“Differences question the status quo and force us to learn from diverse thinking,” says Kety Duron in Forbes.
More than ever in the new year, diversity will continue to be a key issue for people development and HR leaders.
Building a culture of inclusion among employees of all ages and knowledge backgrounds is a top driver of financial performance. When people don’t get along, nothing works well. Production falters, profits fall, and people leave. As a leader who cares about developing people and training them to succeed in your company, you’ll want to develop a “holistic inclusion and diversity program that touches all talent practices.”
Generational diversity, for example, can create a lot of tension amongst a team.
By the year 2020, millennials will comprise over 50% of the work force. The remaining half will mostly be comprised of Generation X (born between 1965 and 1976) and Generation 2020 (those born after 1997). With so many generations working side by side, opportunities for learning have multiplied, but so have the opportunities for misunderstanding.
To equip your team as it diversifies and grows, you must help your leaders understand what it takes to effectively motivate, listen to, encourage, and lead a diverse workplace. The Forbes article continues by stressing the importance of embracing the diversity challenge, not running from it:
You have to have people who are agile and can adapt. We can’t say we are open and then create workplaces that do not embrace diversity in the workplace. If we are trying to select and attract diverse talent to the leadership table and embrace their values, we must continue to encourage and value diverse thinking. When that happens at the leadership level it will cascade to all levels, creating an organization where diversity and inclusion is part of the organizational fabric.
8 Steps to Connect across Differences
To help equip your leaders and managers to empower their employees, here are 8 basic steps to encourage the diversity in the workplace and connect with others. Invite them to share these steps with their teams to foster a healthy culture where diversity can thrive:
- Ask before you act. Rather than assuming knowledge or understanding of how someone else thinks or feels, check with him or her first whenever possible. One simple question could save a lot of hardship—and it helps build trust.
- Recognize that your perspective is biased. Each of us approaches life with our own biases and expectations based on our background, personality, generations, etc. By always remembering that you have blind spots caused by the very things that can make your contribution great, you’ll be more sensitive to how your perspective might affect others.
- Stretch your comfort zone. Reach out to others who are different from you and arrange to be “reverse-mentored” by them. It doesn’t have to be anything official; just exposing yourself to fresh perspectives will grow your capacity to work alongside others productively.
- Commit to always being an agile learner. No matter your age or background, you can always learn something new. The best performers stay alert to new and unexpected learning opportunities.
- Avoid thinking in clichés. New does not necessarily mean better. But neither are the old ways always the best ways. By intentionally avoiding stereotypical thinking, we position ourselves for fresh and creative perspectives that can spark the imagination.
- Know your co-workers’ communication preferences. Although especially true when connecting across generational differences, how you communicate can unintentionally create friction between different personalities, as well. Some people prefer a text or email, while others might be insulted without a face-to-face conversation. Still others may want to chat on the phone or make use of the latest social media technology. In short, don’t just presume everyone communicates the way you prefer if you want to truly connect with others.
- Evaluate others by the content of their character. When we judge others based on personality, age, cultural background, or other distinctive areas, we restrict our abilities to connect and our capacity to achieve more together.
- Talk to and not about the other person. It’s all too easy to commiserate around the water cooler, even a virtual one. Better to invest that time and energy into getting to know the person with whom you differ.
Diversity in the workplace is a growing reality in 2017 and beyond. Managers who focus on how to get the best from all employees, rather than focusing on the differences between them, will be positioned to see the best results in the new year.