Diversity 101: Why it Matters at Work

Any company looking to eliminate bias at work can now log onto Facebook for a bias tutorial. The social media giant, which recently released startling numbers about its lack of workforce diversity, is releasing a series of anti-bias training videos for all businesses looking to address the issue. So, why does it matter?

There are many reasons why diversity is important. In our At Work survey, nearly half of the people we surveyed did not understand or know how to value diversity at work, and only one-third thought diversity helps them get promoted at work. The implication is that while diversity is important, we all have a responsibility to articulate its value. When you have a diverse workforce, it changes the way people in the company think and work. In a diverse workplace, you are more likely to be around different types of people who can introduce new approaches at work. People from different cultures and backgrounds often bring unexpected and fresh perspectives to problem solving, design, and product development.

Some people are more analytical while others are more creative. People from varying religious, political, and socioeconomic backgrounds possess different perspectives on the world and specific issues. Bring all of these types of people together and you are likely to see more creativity, new and better ideas, and more innovation.

One of the most famous examples occurred when a group of Hispanics at Frito-Lay in the U.S. (part of PepsiCo) suggested the company develop a Guacamole Chip. That chip generated $100 million in sales in its first year. I do not believe that a company can truly understand its markets without a diverse workforce. Those who analyze these markets need to empathize with the markets and customers in order to make good decisions on how to approach and interact with them.

A company moving into new global markets in predominantly Muslim countries or Asian countries needs to rethink its marketing approaches, communications, and overall imagery. If the company’s marketing graphics and images continue to feature white, middle-aged men and women wearing crosses around their necks, the company’s appeal in those markets will be limited. Similarly, an equipment company that manufactures machinery for golf course construction and maintenance not only needs people with the technical knowledge necessary to sell that equipment, but also people who play golf themselves and understand the importance of, and what is required for, a well-maintained course.

Don’t overlook the importance of age diversity in the workplace. While it is important to employ people who look like your market, it is also important to employ people who are right for the job. Making judgments based on someone’s age rather than on facts, even refusing to meet with people over a certain age, is prejudice pure and simple. That is no way to form a team.

The Bottom Line: Diversity may be “the right thing to do”—but it is also the right thing to do for the business.