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How to drive success in a diverse team
Buzzword, tick-box exercise or compliance burden? Diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workforce continues to grab the headlines. Do diversity initiatives help successful teams and how far do they drive organisational effectiveness? Melanie Manners, an experienced Executive, Non-Executive and Interim HR Director with experience working in blue chips, SMEs and the not for profit sector, gives her insight on how businesses can get the most out of their diverse teams.
We live in a time of unprecedented political, economic and social uncertainty. It’s having an impact on all business sectors, when competing for market share, differentiating products and services and even affecting sales and funding. However, a diverse workforce can help organisations maintain and develop a competitive edge. Some of the many benefits of a more diverse team include a better understanding of and access to markets, enhanced creativity, innovation, problem-solving abilities, access to larger talent pools and improved corporate reputation. So, how can you get the most out of your team?
Boosting employee performance
To get the best results from your diverse team, through collaboration and sharing ideas internally, first and foremost, you must be prepared to challenge some preconceptions about what constitutes an effective team. You will also need to invest time and energy in creating the right culture for your team. Well-established teams fall behind their competitors when team members have got into a rut and creative thinking is stifled. Diversity across dimensions, such as functional expertise, education, or personality, can increase performance by enhancing creativity or group problem-solving. However, for diverse teams to be effective, they need to be truly inclusive.
Creating and maintaining a high performing and inclusive team must always start with a clear commitment from the top. An inclusive culture should be incorporated in your organisational values and a diversity and inclusion policy that underpins all other internal policies. Many organisations specifically target diverse representation on works councils. Employee forums and focus groups promote diverse candidate slates in the hiring process and such initiatives isolate rather than integrate diverse team members.
To get the most out of a diverse team, diversity and inclusion need to be embedded into an organisation’s foundation. However, this is easier said than done. Developing awareness of the need for diversity and inclusive working environments, reviewing systems, policies and procedures to remove any direct or indirect barriers data is crucial. While many organisations make enterprise level commitments towards D&I, the impact can be eroded by a lack of buy-in and understanding at management level. A management team that is committed and consistent in its efforts, normally results in an organisational change that is quicker, deeper and more sustainable. Managers have a key role to play in creating an environment where everyone can participate This includes being open-minded, seeking, listening and responding to the views of others, drawing on the skills, knowledge and background of each person, knocking down barriers to diversity and participation and taking a zero-tolerance approach to harassment and discrimination. A good manager also needs to give their individual team members the chance to learn and grow by questioning the assumptions they make about others and evaluating how they approach conflict.
Managing conflicting work styles in a diverse team
In most organisations, there’s a perception that people who look alike and live similar lifestyles think the same, but research and experience show that this is not the case. Well-established, homogenous teams can seriously derail if a conflict emerges and they don’t invest in equipping themselves to handle it. With diverse teams, members are more likely to think carefully about presenting balanced arguments and invest the time and effort in forming the team, agreeing roles, responsibilities, and boundaries which include how to deal with conflict. The upside is a subsequent acceleration in team performance giving the team the bite it needs to innovate.
The tone that a manager sets from the very beginning in meetings around a group's mission and values can go a long way towards bridging diversity. One way to foster cooperation is to create an atmosphere in which dissenting views can be freely aired and debated by all, rather than being pushed to one side by the majority. Embrace difference and encourage an environment of trust and acceptance of differing opinions.
Diverse teams contribute to a more skilled and flexible workforce. This enables an organisation to appeal to a wider audience of potential customers and employees, differentiate its product or service offering, and improve its brand reputation. A diverse workforce also provides the opportunity for knowledge sharing, understanding and appreciation of different working styles and cultures. It also allows businesses to celebrate the power and impact of difference. You can get the most out of a diverse workforce by frequently stirring up the pot in terms of team composition and role responsibilities. That way, understanding and leveraging different perspectives become the norm rather than the exception and the organisation is constantly evolving.
People Services Director
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