The workforce of a company is the backbone for operations and business as well as corporate functions. The era of automation and complete robotics is still not approved by all, and human employees are here to stay for a long time. A strong workforce may be defined in diverse ways. Skills, synergy, and a common goal are generic attributes, but the one thing that is grand in the current workforce composition is ‘diversity.’ A 2009 American Sociological Association study entitled “Diversity Linked to Increased Sales Revenue and Profits, More Customers,” revealed that “companies reporting the highest levels of racial diversity brought in nearly 15 times more sales revenue on average than those with the lowest levels of racial diversity.” This particular report was published almost a decade ago, and the findings are still applicable today.
The diversity seen today is an outcome of a long fought battle. Race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, ability, and sexual orientation molds today’s diverse workforce, but it was not the same a hundred years ago. The event that intensified diversity in workforce was The American Civil War where women became an integral part of the workplace. The late 19th century saw companies hire white woman for higher positions than people of color. Inequality was there to stay and it is still a profound matter. Gradually labor unions were formed to balance work equality among men and women. World War II changed the culture as a major portion of the male population left for war, and women stepped up to fill those job vacancies. The sense of independence enhanced, and since then the journey has been uphill. Despite discrimination, from 1954-1980, many women went from housewives to employees. On the other side of the spectrum, religion, ethnicity, age and sexual orientations have had their own share of struggle in society and eventually the workplace.
Personnel with similar experiences give less dimensional solutions. Heterogeneity, in solution, is achieved through workforce diversity as it allies people with different experiences and philosophies into one platform with diverse cognitive aspects and knowledge. Boards with more women lead more profitable companies, and among the Fortune 500 firms, those with the highest proportion of female leaders had higher returns on equity, sales, and invested capital. According to Forbes, there are crucial benefits of cognitive diversity (diversity in how people feel, think, and act). The benefits range from creative and innovative decision-making after strategic leadership discussions to employees’ skills enhancement.
Millennials and Generation Z will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025. They are the generation who works on the basis of giving back to society in one way or another. The leaders of these generations will look to benefit society by enhancing the diversity situation. Driven by intellectual curiosity, they will likely lead a human revolution toward establishing a just world of work, where qualified individuals with unique abilities will be able to advance their careers without being pigeonholed as disabled. Out Leadership research shows that only 11% of women and 17% of men thought being gay was advantageous to their career five years ago. Recent research shows that 70% of LGBT members see a successful and a positive future in the workforce. We can definitely expect an increase in the rate of LGBT CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, which is currently less than 0.5%.
It is not just about workforce diversity; it is about having the right mold of diverse people. It is a major challenge for employers to attract, hire, and retain a workforce that is diverse not for the sake of diversity but also for a skillful workforce. Creating a synergic environment for employees with different skills, background, experiences and life philosophies is exigent, and if achieved, the market predicts that it will take the company to new heights. The future market will cater the most diverse workforce than ever before. According to Gartner research, 350 million people with disabilities will enter the workforce in the next decade. Globalization has boosted the Gig Economy and freelancers are working from all over the globe. There are more women leaders than ever and LGBTI is on the rise. A new generation of leaders and a developing market will fuel the diverse workforce just like a verse of a beautiful song; rhythmic and progressive.