Diversity in the workplace often brings a lot of surprising benefits, from stimulating innovation to increasing the bottom line. Jira resource management software from Tempo makes it easy to oversee the work of diverse teams.
A lot of research supports the benefits of diversity in the workplace. For example, an analysis of 2,400 global companies found that companies with at least one woman on the board yield higher return on equity than companies with all-male boards. A study of 4,277 Spanish companies found that companies with more women are more likely to introduce new innovative products into the market. Even academia sees the benefits of diversity. In 2014, two Harvard researchers found that academic papers produced by ethnically diverse authors get more citations than those written by ethnically homogeneous authors.
So what is it that’s so special about a diverse group of people working together on a problem? Can diversity really make a company more innovative and intelligent? The answer appears to be yes. Each individual in a diverse team comes to the table with a different background and history. Research shows that members expect conflict and are better prepared for differences of opinion. They anticipate alternative viewpoints and assume that reaching consensus will take time and effort. Diverse teams tend to reexamine facts and thus are more likely to be objective.
In other words, the members of diverse groups seem to work harder, both socially and intellectually. There’s a lot of evidence that the hard work performed in diverse teams pays off with better results. In one 2009 study, for example, fraternity and sorority members were placed in a team of three and instructed to solve a murder mystery game. As they were reviewing the evidence, every group was joined by a fourth team member— either someone from the same house or from a different one. The results? Those groups with diverse membership performed much better, in spite of the fact that they were less confident in their judgments.
Still, there are some caveats. Diversity in the workplace can cause conflict if not properly implemented. “It’s critical to note that simply making a team more diverse is not necessarily enough to see the benefits,” David Rock, Heidi Grant and Jacqui Grey write in the Harvard Business Review. “Diverse teams must find ways to work together productively, and often the best ways of working may seem counterintuitive.”
Here are some tips for managing a diverse team:
Highlight that multiculturalism is valuable and appreciated.
You may be tempted to downplay any differences. Don’t. A 2009 study examined support for multiculturalism versus colorblindness at a large U.S. health care firm. The more that workers agreed with the statement that “employees should recognize and celebrate racial and ethnic differences” and disagreed that “employees should downplay their racial and ethnic differences,” the more minorities reported being engaged at work.
Ensure knowledge is being shared.
No matter how multifaceted a team is, diversity will not enhance the overall effectiveness of a group unless its members freely share their knowledge. Encourage discussion by asking questions and make sure everyone is included in the conversation.
Foster psychological safety.
Psychological safety is always important, but especially so in diverse groups where members may feel less familiar with one another. Create an environment where diverse team members can feel at ease and comfortable contributing.
Jira resource management software from Tempo, also known as Tempo Planner, can help you plan big projects for diverse teams, whatever the group dynamics. Learn more about how Jira resource management software from Tempo works.