Valuing diversity

There is a convDiversityincing argument that diversity within an organisation leads to better decision-making, innovation and business performance. For many entities, diversity has become a business imperative critical to the success of their strategic goals. As New Zealand’s demographic continues to change, business leaders must embrace diversity and recognise its benefits by understanding how it affects their relationships and ability to perform in the market.

Diversity refers to the variety of differences between people within an organisation and encompasses race, religion, language, age, personality, cognitive style, education, background and more. Each year our demographic becomes more diverse and more multicultural, which impacts the workforce and our customers. Effectively managing this change is key to an organisation’s ability to adapt and thrive.

Benefits of diversity

By bringing a team of diverse people together, an entity can strengthen its ability to respond to changing conditions, and improve its ability to anticipate and meet customer needs and expectations.

Diversity can lead to new and interesting ideas. Employees who feel comfortable communicating their different viewpoints can help add to the pool of ideas contributing to strategic needs.

Workplace diversity can also increase an entity’s range of services and customer network. The diverse skills and experiences brought out by different employees (such as languages and cultural understanding) can allow a company to provide services to previously untapped customer segments and markets.

So what can your business do to increase diversity?

Start by creating an attitude of openness in your organisation. Encourage employees to share their ideas and opinions and provide a sense of equal value to all. This awareness will help drive change.

In order to maximise the competitive advantage of becoming more diverse, you must identify what your business needs are. Reflect on how the competitive and customer landscape has changed over the past three to five years and consider what things might look like in the future. For example, has there been a change in the mix of your employees and your customer base and the communities that you serve? Do your employees reflect the demographic that you serve or want to serve? If not, develop a hiring strategy to increase workforce diversity.

At the same time, provide diversity training in your workplace to ensure that all employees understand hiring decisions are based on finding the best candidate to match the needs of the business and not political correctness. Transparency is important to keep employees minds at ease. Managers also need to understand the benefits of a diverse workplace as they will be involved in implementing the policies.

Aim to promote and bring diversity into the leadership positions of your organisation. This will create visibility and enable the benefits to be realised.

And finally, to get the best out of your employees they need to feel able to bring the whole of themselves to work. Create a culture that values and respects differences. Encourage staff to be themselves, to be different.

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