Workplace happiness: using diversity to create community

Why diversity intelligence matters and how it can make a difference to your company

To feel happy at work – or at home – we have to feel like we belong. Work must be a place where we feel respected, comfortable and cared for. Work needs to become a community, a secure and welcoming place.

Today’s leaders feel constant pressure to innovate and position their products, services, and teams more creatively than ever before. However, innovation and creativity only happen when our employees are happy – and in our Middle Eastern highly diverse workplaces, diversity intelligence is critical to achieving a truly collaborative, inclusive and engaging work community where happiness thrives.

In order to inspire happiness at work, business leaders should begin with including. Instead of diversity being a challenge, turn it into a tool for success. Leaders who leverage diversity to develop, motivate and empower people to achieve extraordinary results aren’t acting randomly. By aligning diversity intelligence with leadership strategies and communication practices we can inspire by including – and we can actually create workplace happiness.

The impact of workplace diversity on happiness

The world is shrinking every day and our organisations reflect the remarkable diversity around us. Globalisation means companies from virtually anywhere can do business from anywhere else, with anyone. In order to succeed, organisations must embrace workplace diversity and leaders must develop fine-tuned diversity intelligence.

Diversity intelligence is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual. The concept of diversity intelligence encompasses acceptance and respect. It is the exploration of our differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. By nuturing diversity, organisations open the door to workplace happiness – when our staff feel they are understood, welcome and embraced, they naturally feel happy at work.

Benefits of workplace diversity

Workplace diversity can make organisations more productive and profitable. Happy workplaces contagiously inspire empowerment, innovation and performance. Diversity also brings differences that we must understand and embrace for those benefits to be realised.

Among the advantages of diversity in the workplace are: better problem solving, higher productivity, better employee relations, new language skills, better client insight, and new processes.

By consciously integrating workers from culturally diverse backgrounds into their workforce, Gulf organisations become much stronger and their workplaces become happier. Diversity-intelligent leaders ensure that diversity is an integral part of the business plan, essential to successful projects, programs, products and increased sales. This is especially true in today’s global marketplace, as organisations interact with different cultures and clients.

Improving your diversity intelligence

It takes work to learn a new skill, and diversity intelligence is no different. Fortunately, there are many tools and strategies that help leaders improve their diversity intelligence to manage team relationships and move their engagement (and workplace happiness) levels to drive performance. The tools below are some of the most effective:

1) Adaptable communication practices are a critical pillar of advanced diversity intelligence. It may seem obvious, but people from different backgrounds, cultures, countries, sexes, and ages have different approaches to communication, motivation and idea creation. To make people feel comfortable, leaders must adapt their communication practices to their audiences. Fluid communication practices create opportunity for people to feel empowered and thrive as both individuals and teams.

2) Diversity ‘blind spots’ are a roadblock to success. Understanding our own natural unconscious biases that influence our opinions and decision-making is a powerful self-awareness tool. Leaders with advanced diversity intelligence adopt strategies to counter our tendencies to judge and conclude too quickly. Their openness translates into approachability and sensitivity – two of the critical components to good relationship management.

3) Diversity ‘comfort zones’ are responsible for our instinct to surround ourselves and hire those like us. It’s awkward to move out of the security blanket of the comfort zones – but if we don’t overcome this tendency, we limit our workplace happiness. No one wants to work in a place where they feel isolated from the ‘others’. There are some excellent tools that help leaders get comfortable with feeling initially uncomfortable so that they can improve their diversity intelligence.

4) Developing an action plan is about reinforcing a commitment to change. A diversity action plan includes specific follow up steps and strategies to address roadblocks to success. Change management is essential to a diversity action plan.

Workplace happiness is real and it’s attainable. Diversity intelligence provides leaders with strategic insight necessary to understanding and engaging those you lead – the key to harnessing the creative talent within is creating the ideal environment for innovation in the first place.

Happy workplaces value relationships, personal growth, positive reinforcement, and brainstorming – a place where everyone’s ideas matter. Are you ready to start your movement to build an organisation that focuses on workplace happiness?

Paul Pelletier, LL.B. PMP is a consultant with PDSi, a Dubai-based management consulting firm specialising in the design and delivery of executive coaching, leadership development and mentoring programmes.

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