I recently took a class on human resource management and one of my favorite topics of study was around diversity. Not only is diversity a critical part of employment law, but it can be hugely beneficial to the strategy and success of an organization. Those companies that can move beyond compliance alone toward embracing and even leveraging our differences will find that they are fostering better workplace cultures, developing more satisfied employees, generating a healthier bottom line, and ultimately making a more positive impact on our world.
Everyday I am inspired by the incredible people around me – friends, family members, and colleagues alike. I can’t help but be grateful for their lives, and particularly the ways in which we are different. I’m not just referring to the color of our skin, nationality, religion, etc…but what makes us tick. Like the longtime girlfriend of mine who challenges my left brain tendencies by constantly generating creative new ideas; visionary is simply a part of who she is. Or the family acquaintance whom I just learned through Facebook is a brilliant musician; he just produced his own music video, in which he plays the guitar, piano, drums, and sings in different segments – who knew! Or my coworker, a fellow project manager, who recently volunteered to facilitate a workshop on career planning at our annual all-company meeting. Amazing! Isn’t it inspiring to see others in their sweet spot?
This sounds so simple, and yet oftentimes I think it is easy to forget; it is easy to lose sight of why our differences should be embraced. Organizations, leaders, individual contributors – people in general – are constantly trying to influence others to see things their way. Of course there are times when that is necessary; without both the leader and follower roles nothing would be accomplished. Yet the reminder here is that, in the end, we weren’t made to be all the same. We are all unique, and our differences produce a collective, even synergistic beauty that could never be realized otherwise. Let’s face it – and I will be the first to admit – life would be pretty dull with just a bunch of Michelles running around! We need those who can imagine, those who can create, those who can analyze, those who can build, those who can wonder, and those who can execute. We simply need each other.
People have so much to bring to the table, sometimes more than they realize. The strengths, gifts, talents, curiosities, and hobbies of others make us all better, stronger, and wiser. Weaknesses even have a place at the table – they can foster a culture of learning, authenticity, and compassion. Based on the research from my class, I took away several key benefits of diversity in the workplace, such as the ability to generate greater creativity in products and client solutions given the larger pool of life experience to draw from, the ability to market to a greater, more diverse customer base, and the ability to attract and retain the best talent out there, to name a few. All of this can generate increased employee engagement and more instances where people are working on activities that transcend time and money – activities that simply produce joy (or intrinsic satisfaction) by working on them.
I think it’s easy to fall into my-way-is-the-best-way tendencies; we trust ourselves and know we’ll do the best job, right? But doing so deprives us of a world of creative opportunity, learning, and growth. As we continue opening ourselves up to others and learning what makes them tick, as well as sharing our own passions, let’s celebrate our collective beauty and remember that we need each other, always.
I would love to get your thoughts on this… How have you or your organization encouraged diversity and helped others to thrive by using their various gifts?
Thank you for your comments!