Workplace diversity fosters mutual respect among employees. Whether employees work in groups or teams comprised of co-workers with varied work styles, or colleagues who represent different cultures or generations, a synergistic work environment becomes the norm. Although an idyllic atmosphere may be difficult to achieve, employees nevertheless recognize the many strengths and talents that diversity brings to the workplace and they gain respect for their colleagues’ performance.
Diversity in the workplace is important for employees because it manifests itself in building a great reputation for the company, leading to increased profitability and opportunities for workers. Workplace diversity is important within the organization as well as outside. Business reputations flourish when companies demonstrate their commitment to diversity through aggressive outreach and recruiting efforts.
An organization known for its ethics, fair employment practices and appreciation for diverse talent is better able to attract a wider pool of qualified applicants. Other advantages include loyalty from customers who choose to do business only with companies whose business practices are socially responsible.
The importance of workplace diversity cannot be overstated when it comes to an organization’s ability to reach markets in foreign countries. The appeal of global markets creates two kinds of opportunities for employees: opportunities for promotion and employee development. A global marketplace opens doors for employees with diverse language skills and multicultural understanding to build global profit centers. Employees interested in learning multinational business strategy and who are available for possible expatriate assignments may also find new and challenging career opportunities.
A diverse workplace offers more than exposure to employees from different cultures and backgrounds. Employees learn from co-workers whose work styles vary and whose attitudes about work varies from their own. This is particularly true for employees within multigenerational work environments. Traditional-generation workers learn new technology and processes from workers who belong to the tech-savvy Millennial generation. Likewise, Generation X employees learn from exposure to the assertive, go-getter work ethic typical of many Baby Boomers.
Conflict inevitably occurs in the work environment. However, employees who acknowledge others’ differences often also find similarities, particularly when there are common goals — production and quality. Respect for co-workers either reduces the likelihood of conflict or facilitates an easier road to conflict resolution. The ability to resolve workplace conflict minimizes potential liability for employee complaints that would otherwise escalate to formal matters, such as litigation. Workplace diversity preserves the quality of employees’ relationships with their co-workers and their supervisors.
Managing Communication Issues Due to Diversity
Given different cultural contexts, this brings new communication challenges to the workplace. Even when employees located in different locations or offices speak the same language (for instance, correspondences between English-speakers in the U.S. and English-speakers in the UK), there are some cultural differences that should be considered in an effort to optimize communications between the two parties.
In such cases, an effective communication strategy begins with the understanding that the sender of the message and the receiver of the message are from different cultures and backgrounds. Of course, this introduces a certain amount of uncertainty, making communications even more complex.
In international business meetings, cultural differences between professionals can and do clash. Although it can not always be avoided, the negative effects of cultural differences can be minimized with careful and effective planning, organization and consideration prior to meetings.