Diversity in the workplace is a topic that is now being discussed more and more. By definition, diversity is all encompassing – it includes everything from ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, diversity of thought, along with other differences between people.

Organizations that employ individuals from diverse backgrounds have many advantages over organizations that don’t. Diversity breeds innovation, and innovation breeds business success. If the workforce of your company is homogenous, there is a greater chance that “groupthink” mentality will take over. The result will be less innovative ideas and strategies, which will have a negative impact on the business. When an organization is diverse, it will be better prepared to serve the needs of its customers. For example, an individual with a disability that is employed by an insurance company could bring value to the company that extends beyond their day to day work. Due to having a disability, this employee could bring a perspective to a disability line of insurance that a non-disabled person could not bring.

In the marketplace, diversity also equals dollars. Individuals are more likely to spend their money at businesses that are representative of the community that they live in. The opportunity cost of not being supportive of various backgrounds is substantial. Although it’s easy for an organization to say that they are supportive of diversity initiatives, companies must show genuine support for these initiatives. For example, this may include sponsorship of various community events or having celebrations at work that encourage diversity. Individuals that don’t feel supported or those that feel isolated are more likely to look for jobs elsewhere. Of course, this leads to talent exiting the company and to costs associated with turnover and recruitment.

Although there are many benefits to having a diverse workforce, there may be some challenges in moving the organization in this direction. For example, many individuals have biases about others who have a different background than their own. Through diversity-related training, these biases/myths can be dispelled. Ideally, your organization will have a group or committee that focuses on diversity work. Part of this can be more formal (for example, developing recruitment strategies in order to attract candidates from diverse backgrounds), while the other part can be less formal (for example, celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day with activities and food). As well, it’s imperative that mentoring opportunities are available, which will ease the transition for new employees entering the company and will be helpful from a retention perspective.

Diversity is important in organizations for a number of reasons. Not only does it give individuals from a variety of backgrounds the opportunity to succeed in their chosen occupation, it’s also good for business. Although there will be some challenges when an organization matures from a homogenous workforce to one that is diverse, it’s important that these issues are addressed. By being open and honest with employees and creating an inclusive culture, individuals will realize that diversity can be leveraged for the betterment of the company and all staff members. Not only does diversity lead to more innovation and a broader perspective, it allows companies to connect with the customers that they serve, which positively impacts the bottom line.

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