Is your workplace ready for the workforce of the future? The data is in, and the U.S. workforce is becoming more diverse. Workforce diversity in the U.S. has been increasing for decades. And that isn’t going to change any time soon. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the workforce will become more diverse across nearly all demographic categories over the next six years.
- Women in the workforce will increase from 46.8% in 2016 to 47.2% in 2024.
- The workforce is also going to get older. Those 55 and older will increase from 21.7% of the force in 2016 to 24.8% as people work past 65 years of age.
- The proportion of Hispanics in the workforce will see the biggest from 16.8% in 2016 to 19.8% in 2024.
- White non-Hispanic workers will continue to be the majority but is on the decline and expected to be below 60% by 2024.
How will you and your managers lead diverse teams effectively?
8 Tips for Successfully Leading Diverse Teams
- Get comfortable with difference – We should not fear those who are culturally different from us. Valuing differences creates a work environment where people can and want to do their best. Working effectively in this diverse world starts with self-awareness–considering how you handle bias, prejudice, and conflict, and demonstrating that you value others. We need to be sensitive to how we judge differences. Cultural sensitivity is knowing that differences exist between cultures but not assigning values to the differences (better or worse, right, or wrong). Clashes on this point can easily occur, especially if a custom or belief in question goes against the idea of multiculturalism. Internal conflict (intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational) is likely to occur at times over this issue. Conflict won’t always be easy to manage, but it can be made easier if everyone is mindful of the organizational goals.
- Get your people trained – Decades of research show that diverse organizations are more engaged, creative, and financially successful. Success does not happen without intentionality or our place. Becoming a culturally competent manager or culturally competent organization requires ongoing strategic planning and staff development. A culturally competent organization can bring many different behaviors, attitudes, and policies into its system and work effectively in cross-cultural settings to produce better outcomes. The culturally competent organization has implemented the tools and systems necessary to lead diverse teams effectively.
- Be intentional about naming roles and reasons – One of the Seven Strategies for Overcoming Implicit Bias in the Workplace is considering team members’ additive contributions. Reexamine your concept of teams. Diverse teams are shown to be more productive and creative. Monolithic teams can lead to problems down the line. Ask yourself, “What skills are needed to make this project or organization a success.” Define the roles and keep the essential skills in mind as you populate your team. Additive contributions minimize unnecessary skill redundancy, allowing organizations to broaden the candidate pool. Know each team member’s unique contributions, and you will build better, more dynamic, and creative teams. Don’t set up the “diversity-hire” to fail. One of the biggest mistakes you make in leading diverse teams is reinforcing a diversity hire or token label. Be clear about the skillset and role of every team member. People need to know why the puzzle was assembled the way it was.
- Acknowledge generational differences – We now have up to five different generations working together in the workplace: Traditionalists, Baby boomer, Gen-X, Millennials, and Gen-Z.
- Traditionalists—born 1925 to 1945
- Baby Boomers—born 1946 to 1964
- Generation X—born 1965 to 1980
- Millennials—born 1981 to 2000
- Generation Z—born 2001 to 2020
The “OK boomer” catchphrase has brought both tension and levity to our ability to manage generational differences in the workplace effectively. While we need to acknowledge generational differences, especially related to foundational experiences, studies suggest differences in preferences and values between these generational groups are quite small. There is a considerable variety of preferences and values within any of these groups. Individual people may experience changes in their needs, interests, preferences, and strengths throughout their careers. Sweeping group differences depending on age or generation alone don’t seem to be supported. It is important to train your employees and rising stars to manage differences and give them the tools necessary to manage diverse teams. Each generation has gifts it can share. The boomers have a wealth of experience. Millennials have that youthful optimism, and they know how to use technology to get things done. Generation X is great at bridging the gap of change and can help shorten the cultural divide between the older and younger generations. One tool to foster communication is developing inter-generational mentorship programs to help the different generations learn new skills.
- Get creative with check-ins – Frequent one-on-one check-ins have been proven to be an effective strategy for staying in the loop and keeping your team engaged. When leading a diverse team, it is important to provide opportunities for those you supervise in the workplace to talk about current workloads, career goals, and any other professional-related matters where you need to be in the loop.To make these meetings more effective, consider adding a personal element to your regular sit-downs of ZOOM-ins. With a multi-generational workforce and the increase is remote-work, our professional and personal lives are more integrated and entwined than ever. Check-ins should not be all about business all the time. Respect privacy and cultural differences, but knowing a little bit about your employees’ lives outside of the office can have a major impact on how you manage and communicate with them during working hours.
- Get social – Think about social check-ins, virtual or in-person, that includes opportunities to report workplace goals and performance. These check-ins can also help you take the temperature on team morale. Also, social interactions can foster better communication and trust. Understand that unlike our traditional North American way of interacting other cultures place a higher value on connecting work to social or relational interactions.
- Get smart – Take the time to get some cultural knowledge about your team members. Cultural knowledge indicates the communal rules, values, beliefs, etc. of people that influence an individual’s thinking. There are five aspects to consider when looking at cultural knowledge: values, norms, symbols, classification of reality, and worldview. Culture is the way we do things around “here” wherever here is for you and your team.
- Be empathetic – The majority of HR professionals and CEOs agree that an empathetic workplace positively impacts business performance, motivating workers, and increasing productivity. A Workplace Empathy Study by Businessolver found that 96 percent of employees surveyed believed it was important for their employers to demonstrate empathy. On the other hand, 92 percent thought that empathy remains undervalued. Empathy is the key to creating a culture of teamwork. Showing empathy in the workplace means understanding that not one person can do their job without other team members supporting roles at work. You can come up with a product, sure, but without a marketing team to sell it or engineering and design teams to create it, you’re not going to get anywhere. If you do nothing else when thinking about diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace, think about empathy. How do you lead diverse teams effectively? Show people that you care and that they have value in the organization beyond producing widgets for profit.
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The proven method to navigate, communicate and collaborate with your increasingly diverse workforce.
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