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For many organizations, workplace diversity is a topic of regular discussion in leadership meetings. It’s becoming more important with each passing day, and many companies take time to have conversations and hold workshops on the topic. But when it comes to all of the ingredients that make up workplace diversity, is your company considering everything that should be on the list?

How Do Most Companies Approach Diversity?

Companies are working hard to acknowledge how cultural influences impact employee relationships. They are learning how to best understand and relate to different generations—Millennials being no exception. Society sees the gap between men and women in the workplace, and it continues to be talked about. Many organizations have created a stronger sense of pride in their workplace, accepting people no matter their sexual orientation. 

Many organizations are working toward creating a diverse workplace. Some of the different aspects of diversity they likely consider are:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Ability and disability

But what type of diversity is often left out of these conversations?

What's the Secret Ingredient?

Diversity of personality.

Diversity of personality is a type of diversity that you can’t see. And often when things aren’t visible on the surface, it’s a lot easier not to talk about them. However this type of diversity is actually experienced in every team, every meeting, and every interaction. We often think of personality as the style or approach someone uses or the strengths they bring to their role, but it's important to note that personality not only creates strengths, it also creates differences. The personalities that we often stereotype most are the ones that are different from or clash with our own. This creates a type of personality bias. For example, here are a few common examples of how we can look at different personalities and immediately see how they are different in a bad way

  • She talks too much! --- He doesn’t speak up!
  • He is a meticulous perfectionist. --- She can’t follow a plan!
  • She can’t make a decision! --- He is too impulsive!
  • He’s too emotional all the time! --- Does she have any feelings?

These examples reveal one of the reasons why it’s important to talk about personality diversity (and diversity of any type for that matter): if we don’t, it’s much easier to point out negative differences instead of leveraging unique strengths.

Now that we’ve unveiled the secret ingredient to workplace diversity—personality—let’s see how we can harness diversity in the workplace. 

Mixing Diverse Ingredients to Create an Inclusive Outcome

If we think of a leader approaching diversity like the way a baker approaches making a cake, diversity represents the baker’s ingredients. Thus, having all of the ingredients to create a diverse workplace is only the first step. If you don’t do anything with the ingredients, you will not reap the benefits of having a diverse workplace culture. This is because diversity is only really about the who—who are the people sitting at the table?

Next is the tricky part. In making a cake, professional bakers outshine the amateurs with their heightened skills in measuring and mixing the batter, precisely baking the cake, and topping it all off with icing. This process represents our next step: inclusion. Inclusion is what you do with the ingredients—how well are you able to help different individuals bond together, collaborate, and create an environment where everyone will flourish (and hopefully come back for seconds)?

The biggest mistake a leader can make is sticking to the assumption that inclusion will happen on its own—you won't produce an amazing cake just by mixing the ingredients together. Therefore, leaders need to intentionally foster a culture of open communication, transparency, trust, respect, and understanding in order to create an inclusive environment for everyone to feel comfortable and achieve success.  

In the absence of inclusion, diversity feels different. When we approach diversity with the mindset of inclusion, that’s when the magic comes to life. No one wants to feel different, but most of us want to feel special and unique.

For example, let’s look at the negative traits we associated with different personalities and see how, when better understood and appreciated, they can be seen in a positive light:

  • She talks too much! --- He doesn’t speak up!
    • I love how she always opens up conversation with the team --- I love how he is very intentional in what he communicates with others.
  • He is a meticulous perfectionist. --- She can’t make a plan!
    • He always has a plan that considers all the important details --- She’s always very flexible with projects and adaptive to changing plans.
  • She can’t make a decision! --- He is too impulsive!
    • It’s really helpful how she considers all the different variables before committing to a decision. --- It’s really helpful how he makes quick decisions and adjusts them later if needed.
  • He’s too emotional all the time! --- Does she have any feelings?
    • His subjective and expressive approach has been helpful when brainstorming for this project. --- Her practical approach has been really productive in completing this project.

It's easy to see the positive side when you're open to confronting your mindset and natural biases. Team building workshops that enable participants to share their personalities and perspectives are an effective way to begin talking about the strengths associated with a diverse mix of personalities. It's important for individuals to have the opportunity to share the intentions of their personality style, yet also listen to how others may be experiencing them from their point of view. Where leaders can add exponential value is in helping the team brainstorm ways these diverse personalities can all effectively work together. 

The Importance of Personality Diversity

Being able to successfully create and foster a culture of workplace diversity requires energy, but it also enables organizations to leverage a wider scope of perspectives and opinions. Approaching situations from multiple angles is a competitive advantage in that it allows you to generate more possibilities and better outcomes.

Ensuring your workplace and team has diverse personalities at work:

  • Increases productivity by more quickly generating different ideas and potential outcomes
  • Solves problems faster by approaching them from multiple perspectives
  • Promotes out of the box thinking and increases idea generation and creativity
  • Leverages an internal process of checks and balances based on your range of personalities

As you can see, there are many benefits to creating a workplace culture of diversity and inclusion. Not only are there benefits from a business standpoint, there are also benefits that reach intrinsically into the lives of the people that you work with. While we may not be able to measure this impact down to the cent, people will always appreciate the respect, inclusion, and positive change.  

Reaching Further:  

Workplace diversity is an important topic for HR managers and business leaders, but it can be a tough topic to get started on. At Birkman, we're experts in the diversity of personality, using our own reports to drive understanding and awareness of the unique people on our team. With unparalleled insight and scientifically-validated personality data, Birkman dives deep into the typical behavior, motivations, and what different people need from their environment to be successful. One way that we make talking about differences in personality fun, engaging, and easy is through our Birkman at Work team building workshops. These workshops are a great platform to begin positive conversations and to end misinformed biases regarding different personality styles. 

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