Diversity in the Workplace

Photo: Helena Lopes

Text: Göksu Celikkol

Cultural diversity means the co-existence of groups of people who have different values, beliefs, and traditions in the same context. Cultural diversity at the workplace, therefore, means developing inclusive workplaces in which every member, regardless of their ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds, or their sexual orientations and age, has equal chances to work in an environment where different perspectives and cultures are appreciated.

In recent years, some organisations in Finland have started taking initiatives and giving trainings to create culturally inclusive workplaces. For example, some events aim to bring together employers who are interested in recruiting foreign job seekers in Finland. Research shows that culturally diverse companies are more successful, productive, innovative, and have higher chances to make a global impact on the industry. Alongside its benefits to the company, cultural diversity at the workplace has great benefits for the employees with different backgrounds.

In inclusive workplaces, all employees have equal rights and chances to access opportunities and resources that the company offers. Furthermore, employees have social capital, i.e. social ties with others, feel belonged to a team, trust one another, and have cooperation with different groups e.g. in shared projects. Having more diversity in workplaces, thus, has the power to positively impact employees’ social capital by providing them with economic stability, new connections and a feeling of belonging to a community. Creating a common workplace identity can make them see the similarities between themselves and other team members from different backgrounds.

Additionally, research shows that having positive interactions with someone from different cultural background or seeing people who do not share the same values and beliefs interacting positively, may reduce prejudice. Working towards a goal together, especially when supported by the organization, can have a positive impact on the attitudes of people with diverse backgrounds. It can motivate individuals to learn more about other, decrease anxiousness and increase the trust in people who do not share their beliefs or values. Consequently, employees would be more willing to share ideas and respect each other’s perspectives. They would have a higher motivation to work together for the recognition of their company in the industry. Thus, a company’s stand on diversity initiatives is of great importance when fostering intergroup tolerance and harmony at the workplace.

Sources and further reading:

Dizikes 2014: Study: Workplace diversity can help the bottom line

Ebert, K., & Okamoto, D. G. (2013). Social citizenship, integration, and collective action: Immigrant civic engagement in the United States. Social Forces, 91(4), 1267–1292.

Ely & Thomas 2020: Getting Serious About Diversity: Enough Already with the Business Case

FINDIX, 2019

Novak, J. A., Feyes, K. J., and Christensen, K. A. (2011). Application of Intergroup Contact

Theory to the Integrated Workplace: Setting the Stage for Inclusion. Counseling and Special Education Faculty Publications, 2