Diversity and the Psychology Behind It

There was an excellent survey conducted by Adecco recently, and the results are really compelling.

To summarize the findings, diversity is something that a number of companies are giving lip service to. They talk about it, but employees are still feeling like they’re being discriminated against. In particular, age discrimination seems to be the one that many people are feeling the most prevalent.

The really nice finding? More diversity = More productive

“Not only do the majority of workers think that a diverse workforce makes their organization more successful, half of respondents (53 percent) felt that the more diverse their company, the more productive a worker they’d become.”

What I personally find really interesting are the methods that they mention as ways to improve diversity in your organization. Each one has some powerful I-O psychological concepts in them.

1) Gain senior management commitment – Training research has presented evidence that when you’re going to have a program, people are more likely to engage if they feel that upper management is invested in the success of the program. If you’ve got senior management buy-in, you’ll get more trainees to buy-in as well.

2) Engage employees in the process – This really is a no-brainer, but it’s been proven through research. If you want employees to disengage with and torpedo a program, force it down their throats and make them feel like they don’t have any say in it. You want success? Let them be involved.

3) Support local/community diversity groups – This is a really good way to help gain your employees’ trust, especially in terms of a diversity training program. Organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs) can really drive a diversity program. Additionally there are concepts in social psychology and in particular, the work of Robert Cialdini, that apply here. When employees see that you’re really dedicated to diversity, they’re much more likely to do the same thing.

4) Provide diversity training – You can’t just talk about something and expect change. If you want to change behaviors, you have to apply all of the other methods in social and cognitive psychology for creating behavior change. But you also have to give your employees the tools and the methods to learn how to do it. There’s also a bit more here from Cialdini about social proof. When you get a group of people in a room to agree that diversity is important and needs to be given attention, they’ll have a hard time going back on that.

5) Promote open communication – This really goes back to what I mentioned about including your employees in the decisions. If they’re engaged and involved in the decisions, making sure that you have honest, open communication is going to feed that engagement. This also allows you to eradicate a society where discrimination is tolerated. If people feel comfortable coming forward with a complaint, they’re probably going to come to you, before they go visit with the EEOC.

This is a really nicely presented research report and I love the psychology imbedded in it. Excellent work, Adecco. Bravo!

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