Prepare for the Future of Work: Increasing workforce diversity
by Jason Lauritsen December 10 2018
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This is the last of my 8-post series about preparing your organization for the future of work. In each post, we looked at a data-based trend that is or will be disruptive to work as we know it. In the last post, we explored the impact of the rise of artificial intelligence (AI). Today, we’re going to dig into the increasing diversity of our workforce.
Future of Work trend #8: An increasingly diverse workforce
By almost every measure, the U.S. workforce is becoming more diverse. You can see evidence of this diversity everywhere you look.
This isn’t a new trend. The diversity of the workforce in the U.S. has been increasing for decades. And that isn’t going to change any time soon. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the workforce is going to become more diverse across nearly all demographic categories over the next six years.
The share of women in the workforce will increase from 46.8% in 2014 to 47.2% in 2024.
The hispanic share of the workforce will see the biggest gains over the next six years from 16.3% in 2014 to 19.8% in 2024.
White non-hispanic workers will continue to be the majority, but that majority is on the decline and expected to be below 60% by 2024.
What does an increasingly diverse workforce mean for organizations?
As the workforce becomes steadily more diverse, it presents employers with a myriad of both opportunities and challenges. Diversity has been shown to have tremendous value to organizations impacting everything from performance to innovation. Also, the growing diversity should represent new talent pools for organizations who are agile enough to take advantage.
On the flip side of the equation, diversity creates little value without inclusion. To seize the opportunity of this trend requires organizations to aggressively and intentionally build cultures and practices that make everyone feel included and valued at work. It will be the organizations who can tap into the power of diversity through inclusion who will be best positioned to succeed in the future.
How can we prepare for the future of work, now?
The work of creating an inclusive organization is not simple or quick. It requires that your leadership be committed to this goal and invest both time and resources in making it happen. To get you started down that path, here are a few suggestions:
Create dialogue with your leaders about inclusion. While it may have seemed in the past like inclusion was an optional path for organizations, the shifting demographics suggest it's a requirement for the future. Engage your leaders in a conversation about this increasing diversity and the potential it holds if you can create a place that can harness its power. Be prepared with a few key recommendations for the first steps to take on this journey.
Look in the mirror. An increasingly diverse workforce means that you will have more groups of people with unique needs and expectations of work. Now is a good time to take a look at your policies, benefits and compensation philosophies through the lens of these diverse groups. Are your benefits plans flexible and inclusive? Do your policies ensure fair access to opportunities for everyone regardless of their gender, race, or disability status? Is your current pay equitable across gender, race and other demographic groups?
Create processes to ensure all voices are heard. Use formal processes to give voice to everyone. This might be as simple as ensuring that everyone speaks at least once during your team meetings or huddles. If you're asking the team for feedback or ideas, go around the room and ask everyone for their opinion directly. Some people won’t speak up unless invited or given permission to do so. When used correctly, employee surveys can also be a good way to tap into the collective diverse wisdom of your workforce.
Reward unique ideas and celebrate difference. Culturally, one small way to start a shift is to celebrate difference and uniqueness when you see it. For example, when someone shares a contrary opinion or a “crazy” idea in a meeting, give them recognition in front of the team for adding that value to the discussion. Also, try to find ways to allow people to share things about themselves that are unique. At the beginning of a meeting, ask everyone to share something about themselves that others probably don’t know. This might be a personal hobby or favorite music. A simple exercise like this brings to the surface the diversity in the room.
The workforce is already more diverse than it has ever been and that diversity will continue to increase in the future. As employers, we can either do the work now to create a more inclusive work experience or get left behind by those who do.
Jason Lauritsen is a keynote speaker, author, and consultant. He is an employee engagement and workplace culture expert who will challenge you to think differently. A former corporate Human Resources executive, Jason has dedicated his career to helping leaders build organizations that are good for both people and profits.
Most recently, he led the research team for Quantum Workplace’s Best
Places to Work program where he has studied the employee experience at thousands of companies to understand what the best workplaces in the world do differently than the rest.
Jason is the co-author of the book, Social Gravity: Harnessing the
Natural Laws of Relationships, and author of his new book, Unlocking
High Performance, to be published by Kogan Page in October 2018.