As the United States becomes an increasingly diverse nation, many employers are adjusting to the changing circumstances by diversifying their hiring practices and being more inclusive. The benefits of diversity are continuously being assessed, but early indications are that the more diverse the workplace, the more productive and profitable the company.

Types of Diversity

The definition of diversity is changing rapidly. Where once it was limited to factors like race and gender, it is increasingly expanding to take many other characteristics into account. Age is a prime example. Companies are valuing experience in both life and work over youth more than ever before. Generational diversity leads to a diversity of perspectives as much as diversity of race or religion. 

Educational diversity is another new consideration for employers. For a long time, a college education was more heavily valued in hiring, but now employers are looking for a larger variety of educational experiences. Different educational backgrounds have been found to provide very different experiences.

Sexual orientation and gender identity are other areas in which employers are trying to diversify their workforce, as well as the areas of physical and mental disabilities.

Diversity in the geographical origins and/or languages of employees makes for a more inclusive and comfortable working environment. Language in America is becoming increasingly diverse, as the United States Census Bureau found recently. The bureau reported that at least 350 different languages are spoken in American households.

Many more factors such as marital and parental status, military experience, and even what sort of family background employees come from are being considered during the hiring process. The creation of a diverse workplace today is much different than it was even a decade ago.

The Benefits of Diversity

A diverse workplace has an impact on employee satisfaction and job performance. According to a study by Deloitte University, 83 percent of millennials feel more engaged in their work when they operate in a diverse environment. Glassdoor.com reports that 76 percent of those seeking employment cite diversity as one of the most important factors in their choice of employer.

Research from Cloverpop, an online decision-making platform, found that diversity directly affects the quality of business decisions. According to the study, diverse teams of three or more people make better decisions than individuals 87 percent of the time. This aligns with the desire of millennials to be more actively engaged in their workplace. A millennial respondent in the Deloitte survey summed up their generation’s desire to become a part of the decision-making process, defining inclusion as “all individuals and their uniqueness to move toward a group-involved, group-directed action and conclusion.”

More diversity equals better results. Teams with diversity in gender, geographical origin, and age were the best performers of all. Overall, the study shows that diverse teams outperformed individuals over 60 percent of the time. “This research aligns with behavioral economics theory, which has clear implications for results-focused companies,” David Daniels, assistant professor in the department of management at Stanford University said. “Business strategy should revolve around a decision-making process rather than a goal-setting process.”

The bottom line is also impacted positively by diversity in the workplace. A McKinsey report from 2015 examined over 350 public companies recognized as having the most ethnically and racially diverse management. The study found that these companies achieved 35 percent better financial results than the industry norm. A different McKinsey study of US firms with diverse boards showed a 95 percent better return on equity than their less-diverse peers. Diversity is fueling better decisions and achieving better results in corporate America.

These results are due to the wider range of perspectives afforded by a diverse workplace. Vastly different experiences lead to different approaches to problem-solving. A diverse workplace is less likely to fall back on traditional solutions to problems. Companies looking to achieve diversity draw from a much wider pool of prospective employees, allowing them to find the best candidates and the best fit for their workplace.

Challenges to Achieving Diversity

Workplace diversity is not always easy to achieve. There are numerous obstacles to putting together a diverse workplace. Most companies have a set organizational culture and organizational goals. Companies must find ways to hire diverse applicants that will fit into the overall culture. This can be a challenge for older, established firms that have traditions and a mindset that might not be ideal for creating a diverse workplace. Retraining of management and human resources personnel could be beneficial. Internal resistance to diversity initiatives can also slow down or completely halt the quest for diversity. Newer companies have an advantage in that they are not quite as set in their ways as their older counterparts. Either way, only with a serious and sustained commitment can companies achieve diversity in the workplace.