The Type of Diversity Businesses Need Most
When you think of how important it is to have diversity programs in companies, and to support diversity initiatives in schools, government, and corporations, you probably immediately think of minority groups that are culturally, religiously, gender, orientation, or physically related. What we don’t realize is that these are just varieties of people that may not provide a heterogeneous mix that will challenge the way your company operates, identify with your customers, or propel innovation.
We’ve ignored diversity of thought for far too long.
Recently there’s an engaging conversation happening around the Millennial workers, with a small secondary discussion about their contrast with the Baby Boomer employees. Not much is said about Generation X, which is dwarfed in number by the Millennials and Boomers. They are being sandwiched by the spread of Millennials and Boomers in the workplace, and risk invisibility due to lack of attention and the demands of having to identify with team Millennial or team Boomer in the workplace. But diversity goes farther than even a generational discourse.
The dialogue around diversity should be about much more than age and workstyle/lifestyle preferences. To have a valuable discussion about diversity, one must consider the impact of the edifying significance that various people bring to the table. This isn’t about their gender, sexual orientation, veteran status or age. This is about thought processes and values. Mindset is the differentiator that brings true advantage to having a diverse workforce.
I was fortunate enough to grow up in an open-minded family. My mom used to tell me that it didn’t matter what color, gender, or religion the firefighter was that carried me out of a burning building- only that he or she COULD carry me out of a burning building. I thought that was all I needed to know about diversity. I also thought diversity acceptance was the path to equality in the workplace. Numbers and representation are part of it. Acceptance and opportunity are another part. The part that is really missing is the realization that the mindset of individuals is the richest commodity that we can have in our workplace.
Diverse mindsets prevent groupthink. A company with real diversity would never say “That’s the way it’s always been done.” A manager of a diverse workforce never hears the words “That’s not my job” or “We can’t do that.” When a company or group is composed of people who come from backgrounds of different ways of operating, varied experiences, a culture of learning and sharing, and when these people are accepted and listened to by their peers, then diversity is an advantage. Diversity will challenge your everyday assumptions. Diversity will cause you to innovate. Diversity will allow you to solve problems. Diversity will provide acceptance (and dare I say equality?) of your polycultural workforce.
Bethany Miller is an explorer in life and in business. She’s an airline pilot, businesswoman, veteran, and world traveler. Fascinated by global issues and the business of business, Bethany is a doctoral candidate at Université Paris-Dauphine in Paris, France where she researches extraordinary employees in chaotic work environments. GoodGlobalCitizen