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Cultural Diversity in the Workplace

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Workplace diversity has been a hotly debated topic for a long time, so there’s certainly no shortage of articles focused on it online! Add in New Zealand’s ageing workforce and our much-publicised skill shortages, and it’s clear that actively promoting diversity is key to securing the right talent in today’s job market. As a Singaporean who relocated to New Zealand in 2015, I’m lucky enough to work alongside an extremely diverse team here at Beyond Recruitment, with people coming from backgrounds and cultures all over the world, including Scotland, India, England and South Africa to name a few. This got me thinking more about New Zealand organisations – what advantages does a diverse workforce bring? What can be done to get the best out of everyone?

Benefits of a Diverse Workforce

True diversity is all about diversity of thought. It's about bringing together people with different perspectives to make meaningful contributions and add to the culture. So, what benefits does a diverse workforce bring?

  • It creates an environment that supports unique ideas and innovation.
  • It encourages collaboration, as well as informed and objective decision making.
  • It produces a culture of open-mindedness and higher morale as employees feel included rather than excluded as a result of their culture.

However, for diversity to thrive, workplaces need to be inclusive, which is all about providing a safe environment for different cultures, races, religions and backgrounds. In other words, employees should always feel safe and secure in their own identity, culture and community. This isn’t achieved through company policies alone, but by 'walking the walk' as well. Employers should promote cultural awareness in a way that permeates throughout the entire workforce. Whether it’s workshops, programmes or even simply celebrating culturally significant days (e.g. Chinese New Year), there are so many great ways to help people understand their colleagues’ culture, history and how they work.

Leading from the Top

Whilst there are plenty of organisations that have diversity ingrained into their strategy, it should be more than just a box-checking exercise. Encouraging and valuing diversity needs to start at the very top – a mindset that weaves through every touchpoint of a business. Are hiring managers getting the support they need to promote diversity? What processes are in place to ensure that unconscious biases are being filtered out or checked? If these questions aren't being addressed, it's all too easy to keep the status quo. Although diversity was historically an HR-driven task, it is CEOs and leaders who are (and should be) championing the issue. Today, we’re seeing more leaders integrating it into their company missions, values and of course, their own C-Suites. What’s clear is that if the value of diversity isn't seen at a leadership level, it is unlikely that teams will be drawn in.

Closing Thoughts

While the importance of diversity in the workplace cannot be overstated, that doesn't mean that it's an easy issue to tackle. Diversity in business doesn't happen overnight; there isn't a shortcut, but that doesn't mean it will become any less important in businesses at a global level. A diversity strategy should be a mindset, and we should see it at every level of an organisation. How is diversity encouraged in your organisation? I would love to hear your thoughts.