Updated: Jun 6, 2022
Diversity in the workplace broadens the scope of experience and applications that can be used to solve workplace problems quickly and efficiently. For diversity to be used to its fullest potential the delicate balance of understanding one’s limitations and willingness to relate must be maintained. Somewhere between similar and just barely understandable lives a Goldilocks zone for diversity. Diversity can incredibly influential if individuals all happen to possess between them then the best skills needed to solve a problem. Finding just the right amount of diversity is one of the many challenges leaders face as they put together a team. There is diversity in skill-sets applicable to work, but also interpersonal skills, and emotional intelligence can come into play. This article will explain diversity and propose strategies for increasing the diversity intelligence quotient.
Defining and Describing Workforce Diversity
The technology which developed over the last century has connected humans across the planet like never before. Globalization is seemingly impacting every facet of people, culture, and society. It continues to influence organizations, corporations, and governments. As cultures previously separated by geography or language are now able to communicate instantly across the globe, the barriers between human groups are becoming less clearly defined. Some rage against the transition, usually with some mention of keeping a group unpolluted, but evolving historically entails a conglomerate of all the best traits, abandoning the traits that were not beneficial. Diversity is a generalization, differences which can add strengths or weaknesses to groups. Leaders must educate themselves on what diversity is, what beneficial and balanced diversity looks like in an organizational setting, and how to improve diversity-related skills and situations. Defining diversity, explaining social diversity dynamics, and expanding on how to improve diversity fluency is the beginning of productive diversity application for the purpose of solving a problem, upholding a company mission, or simply understanding a complex phenomenon that touches so many lives.
Diversity in the Workforce
Diversity allows the workforce to learn different ways of thinking, perceiving, and problem-solving. Inclusive cultures, leadership, discrimination, and unconscious bias are just a few themes which workplace diversity touches. Other crucial elements of diversity involve groups such as women, men, people of color, veterans, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ . While many individuals are aware of these various groups, they may or may not be aware of their personal bias. There are tests now, thanks to technology, that individuals can take to help them identify biases so they can further delve into understanding internal and external happenings.
Diversity Goldilocks Zone
Diversity plays an integral role in the culture of an organization. That organizational culture can be further divided into subcultures that are composed of the diverse individuals themselves. A group of people is inherently diverse, but diversity also occurs on a spectrum. In order to understand diversity, and manage it, leaders must identify the elements of diversity and apply that knowledge to a perpetually changing environment. Needless to say, understanding diversity is a complex and multifaceted study. There also must be balance involved in the diversity dynamic. If each individual is too different from the others for a meaningful or beneficial outcome to take place, then diversity impacts the group negatively. If the members are so much alike that there is little diversity, the group may be lacking perspectives, experiences, or perceptions needed to solve a problem quickly and purposefully. So the goal for a leader is to analyze each individual and fit their personalities, strengths, weakness, and other idiosyncrasies to attempt to create a cohesive environment, conducive to working and problem-solving. As if that was not complicated enough, the variables are ever-changing.
Diversity and leadership
Grissom describes Managing Diversity as an approachable “how-to” for creating a cultural change and maximizing the efficiency of a diverse workforce. In any group individuals will have their strengths and weaknesses, the sum of all the individuals’ strengths and weaknesses form what could be considered the overall groups’. There are many different variables that influence the productivity, effectiveness, and efficiency of a group, but the advantage of a diverse group is the broad spectrum of data the individuals contribute to solving the problems they face. A disadvantage may be the inevitably varied levels of diversity intelligence and unpredictable human nature.
Developing Diversity Intelligence
If emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others, diversity intelligence would entail understanding biases and how diversity impacts individuals and groups. Diversity intelligence is an admirable goal, applicable to all, but still the barrier of personal biases must be dealt with as quickly as possible. Each individual perceives their experience through their own unique lens that is the culmination of nature, nurture, or even chance. Once a leader begins inner-standing and, as objectively as possible, analyzes what those biases are rooted in they will begin to be able to separate their perceptions and reality, little by little.
Melville discussed 9 ways to improve what he calls Diversity IQ during a Ted Talk. The speaker brings to light the key issues that individuals are facing today. The issues Melville touched on included biases, one’s own bias, understanding the biases of others, and the related conundrum of attempting to remain as objective as possible. Common diverse groups to be considered in the workplace include women, LGBTQ+, handicapped, and so many more. To develop diversity intelligence, one must first understand the more common groups they are likely to interact with. If everyone educated themselves on people and culture, the delay caused by trial and error due to ignorance could be avoided.
Diversity in the workplace can include so many different topics, issues, and situations. As with any variable in an equation, problem solvers must fully understand all potential ways that diversity can influence and bring about productive and beneficial change. Leaders must look at diversity as a tool to learn and utilize, and not as an obstacle to overcome. Diversity brings some challenges, language barriers, different backgrounds and cultures, even fake news, and unfounded biases. Diversity also brings fresh ideas, different ways of thinking, and hopefully the opportunity to personal and organizational growth.
Keywords: Diversity, Corporate Culture, Change Management, Interpersonal Communication.