Why We Need To Expand The Definition of Workplace Diversity

diversity, diversity and inclusion

A 2014 study by SAP had some interesting findings about workplace diversity:

When polled about the biggest concerns being faced by HR managers surrounding diversity at work, 60 percent cited employees’ lack of interest in assimilating workplace values, 50 percent were worried about conflicting generational values, and 47 percent said that they were concerned about the so-called “unrealistic expectations of millennial employees.”

The SAP study was done more than two and a half years ago, and in that short time, the diversity landscape at work has changed drastically. What may have once seemed like a case of idealistic millennials has taken center stage in driving change and promoting inclusion. Think about it: Older generations would have once downplayed their differences to “fit in” at work, while millennials are unapologetically themselves and less likely to check their personalities at the door.

Diversity is no longer diminished to just race, gender, religion, ethnicity, age, ability, and sexual orientation. Diversity is also no longer just about maintaining a compliance with legal regulations. Workplace diversity today needs to encompass values, motivations, personalities, passions, and culture. If you have a diversity learning project you are working on, connect with us here.

With millennials leading the charge, the way in which organizations once thought about diversity requires careful consideration to ensure inclusion and the rich benefits of embracing differences at work.

New Diversity Inclusions

When most organizations think about diversity, they think about differences in terms of the two usual suspects: race and gender. But narrowing your organization’s view to include only those two differences in diversity training means you could be excluding other groups.

Diversity is about differences, and race and gender aren’t the only two factors separating and affecting employees.

Think about these other diverse groups:

1. Generations

Millennials, Gen Y-ers, and Baby Boomers all have different priorities and strategies at work, which can affect the way they relate to one another.

2. Culture/Geographical Location

Global companies may struggle with cultural differences, particularly when employees are traveling or working via satellite offices.

3. Values

With different industries, generations, and personalities comes different priorities and value systems that should be both explored and respected.

4. Personality

Think about your everyday interactions. Some people have big personalities, some are quiet, some are more analytical, while some are more emotional. Understanding and learning about personality types can help you better relate to those around you, leading to higher personal respect, and ultimately, more diverse collaboration amongst vastly different personalities.

Of course, differences such as sexual preference, gender identity, politics, and religion should also be considered when planning diversity training. If a personal difference has the potential to affect the way individuals work and relate with one another, it’s worth including in your organization’s diversity strategy.

Why Workplace Diversity Matters

Whether it’s a difference in age or the result of a divergence in life experience, diversity matters. It’s not just about warm fuzzy feelings, either, since diversity can have a direct impact on engagement and productivity, particularly among the millennial set. A 2015 Deloitte study found that a whopping 83 percent of millennials said they were more likely to be engaged when their organization promotes an inclusive culture.

Radical change also has a much deeper impact than small, incremental changes, according to the study. Sweeping alterations in workplace culture can generate up to 10 times the shareholder value of baby steps, so the time to change diversity culture is now (and the size of the change should be significant).

And why not? Diversity is based on the idea that differences make a culture stronger. At work, this means applying the collective views, values, and talents of an entire workforce to become a better organization. The very factors that make coworkers different are the same factors that make for more creative solutions, better problem-solving skills, and innovative ideas.

If today’s employee is less likely to check her personality at the door, then organizations must evolve to capitalize on that individuality. Diversity training needs to catch up and highlight the benefits of embracing differences, to be sure, but it’s the very definition of diversity that may have the biggest impact. Casting a wider net and including as many viewpoints, backgrounds, and ideas as possible helps to create a workplace culture poised to really make a difference.