"In our environment – both that of our 500 clients and our own - we have over a number of years observed how diversity thrives and we have used it to enrich our work space. However, there are some non-negotiables that have had to be put in place to ensure we harness its true value,” says Ricky Robinson, CEO of Performance Agency LRMG.
Diversity in the workplace can be seen as being made up of three major components. ”Differentiation can be made through primary personal characteristics (such as race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation and mental ability); secondary personal characteristics (such as marital status, education level, values and beliefs); and organisational related characteristics (such as position in hierarchy, tenure and part-or full-time status),” says Robinson.
According to Robinson studies show that diversity in the workplace results in increased problem-solving and ignites innovation borne out of a diversity of unique ideas. “There is little question today that diversity adds value to the workplace, but it must be emphasised that as much as it is important to embrace people’s differences and create a work environment of respect and tolerance, not all aspects of diversity are necessarily beneficial to an organisation. Companies rather need to identify and define a desired model of diversity and then seek to attract talent that matches this diversity definition,” he says.
In the greatly varied staff-mix that makes up each company’s workforce, Robinson has identified some non-negotiables that he deems essential in ensuring companies single out the right diversity-mix for their particular environment.
“We’ve found that there are a number of qualities and traits that work well in ensuring growth and innovation in the workplace. The first and possibly the most vital of these is what we term a growth mindset. People that possess a growth mindset are open-minded and adaptable. These people are always prepared to improve and develop. They strive to improve on their talents and also cope well under stress,” says Robinson. In contrast, people that have a fixed mindset believe that neither personality nor intelligence is subject to change. These people generally need to prove themselves constantly in all situations.
“According to research by Carol S. Dweck in her book Mindset – The new psychology of success, she shows that historically company executives who hold fixed mindsets and regard themselves as geniuses or visionaries do not build great teams,” says Robinson.
Also identified by Robinson as being essential in the diversity-mix is each employee’s alignment to the company’s values. “Research has repeatedly shown that visionary companies that succeed for decades are guided by first order values. These core values create a sense of purpose beyond making money, they guide and inspire people throughout the organisation. “First order or core values are enduring and absolute in nature and reflect the foundational ideologies of the company. In essence they are the very reason for the company’s existence,” adds Robinson.
Alignment to the company’s vision is just as important and Robinson says when an individual’s personal dream aligns to the company’s, there is a greater purpose to their work. “This means that they will be more tolerant within the work environment because realising their dream together with the company’s vision becomes a priority. They do not become consumed with trivialities but rather see the bigger picture.”
Humility, respect, honesty and participation are other qualities or traits that Robinson has identified as favourable in the workplace. He adds that in South Africa the concept of respect is often linked to the idea of Ubuntu. “This is vital in all work environments and it is impossible to work with people who do not respect others and value their differences.”
In terms of honesty Robinson says that diverse groups must be able to share, what Jim Collins in his book, Good to Great, refers to as confronting the Brutal Facts. “People need to be able to be completely open and honest in a constructive and respectful way in order to manage expectations and be realistic about work goals. People in diverse groups also need to ‘be present’ and participate 100 percent. This creates a space within which the true value of diversity can shine,” says Robinson.
Last on Robinson’s list is uniting staff in a shared definition of what being a ‘professional’ means. “The definition should include punctuality, meeting promises and being accountable. This will assist people in meeting company expectations,” concludes Robinson.