Potential Problems With a Diverse Workforce:
Problem #1 and Solution
We’ve probably all have heard that a culturally diverse workforce is more creative and innovative than a homogeneous one. It’s become the “diversity meme,” so much so that there is hesitancy on the part of many people to question that statement.
In over twenty years, and with at least 100 clients, I’ve come up with three key potential problems and solutions with a diverse workforce.
Here is Problem #1 with the solution.
1- Your workforce is visibly diverse but people aren’t talking to each other.
I’m going to share potential problem #1 and its solution now, and write about the other two in
Problem #1- Your organization has a lot of visible and cultural diversity, but employees stay in their own groups and don’t talk to each other. People are making assumptions, and talking about each other, but not talking with each other or interacting in a productive way.
Reason: Employees in the organization are used to primarily being around people from the same background when they are not at work, or when they’ve worked in other organizations.
Your workplace is one of the first times they’ve interacted with people from different cultures. They know little about people from different backgrounds except what they’ve heard from other members of their community or the media.
There may be discomfort and even tension between groups. They’re hesitant to ask people from other groups for help or share resources. Communication styles and ways to express disagreement or resolve conflict are may be different. No one wants to say the “wrong thing.”
Solution: They need to see people who are different as individuals and not as a monolith. In order to work well together they have to be comfortable with each other.
Process: Bring people together for problem solving meetings. Break employees into small working groups with people who are different from each other. Before they begin working, engage them in a dialogue process where they get to know a little about each other as people.
It can be a simple topic like discussing how they came to work at your company, what they enjoy the most about working there, or what they wish they had learned in school.
You can then ask them to talk about a time when they had to collaborate with others to solve a logistical problem and to describe how they solved it.
Then give them a real problem they need to work on in their groups.
This process may seem simple, or you might think it will take too much time when everyone has so much work to do. You’ll actually save time, money and energy. The sooner you get people talking, sharing information, and interacting, the more comfortable they will be working together, sharing ideas and resources. You will see a rapid growth of innovation, creativity and discover their hidden genius.