Understanding Diversity in the Workplace

jennifer Bjorkman | May-31-10




By Lola Kakes in EffortlessHR, Employee Issues

As a business owner, consultant, and entrepreneur I have been told by many small business owners that “diversity” is really only applicable to larger businesses. When asked what diversity means to them (the small business owner), many respond it is about differences in race or gender. It is not about making the workplace a better place in which to work, but more about following the law.

I believe that diversity is really about being open to the global community and being prepared to respond to inquiries and ideas from a diverse community. If one truly understands the diverse culture we all bring to the table, we will have more open communication, better understanding, cultural and economic agreement, and less conflict.

By bringing diversity to your workplace, you can help to build a stronger organization and provide broader profits and capabilities to your customer base. As technology makes our world “smaller” , bringing cultures together, forcing us to work if not live together, diversity is undeniable and must be managed.

Let’s start by defining “Diversity”.

Diversity is bringing together a diverse group of people to work and communicate effectively and efficiently. Diversity is not just about race and gender, but also about diverse thoughts on religion, areas of the country, age, disability, and any other issue where more than one individual working, living, and communicating with another individual brings different thoughts together. Diversity can even be how different people learn, how they communicate (language), and how they perceive a problem or issue. Diversity is defining the differences we all have.

Look at your family dynamics. The family unit is made up of several types of individuals – for example, maybe different genders, possibly different age groups, different backgrounds and belief systems, different values, different up-bringing and different thought processes. If there was not a desire to learn about one another or to be a part of one another’s life, the family unit would not be there. It is only with the development of understanding between the primary individuals that the family will develop.

The same is true in a business. Diversity begins at the top, with the primary contact person understanding and looking for individuals that work well together, communicate with one another, and fit the culture of the company. Will there always be agreement? No, and in fact you don’t want blanket agreement. If you always agree about everything, you become stagnant and boring and you won’t move forward.

Diversity is understanding the differences we all bring to the table and being able to respond to those differences in a positive manner. Grow your business and yourself through association with diverse individuals. You and your business will be glad you did.


Originally published on EffortlessHR, on September 8, 2009.