How to motivate a diverse workforce

The Key to Motivating Diverse Workforces

Diversity initiatives are generally positive for the work environment. They recognize and celebrate the diversity of the workforce, and they often outwardly promote efforts toward creating a more beneficial workplace because of the demographically dissimilar makeup of the people within it. An organization’s success and competitiveness depends upon its ability to embrace diversity and realize the benefits. However, diversity and fairness and motivating a diverse workforce often get confused and tangled together.

While diversity initiatives and inclusionary efforts provide a necessary means of recognizing biases that exist in the workplace, they may also unintentionally foster those same biases. Without understanding a deeper level of what makes a workforce diverse and unique, pitfalls may emerge that are more common than you might think.

The following is an excerpt from the whitepaper, The Key to Motivating a Diverse Workforce.

People Within Diversity Groups Are Still Unique Individuals

Some diversity initiatives make assumptions based on biases, thus further reinforcing such biases. And while this result is unintentional, it proves to be damaging to the individuals within the groups and to the mission of each group as a whole.

For example, a group that’s comprised of a team of women seeking help with leadership skills might falsely assume that all women within the group have skillsets that mesh with stereotypically female characteristics (being empathetic and team-oriented, for example). This commonality within the group may not be the case. Some women may have a more assertive leadership style. Others may prefer working on their own, as opposed to working on teams.

However, the organization’s own biases toward what characteristics women have as a group, even if they are positive, end up missing the mark for individual women who do not adhere to these stereotypes. So while diversity and inclusion efforts are powerful because they allow groups to organize and draw attention to common biases at work, they may also suffer from the same set of biases that they were attempting to avoid, by focusing on “what women want” and thus viewing “women” as a monolithic group as a result.

The bottom line is that groups that are “diverse” within their work context also contain many unique aspects of diversity within them.

The analogy of an iceberg comes to mind in the face of a multitude of potential dimensions of individuals. The obvious characteristics of race, ethnicity, gender, age, and disability relate to the small, visible portion of the iceberg.1 Yet there is so much more beneath the surface.

While surface-level diversity may serve as a means of initiating diversity groups and inclusionary efforts, it’s the deeper level understanding that helps drive meaningful action toward improving the motivation of each individual in the workplace. Members of all groups, although they share some demographic similarities, are often motivated in differing ways and require an individualized approach to help find fulfillment and opportunities to thrive.

Download the full whitepaper

To read more on motivating a diverse group of employees, download the full whitepaper: The Key to Motivating a Diverse Workforce.

1. Mazur, B. (2010). Cultural Diversity in Organisational Theory and Practice. Journal of Intercultural Management. 2(2), 5-15.