True and representative diversity is key to the success of any business today.
As author Catherine Pulsifer says,
Workplaces are more effective when they’re enriched with people of various backgrounds and identities, but the scope of what diversity really is, is often forgotten. Australia is actually one of the most culturally diverse places on earth. In terms of cultural diversity, recent business-case findings make a strong case when it comes to the power of diversity. The top-quartile companies in the diversity spectrum were found to outperform those in the fourth quartile by 36 percent in profitability (McKinsey & Company Research, 2019).
Yet diversity can be about many things – the way people think, their ability, sexuality, their age, what gender they are and even what ideologies they believe in.
Inclusive design is the how to ensure that companies have diverse customers and staff. As a business leader or Head of People & Culture, you have a lot on your plate, but we would encourage you to continue to make diversity a priority not only because it helps to foster an overall more inclusive world, but focusing on promoting diversity on a larger scale can bring your business a lot of benefits – including better success and greater creativity.
Today, many of us can still be left out in some shape or form. In this read, we discuss why a focus on diversity is important and then unpack 5 terms that you may not have considered.
Why Diversity in the Workplace is Important
First and foremost, diversity in the workplace is critical because everybody deserves an opportunity to do a job they love. Australia is incredibly diverse in terms of ability, language, culture, gender, age and other forms of human difference, as part of the design process.
Of course, it’s easy to let the focus on diversity slip especially when it’s not a key focus or a priority. But even when it is, it can still be quite challenging for various reasons. That’s why embedding diversity as part and parcel of your company values can be instrumental in transforming your workplace culture.
According to a 2019 Gartner study, diverse workplaces outperform their more homogenous counterparts by a whopping 50%.
With that said, let’s take a look at 5 areas of diversity that are important to promote in your business .
5 Terms or Areas of Diversity To Pay Attention To
Whether you spearhead a startup or run a long-established business, your company stands to benefit from being more inclusive. Here are five ways of thinking about diversity that you may not have focussed on to create a more inclusive and understanding job industry.
#1 – Neurodiversity
The term “neurodiversity” was first coined by Australian sociologist, Judy Singer in the late 1990s. According to Singer, “we are ALL Neurodiverse because no two humans on the planet are exactly alike.” Neurodiversity can be defined as an array of neurological developmental differences that lead to variations in cognitive capabilities. As a result, our population has people with different strengths.
Neurodiversity commonly refers to people with ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and other learning disabilities (Cleveland Clinic), but as Judy Singer explains, “[Neurodiversity] simply names an indisputable fact about our planet, that no two human minds are exactly alike, and uses it to name a paradigm for social change”.
Designing for Neurodiversity is all about being inclusive of people’s differing needs and making the world – especially in regard to education and workplaces, more inclusive.
When thinking about this from a strengths-based perspective, some people may, for example, be more creative but struggle to get their heads around the world of IT or online tools. Some might have difficulty communicating but can come up with brilliant, game-changing ideas.
Individuals who fall into the category of what is usually associated with neurodiversity, can sometimes face a mismatch between their unique neuro-divergence and an employment landscape that doesn’t understand their gifts, especially due to the fact that these diagnoses can be invisible.
So, in a world that often isn’t designed for difference, many people face difficulty finding meaningful employment.
But even those with exceptional talents can find it quite difficult to have thriving careers. Some data suggests ‘neurodivergent people’ (this would be the commonly associated classification) can have significantly high unemployment rates even in developed economies like the UK.
A founder or CEO who embraces neuro-diversity should be attuned to the skills, challenges, and requirements of each employee. This might sound overwhelming and costly, so, it’s understandable that many offices aren’t as neurodiverse as they perhaps should be.
But, the fact of the matter is that such a workplace is far more likely to thrive. After all, these sorts of workplaces are generally better at playing to the strengths of every employee and team.
In a world typically not designed to embrace difference, acknowledging and understanding the spectrum of neurodiversity is key to harnessing the unique value each person contributes to overall business goals.
