What is diverse? The concept of diversity has many angles. The following five dimensions are often distinguished in the human resources policies of companies:
Not everyone is equally capable of working (full time), for example due to illness or a (physical or mental) disability. Many people with reduced capacity for work would like to work, but have difficulty finding or keeping a job. They face obstacles such as prejudice, lack of facilities and lack of guidance. On the other hand, many employers are looking for opportunities to give people with disabilities a place to work. Experience shows that the inclusion of people with disabilities can have many benefits: they are more likely to be loyal and motivated, report sick less often and create more cohesion within a team.
Cultural and ethnic diversity
Cultural diversity in the workforce can promote innovation and creativity, by thinking about improvements from different perspectives. Thus, it can open up new markets, both for talent and for customer groups. Yet the inflow and outflow of employees from different cultural, religious or ethnic backgrounds still lags far behind, leaving much talent untapped.
A proper balance between the number of men and women in the workplace, in management, and on the board of directors makes companies more effective and profitable. Studies show that companies with a substantial number of women in management perform better. Labor demand also encourages companies to invest in gender diversity, for example in sectors such as engineering and healthcare.
LGBT is an abbreviation used for: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people. LGBT employees, like other employees, have the right to feel safe at work. This also adds value to the company. Employees who feel accepted deliver better work, are less likely to leave and are less likely to call in sick.
A mix of young and old proves to work well. Especially with the aging population, it is very important that within companies the knowledge of the older employees is passed on in time. Age diversity promotes the transfer of knowledge and skills between generations. It also benefits team building. Yet it appears that older job seekers have difficulty finding work. Due to persistent prejudices, employers expect these employees to be sick more often and less productive. Companies that do invest in sustainable employability and intergenerational policies harness the power of old and young.
Diversity indicates whether different groups are represented in the workforce. There are visible and invisible differences that affect your position at work. Inclusion is the next step. It is the ability of a company to create a culture where every employee feels safe and valued. Job seekers and employees are given the same opportunities regardless of cultural background, sexual orientation, age, gender or ability to work.
Most of all, it’s good for the company! Investing in diversity means attracting more potential employees. Many companies struggle with staff shortages. This is partly because they are always fishing in the same pond looking for new staff. That pond is getting smaller. Investing in diversity means that you can fish in many more ponds.
By working with mixed staff, customer contacts can improve. After all, the customer base is often diverse as well. Within a mix of employees there is more knowledge about needs, manners and culture within that diverse customer base.
Another advantage is that a mix of employees can also ensure more profit and productivity. Multiple points of view and new ideas will be launched, which enhances innovation and creativity. More risks are also tackled. Research has shown that companies in the financial sector develop less risky products when women are well represented in the workforce. You do have to keep in mind that a mix in the workforce takes more time. It often takes longer to understand each other properly.
Are you yourself at work?
The following statements are exclusively about your work situation. As you answer, imagine as best you can the extent to which the statements apply to the past four weeks.
Give the statements below a score from 1 to 7.
1 = totally not applicable.
7 = totally well applicable.
This is a randomized and edited version of the I AM Work questionnaire, developed by R. van den Bosch, partner and consultant at House of Performance in Utrecht and T. Taris, professor of work and organizational psychology at Utrecht University.