By Kirsten Blakemore (@KirstenBeMe), MA CPCC and Mattson Newell (@MattsonNewell), Director at Partners In Leadership.

Managing diversity in the workplace is a critical skill for leaders to hone as companies spend significant time, energy, and resources driving workplace diversity and inclusion.

After working with thousands of organizations for the past 30 years, we've spotted an interesting trend: workplace diversity provides a competitive advantage. According to a report that appeared in Scientific American, decades of research show that working with diverse people encourages us to push the normal boundaries and to think differently. It encourages creativity and innovation. And McKinsey's research shows that gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform their peers and ethnically-diverse companies are 35% more likely to do the same.

Even so, many leaders talk the talk when it comes to diversity and inclusion, but too few walk the walk. This is because knowing that you need a diverse workforce is not the same as understanding how to manage diversity.

The biggest mistake managers make is applying the same management style for each person on their team. This results in poor management, which can have a negative impact on a company, from low morale to high turnover--the exact opposite of what a dynamic, well-managed diverse workforce can deliver.

What is key to managing diversity? Adjust your leadership style depending on the person or the situation. Whether race, age, gender, or any number of qualities that make your workforce unique, how you manage one person may not be the way to manage, motivate, and lead another.

Effectively managing diversity in the workplace starts by focusing on these three things:

1.  Connect

Everyone is driven differently. Connect with your employees and find out what motivates them. People like to be heard and understood. Making the effort to inquire about them personally and see what they are passionate about may uncover their motivating lever. When you understand what works, you can engage each team member by providing them the information they need, the way they need to receive it.

2.  Creative Collaboration

Set your team up for success by clearly identifying company and department goals. Communicate what is expected of them to deliver on those goals--and then let them creatively collaborate around how to achieve them. Take advantage of the different viewpoints you have on your team, creating opportunities for people to express ideas and provide feedback. Finally, set checkpoints along the way to ensure alignment around goals. The intention of checkpoints is not to micromanage but to offer continuous support, keep the team on point, and clear obstacles to success.

3. Constant Communication

Give frequent coaching and feedback on how they are doing. The benefit of coaching is building your bench strength, aligning around the same goals, and providing insights to the employee where they could have an even greater impact.

Managing diversity and inclusion in this increasingly diverse and multi-generational workforce requires that you intentionally Connect, Creatively Collaborate, and have constant communication with each person in the manner that works for them. When you do, you create a more engaged, motivated, focused workforce ready to deliver impactful results.

Published on: Oct 26, 2017
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