#2 – Age diversity
Australia has an aging population, which is common in developed countries. This trend is due to fewer children being born and an increasing life expectancy due to the success of modern medicine. According to ABS statistics released in 2020, “this has resulted in proportionally fewer children (under 15 years of age) in the population and a larger proportion of people aged 65 and over”. Additionally, in the year ending 30 June 2020, the Australian working-age population (defined as 15-64 years of age) increased by 0.8% (135,700 persons) (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2020).
However, there is a lot of stigma surrounding hiring older, more experienced employees, especially with the world’s seismic and rapid technological changes/updates. So much so in fact that ageism is pushing very qualified people out of the job market, many of whom face discrimination purely due to their age (usually people over 45).
There are many benefits to hiring employees who have had more life-experience. For one, many make great leaders and mentors in organisations, and not only that but according to Forbes, studies have shown that age-diverse teams experience greater productivity. Older people also tend to be more self-assured, enjoy greater stability and are overall more loyal. Having a mix of ages and life-experiences can enhance the success of your workplace, and to not consider a candidate purely based on age doesn’t make sense from a hiring point of view, where you look for the candidate who will be best in the role you need to fill.
#3 – Etho-diversity
There is a number of studies and research shining light on alternative behaviors, behavioral plasticity, and learning, as characteristics of individuals and the human species. Some scientists refer to it as Etho-diversity which refers to how our biodiversity influences our behaviours. On an individual level, etho-diversity means that we all have different personalities, ways of learning, and plasticity.
Promoting behaviour and etho-diversity at work is another important aspect of diversity. People’s behaviours are, in many ways, unique to them, but also reflect their upbringing, biological and genetic dispositions and cultural backgrounds. It’s trivial that different behaviours can lead to miscommunication and less overall organisational coherence. For example, Alex does not usually make a lot of eye contact and nor does he believe it’s important when listening to others, whilst Sarah can perceive that at times as unattentive or withdrawing.
Creating a workplace culture that embraces behavioural differences and encourages people to become more aware of their behavioural differences is invaluable. On the flipside, recognising and encouraging etho-diversity helps organisations evolve and grow by integrating diverse personalities and behaviours.
#4 – Ideological diversity
People from varied backgrounds will likely bring different ideologies to your business. These could include religious, political, or social ideologies. And here, too, diversity can make for a richer workplace culture. By hiring people who hold different beliefs, you invite new ideas and approaches into the office.
So, as with etho-diversity, it is up to you to make it clear that all ideologies are welcome. You can do so by making a concerted effort to hire people from a range of backgrounds. In addition, you should consider making the workplace environment suitable and comfortable for everyone. This could include introducing prayer rooms and catering to all dietary requirements but can stem well beyond that.
Some employees might have strong beliefs on socialism, capitalism, or other societal topics. And many topics might seem to be unrelated to your workplace but at times, they could be quite relevant. For example, some employees could have certain ideologies on what environmentally-friendly means and can have certain attitudes towards their employer or managers who might not be aligned with the ideologies of their employees.
In some cases, you might find that various ideologies could create discomfort or conflicts. But by cultivating a workplace culture that embraces differences in ideologies, you’re essentially addressing the elephant in the room on a daily basis, which helps you turn differences into strengths rather than weaknesses.
#5 – Cultural diversity
Cultural diversity comes in many forms. At its core, though, cultural diversity in the workplace is about including people from all backgrounds, of different races and sexualities, and with different opinions. And, crucially, it is up to the leaders of the business to make everyone feel welcomed, safe and included.
As long as your people feel safe and accepted, your business will continue to evolve and grow, and see an uptick in new ideas and innovative approaches. Ideally, an inclusive workplace should be a unique culture shaped by all of its people. An inclusive workplace culture If the balance is right, it is likely to be a far more creative, resilient, and productive culture.
Diversity can uplift companies at all levels and breathe new life into old ways of doing things. Inclusive workplaces also typically enjoy higher levels of creativity, flexibility, and employee morale. The outcome is very often improved productivity and cash flow.
That’s not to say that it’s always easy to promote diversity. But when fully implemented across the business, an inclusive and diverse workplace that puts its people at the centre of what you do is very rewarding.