When a team includes a diverse range of individuals, it is important to start with the foundation. Each member brings unique strengths and backgrounds. Instead of trying to make everyone on the team approach challenges the same way, leadership can benefit from new perspectives. Teams are more effective when they set a clear vision that clarifies the group’s actions and focus, then increase communication to encourage individuals to bring their strengths to the table.
1. Redefining Diversity
When most people hear the word diversity, they immediately think of age, race, gender, and sexual orientation. These are the elements most often addressed in the media and in court, but they aren’t all the aspects of diversity. A narrow definition can cause us to miss out on all the many factors that make people unique. Thinking styles are often one of the most overlooked aspects of diversity.
Encourage leadership and team members to identify aspects of diversity like the following:
- Cognitive abilities
- Physical strengths
- Education levels
- Marital status
- Native language
- Working style
Identifying small differences can make all the difference. For example, some people function at their peak during the morning, while others experience the most energy and creativity later in the day. Think outside of a traditional view of diversity to find the strengths that enhance your team.
America was built on the concept that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. To transform individuals into a team, each member must feel valued and inspired to achieve their best because of their uniqueness, not in spite of it.
2. Create a Culture of Respect
Once you have redefined diversity, infuse your organization’s culture with an attitude of deep respect for each individual’s unique strengths. Identify areas where you can be intentional about honoring differences. Encourage your human resources department to intentionally recruit a diverse group and to retain those who add to the richness of your organization.
Start at the top, turning leaders into coaches skillful at nurturing diversity. Hold workshops where you feed your groups lunch while you offer education on inclusion. Promote diversity in your newsletter and point out ways groups use individual strengths to fuse their team into a unit.
3. Be Data-Driven
Find out what is effective and where you could still improve by using data to evaluate initiatives. Survey employees before you begin to prioritize diversity in teamwork to get a baseline. Ask employees to assign a numeric value about how they feel on questions related to diversity. Conduct equity audits to discover employee perceptions on discrimination, fairness and inclusion.
Encourage honesty by allowing employees to respond anonymously. Reevaluate biannually to gauge progress.
Research from Deloitte Australia shows that embracing diversity is one of the best ways to improve workplace performance, with inclusive teams outperforming other groups by 80 percent in assessments. Make diversity and inclusion a top priority to create a meaningful work culture and thriving organization.