Why Is Diversity Important in the Workplace?

Over the last few years, diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) priorities have risen in importance for private organizations both big and small. The public sector has also emphasized DEIA objectives with the current administration issuing an executive order for federal agencies to build workforces that reflect the cultural diversity of our nation and advance equity. But, why is diversity so important in the workplace? What is the value in creating and growing diversified workforces?

The most obvious answer is that creating equitable, diverse workforces is the morally right thing to do. Discriminating against someone because of their race, ethnicity, gender, orientation, age, or disability is dehumanizing, unconscionable, and just plain wrong. While we may have come far as a society in our thinking and our laws, there are still institutional and personal biases that may exist whether we recognize them or not. The people who experience discrimination in the workplace, however, do.

How Do People Experience Discrimination in the Workplace?

The EEOC defines employment discrimination as being treated differently or less favorably because of one’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, or genetic information. Discriminatory treatment includes being harassed in the workplace, being denied reasonable work changes because of one’s religion or disability, improper questions, and retaliation because one complained about discrimination or assisted with an investigation or lawsuit.

It also includes being overlooked for a position, a job promotion, training, assignments, or being fired because of, say, one’s age or parental status, race, or gender. But there are other ways as well that people may feel discrimination or exclusion at work.

Hiring processes may not always consider or make accommodations for workers with disabilities. The organization’s website itself may not meet ADA standards and ensure accessibility for all users. Likewise, if a person with a disability is hired, they may find the workplace environment itself is not designed to accommodate a person of their ability, or that they are limited in training, education, and promotion opportunities.

As another example: Hearing off-color or condescending remarks, even if they’re “just a joke,” but are offensive to a co-worker because of their race, religion, gender, etc. can create a non-equitable, exclusive environment. 

On the same note, bullying in the workplace creates poor company culture, an exclusionary atmosphere that devalues the victim(s) and often negatively impacts mental health. We often think of bullying as something that happens in school, but bullying happens in the workplace too, whether by excluding a person from the group, humiliating them in front of others, or subjecting them to cyberbullying. 

The vast majority of us would agree that all these forms of discriminatory practices are wrong and that creating a culture that welcomes, accepts, and accommodates people from all backgrounds and of all abilities should be the norm, not the exception. There are, however, other reasons why diversity should be a top priority in the workplace.

Why Diversity Is Important for Business

Diversity Invites Creativity

Organizations with a wide representation of talent often benefit from greater creativity and a greater influx of meritable ideas. If you think about it, this makes sense. If a company builds a homogenous culture where everyone looks the same, acts the same, and thinks the same, they’ll probably end up with tunnel vision, limiting the scope of their possibilities, and operating inside a very small box.

When a company welcomes diversified points of view, backgrounds, and experiences, they expand the pool of thoughts, ideas, and imagination that can help their company evolve, grow and realize new and continued successes. The COO of DeVry University said, “Diversity allows companies to adopt a different lens to solve challenges, operate the organization, and keep it strong.”

In an article for the World Economic Forum, the Executive Chairman of QI Companies wrote that businesses with a higher level of innovation were also highly diverse. The correlation is recognized all around the world.

Diversity Delivers Results

The same article also stated that companies well-represented by diverse talent enjoyed greater economic success. In fact, organizations with diversified management teams saw higher revenues by 19%. 

A Forbes article on “the power of diversity” noted that companies who invest in diverse workforces have a 33% greater EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization). 

Beyond the wealth of creativity brought by a workforce with eclectic personalities and variant backgrounds, diversity also delivers dynamic minds that yield more solutions, higher resiliency, and greater efficacy. When businesses can affect both critical social change and increase revenue – it’s a win-win for the nation as a whole.

Diversity Adds Service Value

For all organizations, but especially those that directly serve the public, a diverse workforce is an important asset for delivering better service to customers. When a company’s talent pool draws from a variety of backgrounds, abilities, and experiences, it can provide better care and empathy to its client base. This is an easy way to draw new revenue streams and build customer loyalty.

America is, undeniably, a diverse nation. A diverse workforce will better understand the needs, culture, and values of the people they are serving. This, in turn, can grant the company a distinct advantage as they deliver better quality products and services than their competitors.

Make Diversity a Priority

Diversity is a winning strategy both because it is right for humanity and good for business. Over and over again, research has shown that implementing DEIA and social change in the workplace gives organizations a measurable, competitive edge.

But diversity means more than just filling quotas and eliminating discriminatory practices and behaviors. It’s assessing organizational structures and procedures – from talent acquisition to onboarding to retaining – so that greater diversity is accommodated, supported, and encouraged. It means celebrating differences and working to create a supportive, inclusive, environment where people feel welcome, not just tolerated.

For help in reaching your diversity hiring goals, team up with Diversity Working, the largest online job board for diverse talent.