Monday, July 27, 2015

Modern office: Why a diverse workforce works

(BPT) - The shifting demographics of the United States are becoming increasingly important for employers to consider when building a productive workforce.



More than 50 percent of the working-age population will be made up of minorities by 2039, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Now more than ever, a workforce's accurate reflection of the evolving populace is not only a key to structuring an inclusive office culture, but it also makes great business sense. Staples, a leader in workplace diversity, offers the following commentary and tips on how to foster a culture of inclusion.

A diverse workforce makes more knowledgeable and effective decisions

Various backgrounds, skill sets and experiences all contribute to sound decision-making. For instance, a workforce comprised of people all of the same age and background would be limited, as they generally share similar cultural and life experiences. In contrast, the varying perspectives of a team comprised of different ages, genders, races, nationalities, sexual orientations and thinking styles can result in more creativity and better problem-solving.

Recently Staples, along with 378 other employers and employer organizations, signed an amicus brief, urging the Supreme Court to strike down state bans on gay marriage. State laws that prohibit or decline to recognize marriages between same-sex couples hinder employer efforts to recruit and retain the most talented workforce possible in those states. The successes of companies like Staples, which has earned a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index for the last five years, depend upon the welfare and morale of all employees and such differential treatment creates unnecessary confusion, tension and a significant burden on both employers and employees.

"We see the power of diversity as a competitive advantage and strive to realize its full potential by leveraging the unique talents and strengths of our associates" says Erika Hopkins, director of workplace inclusion and diversity for Staples. "When diversity is enabled by a culture of inclusion, associates feel respected and valued, allowing them to perform at their peak every single day, resulting in better innovation, idea generation and organizational performance."

An inclusive workplace improves performance

When employees feel valued and respected, they perform better. Having an inclusive work environment where employees can feel comfortable being themselves without losing any part of their identity will result in exponentially improved performance. This increase in each individual's performance has the collective effect of significantly better organizational performance. One effective approach to establishing an inclusive culture is through employee groups that focus on a specific aspect of one's identity and are open to any interested employee. These groups provide employees with an opportunity to celebrate their uniqueness and create a greater awareness for the entire organization.

To encourage company-wide participation, the groups are internally supported by company executives. For instance at Staples, there are executive sponsors for every Associate Resource Group. Specifically, Vice Chairman Joe Doody is the sponsor for "Women Who Lead," whose mission is to build a thriving community of female associates. The group routinely engages its members with developmental, networking and community-focused events. Partnering with Friends of Families in Transition, they organized a collection for homeless families, filling gift bags for over 340 people. Events like these empower not only the group of diverse employees, but the rest of the office and surrounding communities as well. They are also a great way to showcase the diversity present within a business while also being a tool to promote engagement among the overall workforce.

Diversity and inclusion - a powerful combination

When both diversity and inclusion are present in the workplace, the organization is better equipped to live up to its full potential. This powerful combination can be a real differentiator in the marketplace. If your organization wants to thrive in the 21st century, you can't ignore the rapidly evolving cultural landscape. Businesses should strive to see the faces of their customers reflected in the faces of their employees. Organizations that build their external brand as diverse and inclusive will be better equipped to hire and retain talent as well as win new customers and satisfy existing ones.

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