Harnessing the Power of Diversity in Teams

Becky Light
September 6, 2022

Everyone in your organization brings something valuable to the table. Your employees celebrate diverse backgrounds, belief systems, strengths, and even approaches to problem-solving. Diversity and inclusion programs provide numerous benefits, including access to quality talent, high engagement and trust within all levels of an organization. When you harness the power of diversity within a team environment, the advantages impact morale, performance, and your bottom line.

What makes a team diverse? A group of individuals that come together to achieve a common company goal make a team. Diversity is represented by team members of different ages, nationalities, ethnicities, gender, religious beliefs, education, mental and physical abilities, and more. Diversity encompasses fast or slow learners, introverts or extroverts, thinkers or doers. Creating a diverse team means empowering your employees. When each team member is heard, it creates an environment where members can trust and rely on one another. It becomes more than a random group of individuals and starts to become a force toward a mutual goal.

Leading a diverse team presents its own challenges. The leader must think beyond their personal worldview and see circumstances through the eyes of each team member. Empathy is one of the first building blocks of trust. An effective leader also defines individual roles from the start. Your team may have members that excel in organization or task completion. Your team may have thinkers and doers. Placing each person in a role that highlights their individual strengths makes employees feel validated and valued.

Multiple points of view are crucial to achieving goals that affect large groups of people. They also force team members to consider unfamiliar, uncomfortable or challenging perspectives. This is where the seeds of success are planted. Minds are opened. Dialogue ensues. Team diversity improves performance in many ways. Research shows that diversity doesn’t highlight the differences in team members but uniquely helps teams to find common ground.

A 2013 study by Woehr and colleagues found that the impact of team diversity resulted in higher levels of similarity across team members and fostered cohesion and less conflict than homogenous working groups. This study showed that diverse teams approached problem-solving with novelty and free discussion rather than order and harmony. Decisions were quicker and resulted in higher quality. In essence, diversity in teams led its members to find compatibility and community. This resulted in out of the box thinking and stronger outcomes.

Diverse teams also enjoyed more creativity and less conflict. Research by Stahl and colleagues in 2021 showed teams that were culturally diverse experienced more effective communication with each other and with the organization at large. They also reported higher satisfaction with their own work performance and improved perception of their fellow worker’s performance. Team diversity resulted in a better outlook individually and as a group.

Team diversity allows individuals to participate actively and have each unique voice heard. Increased engagement and motivation emerge, and employee turnover rates go down. These teams that provide novel solutions increase competitive advantage. Diverse teams are effective teams, and effective teams reduce turnaround on project completion, increase productivity and boost revenue.

Working with people who are different from you challenges your mind to overcome outdated ways of thinking. You sharpen your focus, entertain new and different ways of learning, and appreciate the manifold of ideas now available. High performing teams don’t just happen because you put different people in a room together. Team diversity starts with trained leaders and clear goals. Diversity among group members is one way to facilitate forward thinking and improve individual employees, teams and the overall organization. When you harness the power of diversity, new pathways are formed. It’s up to you to take the first step forward.

1.    Woehr DJ, Arciniega LM, Poling TL. Exploring the Effects of Value Diversity on Team Effectiveness. J Bus Psychol 2013; 28:107-121.

2.    Stahl GK and Maznevski ML. Unraveling the effects of cultural diversity in teams: A retrospective of research on multicultural work groups and an agenda for future research J International Bus Studies 2021; 52:4-22.

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