Janine Schindler, MCC, Forbes Councils Member
Forbes Coaches Council¬
After years of asking corporate directors about the importance of diversity in the boardroom, we have got some good news: the vast majority see value in including more women and minorities. Nearly 95% of directors agree that diversity brings unique perspectives to the boardroom, while 84% believe it enhances board performance.
Business today is increasingly global, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. If your company’s employees don’t reflect this trend and represent cultural diversity, your business may be very much behind the times.
I coach professionals on group effectiveness, and many years ago, several of the corporate entities I worked with were cookie-cutter examples of uniformity. Executive positions and the majority of management positions were held by white men in expensive business suits. Their teams also tended to reflect that demographic, with perhaps a few women sprinkled in — again, mostly white. I am pleased to say that slowly, over time, that has ceased to be the case.
Now, I increasingly work with diverse groups of executives and managers who have come to understand that cultural diversity in the workplace is a valuable commodity. Through education and a greater grasp of cultural competence (an evolving developmental process that encourages the increasing awareness of and respect for the interpersonal styles, beliefs, languages, and customs of those from cultures other than our own), many corporations are evolving into multinational melting pots.
Why Cultural Diversity in the Workplace Is A Win-Win
Teams and companies that make diversity a priority offer a variety of ideas, perspectives and learning opportunities. Diverse employees can bring together their different talents, experiences and various skill sets to come up with creative and inventive solutions, whereas another group made up of people with similar backgrounds and skill sets may decide to solve a dilemma in the same way they always have. An increase in innovation and creativity among a culturally diverse group can create an esprit de corps and the feeling of positive progress for the benefit of the group and the organization. Such success promotes a feeling of camaraderie among team members and encourages successful cooperation in the next company venture.
Successfully Implementing A Cultural Diversity Plan
If a cultural diversity plan is implemented without due forethought and effort, it could go off the rails. Without a well-researched and thoroughly thought-out plan, departments may end up hiring candidates not because of their qualifications but because they fit the picture the company is trying to create. Hiring applicants to simply be able to say in your corporate promotional materials that you’re culturally diverse is unproductive at best.
If your intentions are not sincere, you risk creating a situation where no true mixing and cooperation take place instead of having an integrated, synergistic team. Specific cultural groups may end up feeling excluded and overlooked, resulting in them banding together, creating an us versus them environment.
For the successful implementation of a cultural diversity plan, I have found that a holistic approach is necessary. Diversity needs to be evident at every level in the organization, senior management included. If the folks in the C-suite don’t buy it, it’s likely that no one will. They need to believe in the potential, and in turn, sell it to upper management, who can sell it to middle management. If you can’t demonstrate how this pertains to every employee at every level, your audience will probably sense the organization’s lack of commitment.