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Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace Part I: Expectation vs. Reality

You’ve no doubt heard America referred to as the great melting pot. Social scientists suggest that the U.S. is made up of about a dozen distinct cultural regions, with different demographics explaining everything from accents and local flavors of barbeque sauce to voting behavior and economic opportunity. Overlaid with that are other maps illustrating linguistic differences, religious prevalence, election histories, cultural artifacts—a vast range of differentiators.

According to a report on census data by BuiltIn, experts predict in the coming years, the entire concept of a “minority” in the U.S. will no longer apply. In the upcoming 2020 census, no single racial or ethnic group will constitute a majority of children under 18. In about three decades, no single group will constitute a majority of the country as a whole. The U.S. will be what the Census Bureau calls a “plurality nation.”

This increased diversity in the American population is great for employers. When you bring on a diverse set of individuals to a team, you bring in new ideas and perspectives as a result of combining different world views, cultures, nationalities, and experiences.

According to an industry report by Deloitte, employees were 83% more innovative, 31% more focused on customer service, and 42% more collaborative with their team when they felt that their company supported diversity and inclusion.

Related Reading: How Employee Diversity Benefits Your Business

Consciously deciding to employ a more diverse workforce is also great for your company’s bottom line. According to the BuiltIn report cited above, “Diverse companies enjoy 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee. One study looked at companies with diverse management teams and found that, on average, they enjoyed a 19% increase in revenue compared to their less diverse counterparts.”

In this blog series, we’re going to take a deep dive into diversity and inclusion efforts in the workplace. We’ll discuss educational strategies and approaches that are being used to great effect in businesses across the country today, explore the value of cultivating a diverse workforce, and give you tips for talking to your employees about this often sensitive topic.

Diversity—it’s not just about differences!

Workplace diversity is obviously something to strive for, but it’s only half of the picture when it comes to efforts to improve your company culture (and bottom line). In fact, research has shown that diversity training isn't effective when it focuses on differences. People can end up feeling further apart than ever, and they often feel resentful about the experience.

That’s where diversity training often gets derailed. On the surface, a message might actually seem insulting when it includes words like “tolerance” and “acceptance.” It implies that there is something wrong with people's differences and everyone must learn to put up with them. Diversity training can also be overbearing and inauthentic to the real human experience: “You must celebrate your differences! Revel in them! Enjoy the things that set you apart from your peers!” This kind of overly enthusiastic presentation of diversity rings false and could end up being counterproductive to your efforts.

Finding Common Ground

So, if people are diverse and focusing on that diversity doesn’t work, then what does? The answer is focusing on commonality.

Being a part of the same organization actually gives you a lot of common ground with your coworkers. You get the same orientation training. You perform under the same set of organizational values. You contribute to the mission of the organization and support its key initiatives. You all depend on each other. Everyone is part of the activities of the organization. You’re all suppliers and customers to one another, depending on the process. You’re all invested in performance excellence. When the organization does well, it benefits everyone. Jobs are more secure. A healthy organization has opportunities for advancement. It has resources to reward workers. It makes for more interesting work.

According to the Deloitte report cited above, “When employees think their organization is committed to and supportive of diversity, and they feel included, employees report better business performance in terms of ability to innovate, (83% uptick) responsiveness to changing customer needs (31% uptick) and team collaboration (42% uptick).”

Enhancing your company’s diversity and inclusion efforts through educational training and development will help set your organization up for success. Click the banner below to learn more!

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Mandy Smith

Mandy Smith is Vice President of Training and Employee Development and is responsible for providing SWBC employees with learning and development opportunities which enable them to be more effi cient, eff ective, and engaged. In 2016, she was named a Learning! Champion High Performer by Enterprise Learning! Mandy is a member of the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) and is active in the local chapter. She currently sits on the Chief Learning Officers Business Intelligence Board.

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