Workplace diversity refers to the variety of differences between people in an organization. It may sound simple, but diversity encompasses race, gender, ethnic group, age, personality, cognitive style, tenure, organizational function, education, background and more. There has been evidence to support the “common sense” idea that encountering people with different ideas and perspectives can boost creativity. Ronald Burt, a sociologist at the university of Chicago, has produced several studies, which suggest that people with more diverse sources of information consistently generate better ideas. However, with encompassing diversity in a company, there also has to be cultural understanding and awareness. Ignoring cultural differences and hiring people to fill quotas will not suffice.
Unfortunately, many companies do not manage their diversity initiatives effectively, resulting in the one thing they were aiming to avoid which is discrimination. When businesses use diversity to understand different types of customers, develop product or services that are competitive, and gain insight on future industry trends from an array of perspectives, they are using diversity initiatives correctly. In lieu of diversity, companies need to create programs that honor the uniqueness of every employee as it relates to the business model, because the fact is, true diversity goes beyond a persons race, ethnicity or gender and actually includes a persons ideas, opinions and technical expertise. Therefore, if your diversity program consists of saying “ We need X number of women or Hispanics, Asians or African-Americans etc. in our company, then you’ve lost focus on the real purpose of diversity initiatives.
Aside from the business aspects and needs for cultural diversity and awareness another main component is developing tolerance and understanding of the other ethnic groups. This usually involves interval changes in terms of attitudes and values. Awareness and tolerance also refer to the quality of openness and flexibility that people develop in relation to others. Developing a culturally competent attitude is an ongoing process. It is important to view all people as unique individuals and realize that their experiences, beliefs, values, and language affect their ways of interacting with others and the larger community as stated in the aforementioned paragraphs. However, it is also important to understand and be aware that differences also exist within cultures, for instance, assuming that all members of a racial, linguistic, or religious group share a common culture. So when implementing a diversity program into your business, make sure to include every aspect of what it means to truly diversify a company so that the program is well rounded, and the benchmark of understanding and tolerance has been met.