The challenges of managing a diverse workforce are real. Diversity in an office environment means coworkers have a variety of ethnic, age, gender, sexual preference, economic backgrounds, national origins, and more. How can HR manage diversity so an inclusive, productive workforce is the result?
The Diversity Challenge
Communicating with and managing people who come to the table with different perspectives and skills can be complicated. It might require more patience, compassion and training for everyone involved.
You may find younger employees struggling to manage team members 10+ years their senior. On the other hand, older adults with years of supervisory experience may suddenly find themselves struggling to manage today's younger employees. Each situation can come with its own set of obstacles to overcome.
That said, a diverse working culture has many competitive advantages and can be beneficial on multiple levels for everyone participating. A group of people from a multitude of backgrounds and ages can understand, attract and service a more diverse, and often larger, group of customers who may also be quite diverse themselves. According to McKinsey and Company:
“Our latest research finds that companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians. Companies in the bottom quartile in these dimensions are statistically less likely to achieve above-average returns. And diversity is probably a competitive differentiator that shifts market share toward more diverse companies over time.”
Nimmersion has helped companies pull together global and diverse teams for over 20 years. We have noticed some common actions that successful companies do that that create a supportive container that allows multicultural, multigenerational, and diverse teams to work effectively together.
Tips for Managing Diverse Teams Effectively
1. Foster a Culture of Safety and Acceptance.
Make everyone feel safe from the C-Suite to the warehouse. All employees should be accepted, respected, and supported for who they are. Employees will do their best work when they feel safe and appreciated. It is common knowledge that people retain knowledge and are more efficient problem solvers when they feel safe and supported.
2. Offer Formal Diversity and/or Cultural Training
Understanding breeds compassion and inclusivity. Hire someone to come in and train your employees on the topic of diversity, or make an effort to encourage team members to get to know the cultures and backgrounds of their teammates. For newbies to Sweden, use our own Swedish cultural readiness program called Professional Inspiration. This course educates expats in Sweden who are trying to understand the mindset and culture of their Swedish coworkers. You can encourage inclusivity by gifting your employees the ability to learn about the perspective and mindset of those they work with.
3. Encourage Patience
Encourage patience. For example, you may employ a younger worker who knows tech forwards and backwards. If this is the case, it would be helpful to explain to your tech expert that when they are showing an another worker (who has not been exposed to much technology) how to do a project, they may need to go slowly and repeat the task a few times before their non-tech co-worker will understand. On the flip side, an older worker might judge a younger worker if they see them multitasking on their phone during a meeting. It is helpful for both parties to be accommodating and patient with the differences they see in their coworkers. Encourage them to allow others to fall from grace once in a while until there is time and familiarity to fall back on when confusion and frustration arise.
4. Cultivate Empathy and Active Listening
Mirror empathy and active listening for your team. Show your colleagues that you are willing to empathize and listen to their problems and concerns. When people feel seen and heard they are more loyal, work harder, and are more productive. They also will have more courage to speak up and voice their ideas. Empathy and active listening can encourage the trust that is necessary when there is a diverse team.
5. Organize Volunteer events and activities for coworkers to get to know each other.
Organize potlucks, volunteer events and outside activities as a way to inspire officemates to get to know and understand each other. This is another great way to have fun while cultivating trust and respect.
6. Don’t Dwell on the Superficial. Move Beyond Stereotypes.
The common goal for your company should be the good and profitable work you all are doing. Remind your employees that they share a common purpose and are one, cohesive unit. Spend less time highlighting differences and more effort on reinforcing common goals, team spirit and diverse talent.
7. Design Incentives Around Your Employee’s Diverse Goals.
Your single, 20 something worker may be motivated by gym memberships and higher pay while an older parent may prefer shorter hours and more vacation time. Spend time getting to know your team so you understand their career and work goals. If you plan their incentives around their needs you will have happier and more productive employees as well as a well run team.
8. Encourage Mentoring
Mentoring is a great way to cultivate strong bonds. Studies also show that mentoring is very effective way for people to learn and feel supported by their peers. Staff are more likely to get answers to the questions they have from their coworkers (and not you) when they know they have a safe place to go to ask amongst their peers. Mentors are a great resource for this and also a wonderful way for people to learn new skills and create healthy bonds.
Most importantly, have fun with your diverse crowd. Everyone’s job will be more enjoyable and fulfilling if they spend time with people of different ages and backgrounds. Aside from being more lucrative financially, this is what makes life most interesting! If you would like a checklist of ideas on how to greet your new transfers, download our guide below.