Why Managers Need to Understand Team Diversity
‘Unity in Diversity’, who hasn’t heard this slogan. Though overtly popular in politicised debates and highly subjective crusades, this slogan also stands true within the corporate workplaces. And rightly so, considering the whole collective diversity that assembles under a single organizational umbrella, people of different demographic, gender, culture, education, people speaking different languages, holding different thoughts and outlooks and many more physical and psychological differences. However, in spite of all the dissimilarities they all tend to work towards the common organizational goals, adding their own special traits to the roles and functions assigned to them.
All said and done, that unity doesn’t come right of the bat, but is a result of inculcation of an organizational culture. This aspect is often demonstrated, nurtured and inculcated into the organisation by the managers that operate at different levels within. In the recent years the organizational culture has emerged out to be more transparent and unprejudiced, where opinions, discussions etc. are received with open minds for the collective growth. The role of managers in such organizations isn’t restricted to team building and task assignments but also extends to counselling and mentorship to maintain employee engagement. Uniting/integrating the team towards the common goal too falls under the managerial onus.
If stats are to be believed, gender diversity and ethnic diversity both influence profitability and value creation. While reports state that organizations are actively focusing on hiring and promoting diversity in the workplace, maintaining it requires close understanding about what it really stands for. The need for diversified employee pool is driven by the fact that businesses have become global and hence the clients/customers often come from different backgrounds, ethnicity, sex, age group etc., learning from the diversity within the organization hence can often be the best way to understand the needs of the customers too.
Not just that, with gender diversity becoming a standard issue, according to Forbes, there are now 70+ companies across all industries that have made pledges to gender diversity hiring. While AOL has set the goal of women making up half of their leadership team by 2020, BHP Billiton — the world’s top mining company wants women to comprise 50 percent of its entire workforce by 2025.
In a recent diagnosis that we did for a leading multinational engineering company in India on the impact of generational diversity, we interviewed both the senior generational managers and the millennials who were the team members to understand what did the latter expect from their seniors. There was apparently a gap between what the seniors thought that their team members sought from their careers in the organisation and what the millennials actually were looking for. To plug such gaps, regular and effective managerial conversations with their team members is critical.
The role of managers becomes vital here, as they are the first point of contact between the employees and the management, hence becoming a channel for the employees to voice their concerns, share ideas, and at the same time build an understanding about what the organization aspires for and how each employee’s contribution plays a fundamental role in it. Managers should be able to initiate healthy dialogues to generate diverse ideas, but in doing so, one must be able to avoid confrontations or conflicts.
The goals that managers need to focus on include but are not restricted to:
- Building the cultural dexterity of all the employees, that requires that ability to connect across innumerable areas and backgrounds
- Focuses that are different in retaining employees and grooming future leaders
- Dealing with cultural diversity that may be region specific
For doing so, the managers should possess a certain level of competency to engage people from such diverse backgrounds. The know-how for which often comes as a part of exposure and experience, and can also be built through targeted training. The Coca Cola Enterprise has already set a great example by launching a program that requires all its managers to run a diversity and inclusion workshop during all their team meetings. The idea behind this was to nurture a culture of constructive dialogue around diversity and inclusion.
While diversity has always been a part of life, respecting and valuing all kinds of people and building on the differences it brings needs a lot of work. While organizations should work towards reaping the benefits that diversity brings, managers should be able to build a team by attracting, developing, mentoring, sponsoring and retaining talent, and for doing so, they should be able to understand the team diversity.
- The Team Effectiveness Mantra - March 14, 2019
- 3 Must-Have Managerial Dialogues to Engage & Develop Teams - November 14, 2018
- Why Managers Need to Understand Team Diversity - October 4, 2018
- Why Managers Need to Learn the Art of Conversations - August 8, 2018
- 6 Things Managers Can Do to Drive Employee Engagement - July 30, 2018
- The Happiness of Pursuit - October 10, 2017