Diversity in the workforce prevents a situation of ‘monoculture’. While a monoculture has some obvious advantages, and helps the employees relate to each other better, speak a similar language and reach decisions faster, there are some things that are sacrificed, potential that is not realised, when the workplace fails to foster diversity.
The Irish potato famine is one of the most striking justifications against a monoculture as it led to a famine last several years and decimated the population of Ireland. If you look, there are several ways this can happen with companies which are heavily invested in a single product or service line, when a new technology arrives and shakes up the landscape. Some of those companies flounder and eventually become obsolete. Some of them are able to change and adapt.
Our workplaces, our boardrooms are not very different.
There are two aspects to diversity in the workplace – one is it is a natural incidence of getting folks together that have only their work in common. In that sense, while each candidate’s suitability to the job, their merit and experience is the basis of hiring, they bring with them their diverse backgrounds, their customs, their languages, their foods. Diversity also exists in the experiences, hobbies, lifestyles.
Another is that socioeconomic, historical and biological realities do create stratifications, divisions and monocultures. You may have noticed how there is overrepresentation of certain communities in certain businesses / industries, how there is a gender skew based on the department and the position, and how there are some jobs that are divided by default across lines of age.
Similar socioeconomic backgrounds beget similar experiences, similar experiences lead to common life lessons and those result in limited variety of ideas and solutions in the workplace. You cannot expect much innovation in a room where everyone looks, thinks and talks the same. Diversity allows for normative thinking to be challenged, and for new thought processes to be introduced, more diverse organisations are able to anticipate and serve the needs of more diverse consumer bases better.
This is not to say that homogeneity does not have its merits. Having people around who share social and cultural norms can create comfortable and safe spaces by default, there is likely to be less disagreement to any proposition (It is not possible for an idea to be debated endlessly), and convergence (if not conformity) has to be seen as the endgame for decision-making. But the good news is, we do not have to sacrifice diversity at the altar in order to achieve these.
That is where good leadership, corporate governance and strong culture become very important.
Diversity without inclusion can lead to discrimination. Everyone reading this has at some point in their career felt that they were not fully welcome or did not belong, in a certain organisation, in a room, in a discussion. A good leader ensures everyone feels included. It can be a simple act of going around the table to check that everyone has had a chance to air their views, it can be a direct question aimed at the introverted person, or the youngest person in the meeting. Not everyone knows intuitively how to include, and this is where diversity and inclusion training can be the missing pieces of the puzzle.
And then there are the parts of ourselves which don’t come up in meetings, but are part of us – the food we eat, our sexual orientation – these aspects of us don’t have to be given special status, but they need to be given their place and acknowledged. Workplaces where some facets of employees’ lifestyles or personalities are discouraged, see greater attrition. Training managers and leaders in inclusion practices helps to avoid some typical issues such as prejudice, stereotyping and its consequences such as discrimination, micro-aggressions and exclusion.
So as you can see, diversity is something that is already there in any workplace, in some measure. However, there is a need to engineer it to some extent as well. This does not come without its challenges. A great leader insists on facing the challenges that diversity brings, head on, rather than suppressing it. Some of you reading this may one day go on to found or lead organisations, you would want to be a great leader.
Therefore, diversity and inclusion are features of great organisations, diversity and inclusion are championed by great leaders. Not only because of the benefits listed above, but because it is the right thing to do.
At KelpHR we believe that having a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace is the key to business transformation and growth and that we must be inclusive of all persons irrespective of any differences. To know more about KelpHR’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion solutions do call us at +91-95001-29652, email email@example.com, visit www.kelphr.com
KelpHR was incorporated in 2013 to provide the best HR solutions to organizations, and to improve workplace culture across the board. Over the last 8 years, we have serviced more than 700 clients in India and a few overseas, across various industries in the areas of PoSH (prevention of sexual harassment at workplace), D, E & I (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) and EAP. But the common objective of all of these services is to build safer, happier, inclusive and productive workplaces.
For any of our other services related to Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH) or Employee Assistance programs (EAP) do get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call +91-95001-29652 and we’d be able to help you with customized offerings suited to your organization