Today’s workforce is made up of diverse individuals who need to work together to achieve results. The beauty of having a diverse workforce is that everyone brings a different perspective to work which benefits collaboration. Before any diverse group of employees come together to form a high functioning work team, a few things have to happen.
1. Diverse employees need time to get to know each other and build trust.
Everyone is unique and brings their own set of values, opinions and expectations to work. There are certain aspects about a person that we can guess just by looking at them. These are called primary characteristics; approximate age, race, professionalism, fitness. The secondary characteristics are hidden. We don’t know until we ask. Did the employee attend college? Does the employee have work experience? Does the employee speak multiple language? Where was the employee born? Does the employee have a family (partner, spouse, children)? When employees take the time to get to know each other, a relationship built on trust and mutual respect will begin. Nothing positive will happen without trust and mutual respect.
There is no such thing as only one way to do something. There are often multiple ways. A diverse team will be able to share multiple ways to solve a problem. Just because a company “has always done it this way” doesn’t mean it’s the best way. Listen to your team mates with an open mind and consider their suggestions.
3. Learn from each other.
We don’t even know what we don’t know. Working with a diverse team is a fabulous time to learn about different cultures, experiences, races, customs, etc. Years ago, I met a woman from Ghana during one of my training programs. I remember telling her that I didn’t even know where Ghana was. That night, I looked at a map of Africa to find Ghana.
4. Communicate expectations.
Teams are successful when every employee knows exactly what is expected. Team goals should be crystal clear to every employee on the team. Effective teams communicate in a variety of ways; face to face, e-mail, virtual, text, meetings, etc. Have the team decide the best way to communicate with each other.
5. Encourage healthy conflict.
When employees trust and respect each other, they are comfortable speaking out against popular opinion or presenting a different view point to an argument. Conflict will occur with teams, knowing how to manage the conflict is key to having a successful outcome.
6. Celebrate team accomplishments.
The workforce is full of individual contributors who have strengths and weaknesses. When you are building a team, the team accomplishments are much more important than the individual accomplishments. Encourage team mates to help and support each other.