations.

8. Respect and Celebrate Individuality

Despite the differences, individual team members have a lot of things in common. These should be the starting point in creating better group relationships. Everyone should learn to respect the differences and realize the common grounds. This will help in diffusing tension within the group and result in improved team cohesiveness.

Summing it All Up

Ensuring diversity in the workplace should go beyond legal compliance. To create a truly diverse work environment, a company needs to ensure that workers of all age, gender, race, and religion feel at ease working for the company.

A happy and engaged workforce will work more productively. This will result in improved work output and ultimately profitability for the company. Make sure that your hiring and recruitment policy focuses on a diverse workforce that mirrors the community.

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