We know that companies with more diverse boards perform better, teams made up of folks from different backgrounds are more innovative, and even that multicultural scientific teams do better work, so perhaps the latest findings on diversity and business performance out of MIT shouldn't come as a huge surprise.
More Diversity = More Money
The results focused on the most essential business outcome of all--money--and confirmed that more diversity means more joy for your bottom line. The research analyzed eight years of data out of a single, large professional services firm that included both single gender and mixed gender teams. When the research team looked at how switching from an all-male or all-female office to a co-ed one affected performance, they found that greater diversity boosted revenue by 41 percent.
The reason for this impressive bump in financial performance isn't hard to guess. "Having a more diverse set of employees means you have a more diverse set of skills," commented study co-author and MIT economist Sara Ellison, which "could result in an office that functions better."
But Will Your Employees Like It?
This latest data is one more kick in the pants for business owners to pay attention to diversity when hiring, but the findings also provide grounds for caution for leaders looking to increase the heterogeneity of their teams. Getting markedly different types of people together may make you more money, but it's not guaranteed to make your employees happier.
Why? The researchers found that teams with more in common actually got along better, displaying more trust, cooperation and enjoyment. "A baseball team entirely composed of catchers could have high esprit de corps," Ellison offered as an analogy, "but it would not perform very well on the field."
"People may like the idea of a diverse workplace more than they like actual diversity in the workplace," she concludes.
The takeaway for managers may be that while encouraging greater diversity is a good idea, you should probably expect some push back, and make sure you're up to speed on the latest techniques for helping mixed teams work together constructively. On Forbes, Kare Anderson has drawn on her personal experience navigating a fraught but ultimately successful project with a very diverse team to offer tips to those working with colleagues from very different backgrounds, while Management Today has rounded up advice for managers overseeing these sorts of diverse work groups.