By Renee Goyeneche—
Studies show that diverse teams demonstrate better decision-making and problem-solving skills, higher levels of creativity, and greater job satisfaction. Invested, empowered employees are the secret weapon of successful organizations, so embracing diverse voices and perspectives is essential if companies are to remain competitive and relevant in an ever-changing world.
Historically, however, systemic prejudices, social hierarchies and unequal access to opportunity have contributed to the marginalization of certain groups. As a result, members of these communities have faced significant barriers to entry in various industries as well as ongoing career development challenges.
However, these same groups can revitalize business models and create fairer organizations by challenging conventional thinking and driving innovation. By enabling them to share their perspectives and contribute to the creative process, organizations can tap into new ideas, approaches and solutions that might otherwise be overlooked.
Create diverse teams means hiring and promoting people of all backgrounds, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, disability or other factors. It also means creating a culture where all members feel valued, respected and given the opportunity to succeed.
Leaders can drive this type of organizational growth in several ways:
- Create an inclusive and safe environment: Employees should feel comfortable expressing their views without fear of negative consequences. Emphasize the value of different perspectives and make it clear that every voice is respected and valued.
- Show genuine interest. Actively and continuously listen to the ideas and opinions of employees. Show that you value their feedback by giving them your full attention and thoughtful responses.
- Stimulate an open dialogue. Promote open discussions and appropriate debates during team meetings or brainstorming sessions. You can do this by asking open questions and letting everyone share their opinion.
- Search feedback: Get in the habit of soliciting input from your employees on various aspects of their work, team dynamics and organizational processes. Provide multiple channels for feedback, such as one-on-one conversations or surveys, so everyone has a chance to be heard.
- Offer training and development opportunities. Pay attention to what employees tell you about their desire to grow. Help them build confidence in expressing their perspectives through professional development courses and industry discussions.
- Stimulate cross-functional collaboration: Create and support collaboration opportunities with colleagues from different departments or teams. These interactions help people on all sides broaden their understanding of different departmental responsibilities and of the organization as a whole.
- Give credit where it’s due. Give recognition and rewards to employees who propose innovative ideas. Celebrate their achievements to emphasize the importance of speaking up.
Employees also play a crucial role in driving change within organizations. That often means stepping out of their comfort zone and challenging the status quo. By standing up for themselves, building relationships, pursuing growth opportunities and supporting others, employees can contribute to a more inclusive workplace where diverse voices are valued, respected and celebrated.
Here are some ways to make your voice heard as an employee:
- Step up and apply for leadership opportunities. Lead a project, chair a committee or organize an event. Taking on a leadership role helps you influence decision making you gain visibility and showcase your unique perspective to a wider audience.
- Participate in cross-functional projects: Offer help or show interest in working on cross-functional initiatives or projects. As a result, you work together with colleagues from different departments and contribute your perspective in a broader context.
- Take on mentoring or coaching roles: Sign up as a mentor or coach of colleagues who could benefit from your expertise. This showcases your skills and provides a platform to share your perspective and insights on specific topics or challenges.
- Challenging the status quo: Identify areas where existing processes or practices can be improved and present your ideas for change. Be prepared to back up your suggestions with evidence and present them to relevant stakeholders. By taking the initiative, you demonstrate your proactive approach and commitment to continuous improvement.
The benefits of having more perspective are twofold: When employees feel empowered to speak up and actively contribute, it promotes their confidence and professional growth. Employees with high self-confidence are more likely to take initiative, propose out-of-the-box ideas and address challenges immediately. When teams face complex challenges, they can use their collective knowledge to tackle problems from multiple angles. Businesses can reap great benefits from the broad spectrum of ideas generated by a diverse think tank.
By prioritizing and championing diversity, leadership can inspire others within the organization to do the same, fostering a culture where all voices are valued and recognized for their unique contributions.
Renee Goyeneche: I am a writer and research editor who focuses on information that benefits women, children and families. Find me Twitter.