Taking advantage of the diversity bonus

In Collaboration, Diversity, Employee networking, Internal communications, Self-organisation by Elisabeth Schuller

Companies can significantly benefit from a diversity bonus. In order to do this, they need to bring together professionals with diverse backgrounds and diverse mindsets. When it comes to selecting the right people for teams and projects and to making meaningful connections, a long-term strategy helps. It is primarily Human Resources’ responsibility.

 Until only a few years ago, a high proportion of daily work was performed in routines. But in today’s digital age and knowledge society, this is no longer the case. Most companies face increasingly complex tasks – a development that is unstoppable. Individual skilled workers are less and less able to solve today’s and tomorrow’s challenges as “solopreneurs”. For example, Artificial Intelligence (AI) projects are multi-dimensional and require both psychological and technical skills. Even when it comes to designing innovative products and services, new distribution methods or more efficient organizational structures, cooperation in multidisciplinary teams whose members have different experiences and skills is required. Bringing together different ways of thinking can add value beyond simply increased capabilities. Diversity is the keyword of the hour. People with different origins and cultures, ages, genders or study and educational backgrounds possess, one the one hand, diverse knowledge and information. On the other hand, they use different models of thinking and approach things in completely different ways. Exchanging views, influencing each other and learning from one another – advance both the individual employees as well as the entire company and its projects.

Orchestrating projects properly

It’s like a good orchestra: The violin alone does not make an impressive concert yet. To inspire the whole audience, timpani and trumpets, flutes or cellos must also play their role. It is very important to select exactly those actors who fit well into the ensemble and whose playing style and ideas open up new possibilities for the whole orchestra. The situation is similar in (project) teams. As the American social scientist Scott E. Page shows in his book “The Diversity Bonus: How Great Teams Pay Off in the Knowledge Economy”: Companies are more successful when they rely on employees who work together efficiently. The focus is on an agile organization in which colleagues complement each other and orchestrate projects together. It is not about the indiscriminate scaling of group sizes, but the matching of people who fit well together and jointly develop new ideas and solutions. After all, no one would benefit if colleagues that did not harmonise were forced to work together.

Strategic diversity management

Companies should pay close attention to lay the foundations for smooth collaboration between colleagues from different backgrounds. In order for this to be successful in the long run, it is advisable to pursue a long-term concept that includes various building blocks and governs how diversity is lived. Ultimately, the key challenge is anchoring this “diversity” in the business – it must be lived and understood. It is also necessary to incorporate different opinions into a discourse. Crucial: Strong communication is required for employees and managers to recognize the potential that diversity has for corporate success.

The Human Resources (HR) department has a special responsibility with regard to diversity management. On the one hand, this relates to recruiting. Care must be taken to select candidates who, together with the existing team, create real value-add. This is only possible if their skills, backgrounds and competencies complement and strengthen the team. In addition, HR has the task of implementing measures for a diversity culture and of ensuring that this culture can develop across the whole company. This relates to different backgrounds, opinions and approaches. A monitoring approach with clearly defined criteria should also be considered in order to assess the status of diversity in the enterprise and identify where improvements should be made.


5 Measures on how companies use the Diversity Bonus

Strategic recruiting: Personnel selection is a crucial element in diversity management. Ideally, HR ensures a well-thought-out diversity in the application processes. At the same time, it is extremely important to attract specialists who fit in well with the company and the team.

Cross-departmental matching: It is generally of little use to have competent specialists in the company, if they are not in contact with each other. In order to provide cross-departmental touchpoints between colleagues, various options are available – for example internal social networks. It works even easier and faster with solutions like Mystery Lunch which connect employees with different backgrounds for a joint lunch.

Bringing project teams together: When lateral thinkers in the company with diverse backgrounds and competencies meet for personal exchanges and out-of-the-box meetings, new ideas are generated and creative thinking emerges. Online platforms like Mystery Brain can help you find the right people for a project from all across the company. When project managers announce participation in meetings throughout the company, they open up new horizons.

Work shadowing: Getting to know people from another department can open new horizons. Thus, work shadowing days result in learning potential, as it becomes clear where certain things that colleagues do can be reused. In addition, there is just as much potential in better understanding processes in neighbouring departments. The complexity of processes often only becomes understandable once they have been examined with one’s own eyes. Further added value through work shadowing: The new contacts with different colleagues thus established promote the dismantling of silos.

Diversity training: It is not enough to make diversity a topic for the HR department alone. Although HR can own the topic, it also requires actors who promote collaboration between employees with different backgrounds. Especially leadership personnel with high empathy is in demand. Companies should offer targeted training to develop diversity.