A diverse workforce can be very beneficial for your company. Companies with a diverse workforce are more innovative and creative than their more homogeneous counterparts. Employees with a different cultural background are also better equipped to approach different and new types of customer groups.
The Stichting van de Arbeid, a Dutch foundation that focusses on reducing discrimination in the job market, tries to battle discrimination with the aforementioned positive outlook on cultural differences in the workforce. They believe that hiring staff with different backgrounds, gender, or with disabilities can yield many advantages instead of disadvantages. They want to showcase these positive effects.
Finding the right place
Most important is placing professionals with different backgrounds at the right place in your organisation. A great example of this is KPN, one of the largest telecom providers in the Netherlands. A few years ago, they started hiring visually impaired staff for their callcenters. Because of their disability these visually impaired workers are more capable and equipped to listen to the customers than hearing workers. They can identify different emotions expressed in tone and language more easily than the average callcenter employee, resulting in a better service, which in turn results in satisfied customers.
Ahold Delhaize, a large Dutch grocery retailer, also discovered that the young workers with disabilities they hired, were usually adored and favoured among customers. Customer satisfaction surveys showed that these workers are usually the most popular employees of local stores.
Allowing your employees to be “different”
It is important that once an employee with a multicultural background is hired for the right job, that they are allowed to be “different”. Companies should create a safe environment and embrace diversity in the workforce. This can be achieved by being attentive to things like non-western holidays, the food in the canteen, flexible hours, appropriate facilities and manners.
Especially the everyday (respectful) dealings with one another at the workplace is something that is often forgotten by companies. Think for example about bisexual employees who are afraid to come out, because they do not want to be subject to insipid joking about “swinging both ways”. Or transgenders who are being confused for-, or labelled male or female. When workers feel safe and accepted, they are less likely to go on sick leave, which will in turn lead to less costs. In addition, a safe work environment will make any team stronger and bring the workers closer together. These are all positive points that are worth considering from an HR and marketing standpoint. Because diversity = business.
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