Diversity in the Workplace – Yash Kapila

The biggest change of my life was back in 2010, when I moved to Canada. It was more like starting life from scratch in a place where I didn’t know anyone. Coming from a country with a very different culture took a while to get settled in. Studying full time while also working full time was by far the most challenging task I’ve ever completed. All that slowly changed when I got to know the place and the people around me. I was sold on making a decision to make Canada a place I now call home. When I think back to that time, I remember jumping from one job to another – from working in retail in Canadian Tire to sales rep in a flower company to finally ending up at F12 as Purchaser.

When I moved to Canada, I quickly realized that diversity takes many shapes and forms. It extends way beyond race or ethnicity, it is culture, religion, the language people speak, gender, economic status, abilities, skills, interests and more. Differing aspects in an individual suggest how they see themselves, as well as how they see others. For a wide variety of workers to work adequately as a team, a number of factors need to be taken into consideration – communication style, resistance to change and adaptability. Successful team relationships value diverse work environments and are prepared and willing to spend time and effort on taking advantage of the differences between team members in the work environment.

Advantages of Workplace Diversity  

Growth of an organization relies heavily on the ability to recognize the benefits of having diversity in the organization. When implementing the diversity plans in an organization certain benefits always come up:

  • Different approach: In my experience,each culture has certain strengths over other cultures. For example there are cultures that I see as move individualistic (e.g. Canada) and other that are more group oriented (e.g. India). In Canada, it would be ok for a single person to make a family decision. In India, not so much – you would have to consult with the family in nearly all important decisions. Having both kinds of decision making cultures in an organization would help an organization to both be efficient and make sure everyone feels involved and appreciated.
  • Adaptability: Organizations employing a diverse workforce benefit from having individuals with diverse backgrounds bringing their own talents and experiences from different walks of life. Having people who can mold themselves according to the changing market also enhances the variety of solutions to problems. Having a diverse collection of skills and experiences gives the company an edge to provide service to customers on a global level.

Challenges of Diversity in the Workplace

While there are many benefits to having a diverse workplace, there are obviously going to be some challenges to overcome.

  • Communication: Cultural, perception and language barriers need to be overcome for a diverse workplace to succeed. Being unable to communicate key objectives results in confusion, and teamwork gets affected. Communication styles are different in each culture and it is important not to jump to conclusions. Some cultural communication styles are very direct, and others are more implied. This can lead to culture shocks and hurt feelings if not taken into consideration. For example, if an employee is from a very direct style communication, they could accidentally offend someone who comes from an implied style communication environment.
  • Resistance to changes: Almost every workplace has employees who refuse change. While there are some benefits to this in terms of reduced risk, the “why can’t we just do it the old way” shuts new ideas and hinders the progress. Some cultures deal with change better than others. In some, tradition is valued over progress and vice versa. If you are aware of these differences, it is much easier to communicate with your diverse team members and understand their point of view and concerns.

Here are some steps that successful diverse companies have taken:

Assessment of diversity

Successful companies make assessing their diversity process an essential part of their management system. These differences are not always necessarily cultural, even within one culture people can perceive their environments very differently. Performing a personality test would help companies deal with differences better. This helps management determine different types of team members they have and plan communication and personal development for employees accordingly. One such assessment that we use at F12 is called DISC. It groups people into four groups based on their communication styles. Everyone knows each other’s communication style and it helps to better share ideas and influence others.

Development and Implementation

  • Assess: An assessment will be the first step to successful management of diversity in your organization.
  • Raise awareness: Train employees to understand both their strengths and weaknesses as well as those of their team members. Train employees to look out for potential differences in cultures and other aspects of diversity.
  • Train adaptability: Teach your employees how to communicate with people in different communication styles. Teach them that there is a “different” instead of just right and wrong.

Managing diversity in a workplace is no easy task, but it is achievable. No company did it overnight – time, effort and dedication is all it takes to fully take advantage of diversity and it starts with management recognizing the diversity in their team.

Yash Kapila

One Response to Diversity in the Workplace – Yash Kapila

  1. Rachel says:

    I agree that having different approaches from different cultures encourages growth in the workplace. Like you said, it also helps because it encourages participation from people of all different backgrounds and brings people together. Thank you for sharing your experience with diversity in the workplace! It was a great read.

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