Workplace Diversity and Employee Engagement

Benefits of Workforce Diversity

Embracing diversity in the workplace is not only “a tick” in the box for the management of an organization; rather, it is an opportunity for development and expansion of corporate horizons for gaining a competitive advantage. When discussing the reasons that make companies embrace diversity, it is important to mention the improved understanding of customers, increased productivity, improved creativity and innovation, increased set of skills, increased retention and improved employees’ satisfaction, and the acquisition of a larger talent pool. Among the mentioned benefits, improved understanding of customer base, greater innovation, and boosted productivity stand out the most.

For instance, when a company hires employees from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences, it is easier to understand what customers want through looking at them from such diverse perspectives. The more diverse is the workforce, the more likely it will meet the needs of individual clients. Workforce diversity promotes different ways of thinking; by sharing their experiences with each other, employees will boost collaboration and increase productivity. As to greater innovation, the constant flow of talent that developed from different experiences will allow the company to get more innovative ideas.

Hidden benefits of workplace diversity can be associated with having a competitive advantage over other companies. Businesses that hire diverse employees are more likely to be recognized by the public as socially responsible organizations; this will subsequently increase the number of loyal customers.

Strategies for Increasing Diversity

Strategies that deliver visible diversity results are all linked to processes of attracting, selecting, developing, and retaining employees (Robbins & Judge, 2017). When speaking of these processes, it is important to differentiate three key strategies: the use of targeted recruiting messages that cater to specific demographic groups, the bias-free hiring process, and the creation of a positive diversity climate (Robbins & Judge, 2017).

These strategies can ensure the maximization of the diverse workforce since they address the areas of concern for diverse audiences. For example, when recruiting messages do not have a target audience (especially when diversity is not acknowledged), it is hard for the Human Resource department to determine whether or not the diverse audience will take an interest in their offer. Therefore, it is more effective for companies to spread the message of inclusion rather than exclusion when developing recruiting material.

A bias-free selection process is essential when hiring diverse employees; many companies make the mistake of hiring the same people over and over again without realizing that their selection process may just be catered to a limited audience.

For bridging the gap between companies and diverse employees, employers should present a clear job description, develop a standard process, give every potential employee a fair shot, and use gender-neutral and culturally unbiased language. According to Lauring and Selmer (2011), openness to diversity in any setting has a strong positive association with perceived performance and satisfaction. Thus, in order to retain diverse employees and facilitate talent development and innovation, companies should invest into creating a workplace that will cater to the needs of their workers.

Organizational Culture and Workplace Diversity

Organizational culture refers to the behaviors and values that make up the particular social and psychological environment of an organization. According to Shahzad, Luqman, Khan, and Shabbir (2012), organizational culture can be associated with a system of common values that unite people from different backgrounds in a particular setting. As mentioned previously, the environment in which employees operate affects their satisfaction and boosts diversity; therefore, organizational culture can also influence diversity management as it directly decides whether inclusion is valued in the corporate setting.

For example, if the attitude of the management toward the representatives of ethnic minorities is that they are unreliable and uncommitted, their behavior is likely to be dismissive and disrespectful. This will be subsequently reflected in the organizational culture. Leadership is the key point for linking diversity to organizational culture since it sets the tone for the company as a whole (PWC, 2015). Leaders should clearly articulate and consistently support the policies of inclusion and diversity for fostering organization-wide “buy-in” for exemplary behaviors (PWC, 2015, p. 11).

Causes of High and Low Employee Engagement Levels

Employee engagement refers to the degree of workers’ involvement, satisfaction with, and enthusiasm for the job they do (Robbins & Judge, 2017). Therefore, employees who are engaged are passionate about their company and work. Traditionally, there are four levels of organizational engagement: stages of compliance, normalization, maximization, and utilization (Gardenswartz & Rowe, n.d.). In order to develop high levels of employee engagement, companies measure workers’ attitudes for identifying areas in need of improvement (CIPD, 2007). While there are is no definitive list of specific causes that influence either high or low level of engagement, the following three aspects represent the primary drivers:

  • Employees’ engagement increases when there are opportunities to present their ideas and views to the higher management; engagement decreases when there are no such opportunities.
  • Employees’ engagement increases when they feel well-informed about what is going on in the organization; if there is a lack of coverage regarding organizational processes, employees’ engagement decreases.
  • Employees engagement increases when they believe that their manager is committed to the organization; if the manager is not committed, employees’ engagement decreases (CIPD, 2007).

The three points mentioned above are not all-encompassing since different organizations have various dynamics and attitudes towards work in general. However, they show that workers are more likely to stay engaged when there are unified efforts of the management to offer all available resources for increasing productivity and communicating the values of the organization. The more interactions between employees and their managers in an organization, the more likely that engagement will increase.

Benefits and Drawbacks of High and Low Employee Engagement Levels

When examining how different levels of engagement can influence organizations in general, it is important to discuss the drawbacks and benefits of either low or high employee engagement. Low employee engagement will make organizations lose their talent. For instance, when an organization experiences an economic hardship that influences engagement and contributes to dissatisfaction, the top talent is the first to leave due to opportunities to be hired in other companies. On the other hand, a lower level of employee engagement can serve as a “boost” for an organization to analyze its mistakes and develop an action plan for improvement.

High levels of employee engagement result in a higher number of benefits. For example, employee satisfaction is more likely to increase due to strengthened connections between organizational goals and their performance. Also, higher employee engagement contributes to increased retention and decreased turnover, which subsequently leads to better productivity and profitability. On the other hand, constant high levels of employee engagement take away from the opportunities of an organization to discover new ways of engaging employees and encouraging creativity.

Strategies for Increasing Engagement

Since any organization regardless of the context and industry can encounter low engagement, it is important to understand what strategies can be used to improve the situation. While there is no unified approach, there is a set of strategies and recommendations from which any organization can benefit. First, it is advised to start at the top – employees need to witness that their leaders exhibit exemplary characteristics and behaviors that boost performance; leaders should model the desired levels of engagement.

Second, transparency and visibility should come high on the agenda; they will allow employees to trust their management more, which will subsequently improve management-worker relationships that are directly linked to higher engagement. Third, it is recommended to offer better flexibility to employees, especially to those whose performance gets worse due to higher pressure and imposed barriers. Fourth, doing different activities (e.g., volunteering work, coaching sessions, corporate gatherings) can contribute to not only breaking up the corporate routine but also facilitating collaboration and creativity.

Placing employees and their managers in different contexts that do not refer to work can encourage new ideas, which may be later integrated into the organizational culture or future corporate endeavors. Also, activities outside work imrove relationships between employees, which is an important point for boosting engagement. Lastly, managers should take the topic of diversity in the workplace seriously; inclusion and diversity have been integrated into measures of engagement (CIPD, 2012) to ensure that the needs of each employee are met for better performance and overall satisfaction.

References

CIPD. (2007). Employee engagement. Web.

CIPD. (2012). Diversity & inclusion – fringe or fundamental? Web.

Gardenswartz, L., & Rowe, A. (n.d.). The effective management of cultural diversity. Web.

Lauring, J., & Selmer, J. (2011). Multicultural organizations: Does a positive diversity climate promote performance? European Management Review, 8, 81-93.

PWC. (2015). Making diversity a reality. Web.

Robbins, S., & Judge, T. (2017). Organizational behavior (17th ed.). Harlow, UK: Pearson Education.