Globalization, wider customer base, demographic and social changes resulted in increase in diversity of workforce around the world (Mullins, 2013).
Diversity is a broad term, and includes age, ethnicity, gender, physical abilities/qualities, race, sexual orientation, educational background, religious beliefs, and work experience (Rahman, 2005). To achieve excellence through diversity, it’s important to understand how those dimensions affect performance, motivation, success, and interactions with others.
Workforce diversity can be used as a vital resource because as famous proverb demonstrates (image below), different people can perceive things differently and only by working together and well-managed they can really achieve much as a team. Flexibility and creativity are keys to competitiveness, that is why managing diversity well provides a distinct advantage (Forbes, 2012). Without diversity we are like blind people who only see part of the world that we are accustomed to.
According to Cox managing diversity is defined as “planning and implementing organizational systems and practices to manage people so that the potential advantages of diversity are maximized…” (Cox, 2001).
Diverse teams show improved performance over non diverse competitors. For example, firms with more racial or gender diversity had more sales revenue, more customers, and greater profits. Companies with more female executives were more profitable. Teams with a wider range of educational and work backgrounds produced more-innovative products (HBR, 2016). People with different ideas and different perspectives can boost creativity. Mixed-sex teams can produce more creative solutions. Google have found that diverse teams are often the most innovative (Economist, 2016).
On the other hand, if poorly managed diverse teams can often struggle to understand, trust, or relate to people from different backgrounds. This can lead to tension, hostility, lack of cooperation and poor communication with low team performance (Klein, 2014).
So how do we avoid problems that can arise in the diverse teams?
First of all, managers must be aware of how team development stages go. For that Tuckmans model of team development stages is applicable. According to Tuckman all newly formed teams go through Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing development stages (Madsen, 2015).
On each stage team undergoes different processes and its managers’ tasks to make right choices to ensure the best results.
The stages and responsibilities are shown on the diagram below:
My own experience shows that stages described in this model are accurate. While working on one of the first projects with my newly acquired MBA team members we underwent through all of the mentioned stages of the model.
At forming stage there was confusion about roles in the project as everyone came from different backgrounds and had different expectations regarding their role in the group so after a while storming period started where conflict regarding how things should be done arose. Luckily we managed to work through this period without any external guidance and found the middle ground where everyone knew what they had to do. In the end we reached performing stage and successfully completed our task.
Knowledge of this model in future will help all of us while assembling new diverse teams.
Tuckman model limitation is that it doesn’t help members and managers to understand cultural views of individual members and thus the full understanding within a team is not achieved.
To overcome these limitations Hofstede’s six dimensions of culture model can be used.
Geert Hofstede has defined “culture” as “the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from others” (Geert Hofstede, 2017).
By using research data from a multinational company (IBM) with subsidiaries in more than 60 countries, he identified five largely independent dimensions: Power Distance, Uncertainty Avoidance, Masculinity, Time orientation and Individualism.
Below table gives a short summary of these factors:
Hofstede’s research shows that different cultures have different expectations regarding these values and understanding of these differences will help managers and employees to work together in the diverse environment.
Weakness of this approach is that many cross-cultural studies did not recognize the difference between societal culture level and individual level differences, which led to numerous errors of interpretation and application (Madsen, 2015).
As an example of well managed diverse team PepsiCo should be mentioned, a current CEO of which comes from diverse background herself – Indian woman Indra Nooyi.
She has made a lot of improvements to the company policies and values. Providing a diverse and inclusive workforce for its employees globally is one of the pillars of what PepsiCo calls Performance with Purpose, which is PepsiCo’s plan for delivering sustained value.
PepsiCo sponsored the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Historically Black College and University LGBT Leadership and Career Summit to provide training to LGBT student leaders, and will provide internship opportunities to summit participants (PepsiCO, 2017).
In conclusion, increase in a diverse workforce is a reflection of a changing world and marketplace. If managed properly diverse teams can bring higher value to organizations. Respecting individual differences will benefit the workplace by creating a competitive edge and increasing work productivity. Various diversity management models should be used to educate everyone about diversity and its issues. Most workplaces are made up of diverse cultures, so organizations need to learn how to adapt to be successful.
What is your personal experience working in diverse teams and what can we do to understand people from different backgrounds better?
Please leave a comment below.
Cox, T., 2001. Creating the Multicultural Organization: A Strategy for Capturing the Power of Diversity. 1 ed. s.l.: John Wiley & Sons.
Economist, 2016. Diversity fatigue. [Online]
Available at: http://www.economist.com/news/business/21692865-making-most-workplace-diversity-requires-hard-work-well-good-intentions-diversity
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Forbes, 2012. Diversity as a Competitive Advantage. [Online]
Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/sap/2012/05/11/diversity-as-a-competitive-advantage/#7cb02c7627eb
[Accessed 03 2017].
Geert Hofstede, 2017. Cultural Dimensions. [Online]
Available at: https://geert-hofstede.com/cultural-dimensions.html
[Accessed 02 2017].
HBR, 2016. Diverse Teams Feel Less Comfortable — and That’s Why They Perform Better. [Online]
Available at: https://hbr.org/2016/09/diverse-teams-feel-less-comfortable-and-thats-why-they-perform-better
[Accessed 03 2017].
Klein, K., 2014. Culturally Diverse Teams that Work, Irvine: University of California.
Madsen, S., 2015. The Power of Project Leadership 7 Keys to Help You Transform from Project Manager to Project Leader. 1 ed. s.l.:Kogan Page.
PepsiCO, 2017. Diversity & Engagement. [Online]
Available at: http://www.pepsico.com/company/Diversity-and-Engagement
[Accessed 03 2017].
Rahman, H., 2005. Empowering Marginal Communities with Information Networking. s.l.:IGI Global.