Diverse cultures and wellbeing: Expanding our mindset
Workplace Wellbeing Hack #4
If you are hiring well, your teams are composed of highly qualified people with varying ethnicities, ages, gender preferences, academic degrees, professional experiences, personalities, backgrounds, beliefs and values - you have a richly diverse workforce. Well done! Studies agree that companies with diverse workforces perform up to 35% above average.
Because contributors to wellbeing include a sense of belonging, a network of close friends and a feeling of safety, diverse employees can be at risk. They are the most likely to be left out of work-related groups (project and tasks teams) and social groups (lunches, happy hours, softball teams).
Making sure everyone is happily engaged is the work of “inclusion,” the partner of diversity in the workplace. Inclusion does not mean making everyone believe, think nor act the same. Inclusion means unifying disparate strengths and talents – and the people who own them -to meet your organizational goals in an environment in which all employees feel empowered to be wholly themselves. The biggest blocks to inclusion are bias, prejudice and misunderstanding.
Not understanding coworkers’ behaviors based on their differences
Misunderstanding someone can be caused by simple things (speaking with an accent that isn’t understood by others) to complex (misinterpreting cultural differences in behaviors).
In the U.S., we think of assertive behaviors (speaking up without being asked, self-starting, questioning authority, speaking more than listening) as signs of leadership and competency. In some Asian and other cultures, in contrast, these behaviors are viewed as poor manners. Instead, people might wait their “turn” to speak or offer their opinions only when asked. They would not question the boss, and would be respectful of hierarchy, process and structure.
Studies show that extraverts experience greater workplace wellbeing than introverts, as indicated by the famous Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator™ (MBTI), which is based on Carl Jung’s theory of personality types and is one of the most widely used psychological instruments. Managers who understand their employees’ tendencies toward introversion and extraversion can avoid labels such as “shy” or “not leadership material” and can coach employees to maximize use of their natural tendencies, and to strengthen skills necessary to their jobs, such as speaking up or listening.
There are five generations currently in the workplace. Soon, one group, Millennials (Generation Y, born between 1982-1994), will make up 75% of the total workforce. That’s why they are the target audience for most employer brands and workplace initiatives. However, inclusion demands that all your employees, no matter what age and generation, have equal place and voice.
A special note about age
Age discrimination is a special problem faced mostly by Baby Boomers and Traditionalists (1925-1945). These are largely ignored in diversity and inclusion programs - while 64% of CEOs report having diversity and inclusion initiatives, only eight percent include age in these. Be sure to include age as part of your diversity programs, dealing with ageism in behaviors, practices and most important, mindset. Older workers give companies an edge, contributing experience, business savvy, maturity, patience and life skills.
By 2022, workers ages 50 and older will comprise 35% of the workforce, with nearly 80% of employees intending to work well into their retirement years.