Diversity and Inclusion: Managing Diverse Teams

We’ve discussed before why diversity and inclusivity are important to businesses and how fostering an inclusive environment is important. However, what we have not delved into is how to manage that diversity. Given different backgrounds, cultural and social norms, working in diverse groups can be more challenging than homogenous ones with more opportunities for misunderstanding and conflict. While diversity allows individuals to come together with their unique perspectives, managing it requires a different set of processes and strategies.

More Than Demographics

Diversity is more than employee demographics and the belief that more of it will automatically translate to better performance. Thinking of it in terms of identity-group representation inhibits effectiveness. In fact, there are several other issues that make managing diversity difficult.

  • Individuals with different backgrounds will perceive, experience, and understand their work differently. This creates an obstacle towards effective working relations. Team members might not agree on how to interpret data or something as small as how to format a report.
  • Teams with high diversity typically have low cohesion. You want your team to remain united while working to achieve objectives. It boosts productivity, makes sure group goals are met and ensures team members feel that they’re contributing to that success. Low cohesion means that your team doesn’t fully trust each other, increasing the likelihood of conflicts.
  • The best ways of working together may be counterintuitive. When working with people with different perspectives, team members may gloss over those differences in favor of group harmony leading to different perspectives being ignored and decreasing collaboration. This results in a reluctance to exchange and share ideas. This is crucial because the main theoretical benefit of diverse team is the fact that their improve performance stems from their greater range of views, experiences, and opinions.

Creating An Action Plan

It’s important to address the way diversity is perceived in your workplace; that it shouldn’t be a social obligation. If you want to drive your teams forward, the following recommendations can help.

  • Recognize differences and create a workplace culture that encourages them to surface. This boosts team identification and can help employees feel a part of the group working towards the same future, goals, and vision. Utilizing hiring assessments alongside a team-fit tool is another way to gain insight into how different personalities and work behaviors come into effect.
  • Don’t shy away from difficult conversations. Building a habit of confronting differences can help teams move forward. Avoidance is rarely an effective strategy, and it can come at the cost of inauthentic relationships and unrealized team performance.
  • Involve management, especially when there are new interventions and big changes to be made. They can smooth implementation processes and help ensure that changes are sustainable and last in the long run.

Diversity allows people from a broader range of different backgrounds to join teams and organizations, but managers and leaders must be aware of how to properly integrate that diversity for organizational performance. Improving understanding and acceptance of diversity as a cultural norm will help you create competent teams that will strive for organizational goals.