Embracing Diversity for Growth

Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.” – Malcolm Forbes

The dictionary describes diversity as “the state or quality of being different or varied” and this is absolutely accurate for any business – differences exist in almost every portion and are most pronounced in the company’s workforce. As companies become global, they attract customers from around the world making it imperative to have a diverse workforce to support and service this diverse customer base. In the highly competitive business world of today, companies need the best talent they can find to sustain an edge – embracing diversity then becomes necessary for sustained growth and success. Even if a company operates in a single country, they would not find highly skilled staff only from one particular portion of the region – they would need to widen their scope, picking and choosing the best talent and hire for skill, which would then mean embracing diversity in the form of their varied workforce.

The reality is that embracing diversity is really not an option anymore – it is a necessity. With countries relying on each other and making the movement and residency of people from other countries easier, each place would have a people that don’t resemble each other in any manner. For example – women now are a major part of any workforce (something that was not seen some time back) and in fact many companies have a policy to consciously hire women, some even at the top most levels, which was earlier seen as a male bastion. So as companies realize the importance of embracing diversity, they are able to gain more respect and more solid foundation in an otherwise unrelenting business market.

Embracing diversity is about acknowledging, hiring and sustaining a workforce that is from different backgrounds, countries, experiences, skill sets and now even sexual orientation. With so many knowledgeable minds and experiences working together, a company is able to cultivate more innovation, creativity and know-how of other markets – which are so essential in the current economic and market scenario. This also builds a mutually inclusive and strong economy and by embracing diversity companies not only strengthen their hold in the market but also remain sustainable. As with corporate social responsibility, embracing diversity cannot be just a ‘face’ that a company puts on to gain market leverage – they must actually be committed to change and accepting the differences of the people that work for them and the people that work with them. When companies truly believe in embracing diversity, they would be careful about controlling managing conflicts and friction that could arise from obvious differences and beliefs and ensure that their workforce is a happy one with high output and productivity. No business can gain from a stressed out and ‘warring’ workforce. They would also not be able to manage and embrace diversity that would exist within their customer and other stakeholder groups either.

When a company nurtures a culture of embracing diversity, employees understand and follow suit. They respect the differences of their co-workers – the different styles of working, beliefs, religions, cultures, rituals and other differences – which creates positive synergy between them, making the working environment fun to be in. Of course, it would be imprudent to believe that conflicts would never happen, but conflicts would not be caused by one section of employees disrespecting the mannerisms of others. It would be easier to resolve the minor conflicts that do occur as most of the time employees would respect and embrace diversity that exists amongst them. They would learn to look past the differences and instead focus on the sea of talent, knowledge and experience that surrounds them and which each person can learn from and acquire new skills too. Embracing diversity therefore brings about huge amounts of respect for colleagues and others that are from dissimilar backgrounds and beliefs.

Embracing diversity also sees a company’s reputation soaring amongst customers, prospective customers and other key stakeholders. When a company’s employees speak well of them, work hard to achieve the company’s goals and overall strive to move the company forward, it flows naturally that others outside the company also are attracted to such a company. These other customers and stakeholders would be confident that a company that cares for its employees, would also care for their needs and give their expectations priority. Embracing diversity provides a company with an image of being trustworthy, fair, open, and honest and for practices that are ethical. Customers would remain loyal to such a company and also would gladly provide referrals and testimonials. Everyone wants to be associated with a company that is a responsible employer, corporate citizen and also believes in being socially accountable.

Another major benefit for employees that work in a company that is known for embracing diversity is the increased number of growth opportunities within the company. As companies operate from many offices across the globe, deserving employees get a chance to get short term plum assignments or get transferred to a country of their choice. This encourages better work quality as more employees would aim higher and want to be considered for these highly valued assignments. Employees in other offices also benefit from their counterparts visiting them as they pick up on multinational and multicultural business ethics and working styles, putting them in a better position for being considered for such opportunities. Anyone who is currently employed or has ever worked in a corporate environment knows the value of expatriate assignments – the increased exposure and rich experience from traveling across the globe proves indispensable and makes for a great resume too. Embracing diversity is a win-win situation for all – employers and employees.

Embracing diversity also reduces the much dreaded employee turnover and the attached costs. Companies that do not manage diversity or do not have tolerance for diversity would see a large number of their workforce leaving and in short periods of time. Highly skilled employees know their worth and if they are not treated with respect they would leave taking with them the rich reservoir of knowledge, skills and talent and using it for the benefit of your competitor. Inculcating and sustaining a bias and prejudice free environment by embracing diversity helps a company save attrition costs, embarrassment in the market and even costs that could come from litigation when an employee presses charges of discrimination.

People are always on the move, looking out for better opportunities and most often find such opportunities more attractive in other countries. This simply adds to the diversity of the country to which they migrate and also to the workplace where they would be employed. As people with varied backgrounds and business styles work with a company, they bring new ideas that would be highly creative and innovative. No company can afford to rest on laurels and innovation is seen as necessity by customers and other stakeholders – a survey revealed that 85% of hugely profitable and successful companies strongly agree that embracing diversity is critical to enhancing innovation and creativity in the workplace.

We all know that change is the only constant. So also, businesses must be always ready to change and adapt and embracing diversity is about accepting change and making it work in your favour. Ignoring diversity in this ever increasing global scenario will put any company on the back-foot and create problems that would have far reaching and detrimental effects. Embracing diversity is now at the core of the existence of any company.

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