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Is Your Team as Diverse as Your Clients?

By Vishal Ingole

The 21st Century calls for a workforce that is equipped to deal with the diverse issues of a global clientele. In order to understand client needs that stem from their diverse lifestyles and backgrounds, workforce diversity becomes the need of the hour.

Global Talent Pool

Technology and the information age might rule the roost but the people at the helm are still the most important assets in a company. The talent pool is getting larger by the minute as talent is pouring in from all corners of the world. Workforce diversity ensures that your company dips into the talent pool driven by the urge to find the very best without letting things like ethnicity, race, color, creed and gender come in the way.

Most avant-garde companies understand the need for workplace diversity as a necessary asset that will help them meet the challenges of the future. There are many reasons and ways to diversify an existent workforce.

New Perspectives For New Solutions

Workplace diversity ushers in an era of heightened creativity in any organization. When the issues that a company faces are coming in from all diverse backgrounds, it only makes logical sense to ensure that all sales/client facing arms of the organization have a diverse mix of individuals who can brainstorm and come up with creative solutions to existing problems. A challenge arises when the old ways of working and thinking do not bring about means to a qualitative solution. It follows that new solutions are needed and these stem from new perspectives that a diverse workforce or team can bring to the table.

Enabling Cross-cultural Understanding

Increasing workforce diversity does not mean creating cliques in an organizational structure. More than sticking with what you know, employees from diverse backgrounds must be encouraged to cross cultural boundaries and learn more about each others’ differences. This kind of cross-cultural understanding will ensure that all employees are capable of dealing with the diverse clientele that the organization courts.

While there are many benefits of hiring a diverse workforce, the challenge that the leaders of an organization face does not end there. To ensure maximum productivity, the diverse group of employees hired needs to be assimilated in the fabric of the organization. This will only work if special consideration is given to helping them adjust and adapt to the change in culture at work.

Spread Out Diverse Workforce

The workforce you hire should in essence mirror the demographic that you currently deal with as clients or the one that you aspire to. Creating a diverse workforce that is spread throughout the sales/client facing teams is imperative because these are the internal customers who will deal effectively with the external customers. Ethnic and cultural diversities make one set of clientele differ from the other. Dealing with an Asian company and employees requires tweaking of your work ethics. This transition is greatly smoothened by the presence of employees of similar ethnic groups in your organization.

Show Your Readiness

Ensure that your recruitment policies aim at hiring from a diverse client pool. Answer the ‘What’s in it for me?’ question for people from diverse backgrounds that are looking at fostering a relationship with your company. The hiring process has to be one that is based on merit and skill requirements and not on any other consideration like quota, age, race or gender. The idea is to maintain neutrality in hiring whilst imbibing a readiness to hire across all diverse backgrounds.

State your readiness to accept and egg a diverse workforce on by making minor amendments to your company’s mission statement. This reflects your acceptance of and need to appeal to a culturally diverse set of prospective employees.

Role of Diversity Leaders

Diversity leaders play an important role in maintaining team dynamics. They are the ones who influence a company to create a more diverse sales/client facing team. A result oriented approach gets them the leverage that they need to influence companies. The end result or the goal of diversifying a workforce has to be juxtaposed and linked with the profit or business goals of the company.

Companies like IBM believe [PDF] that managing team diversity and increasing overall workforce diversity achieves their business goals. They have concentrated many efforts on developing a client base amongst women owned businesses as well as those owned by Asian, African-American, Hispanic and senior citizens. By doing this, their Market Development organization has given impetus to the revenue earned by the company in Small and Medium sized Business Sales from $10 million in the year 1998 to many hundreds of millions of dollars in 2003. They succeeded in doing this by assigning diverse executive teams the task of fostering relationships with a similar demographic clientele.

Initiating a corporate diversity program is easy but takes persistence and dedication. One great idea is to reduce buzz recruitment i.e. recruitment based on word of mouth transfer of information. It is most likely that your employees will only know people who are like them. This will work well if your team is already diverse, if not, then chances are that when you depend on word of mouth recruitment, you will continue to hire a non-diverse crowd. At the same time, your program would do well to use the resources of social media websites and blogs. Include articles on diversity and diversity management. Social media websites will allow your company to talk the talk online. Ensure that when you have a personal meeting with candidates, your senior as well as grass root level management are able to walk the walk.

Conclusion

A diverse workforce represents innumerable opportunities in the future. The future of any organization depends on the ease and skill with which it adapts to change. A diverse workforce equips a company with these abilities.

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