Leading Today's Diverse Workforce Requires New Management Skills


The modern workplace generally presents unique leadership challenges due to racial, age and educational background differences. As a result, senior executives have to find ways of effectively leading their employees. Fortunately, with the right leadership skills, senior executives would be able to address diversity challenges and improve performance at the workplace. To learn more about diversity in the workplace, view the infographic below.

diverse workforce infographic image

Text: Leading Today's Diverse Workforce

An Overview of Workforce Diversity

In order to provide effective leadership, one must accept, understand, acknowledge, celebrate, and value the differences inherent among employees with respect to race, age, ethnicity, mental capability, social class/standing, gender, and physical ability.

Workplace Diversity by Gender, Ethnicity and Age

Across the US, men constitute 69% of labor force participation by gender. Women on the other hand constitute 57% of workforce participation by gender. If you breakdown the US workforce by ethnicity, Caucasian men and women account for 70.5% and 56.9% of labor force participation rates. In the same vein (workforce participation by ethnicity), African-American Men and women account for 63.5% and 59.2% of labor force participation rates. Male and female workers of Asian ethnicity constitute 73% and 57.1% of workforce participation rates. Finally, Hispanic males and females account for 76.3% and 55.9% respectively.

It is noteworthy that up to 81.4% of the entire US labor force is made up of workers who lie within the 25-54 year age bracket. Out of these, 81.7% are 25 to 34 years old. It is worth noting that 40% of all new employees across the US come from minority groups, which means the American labor force will remain ethnically diverse for decades to come.

Workplace Diversity Challenges

  • Authority
    • Creating a workplace environment where staff that differ by age, race, income, religion, and ethnic background are subject to workplace authority is not easy.
  • Single work ethic
    • Inspiring employees to subscribe to a single work ethic in a work environment split along racial or cultural lines can be difficult.
  • Communication
    • It can be hard for a leader to foster seamless communication between senior management and low-level staff in a diverse workplace.
  • Trust and commitment
    • Diversity may cause trust and commitment challenges because employees tend to have varying career and life goals, lifestyle choices, as well as personal demands.
  • Socialization
    • Workers from diverse ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds may face difficulties socializing with others because they are likely to live in different neighborhoods and communities.
  • Managing different personalities and multiple egos
    • Managing and massaging the egos of workers with differing cultural values and employment experiences can present a serious challenge.
  • New work configurations
    • New workplace technologies and configurations such as collaborating virtually with workers in another state or country are bound to breed managerial challenges at some point.
  • Human needs versus business objectives
    • Striking the right balance between fulfilling employee needs versus achieving organizational objectives can be problematic.

Tips for Becoming A Successful Leader

  • Understand cultural stereotypes
    • A good leader must have a good grasp of cultural stereotypes associated with different cultures. This is in addition to an open-minded approach to stereotypical attitudes.
  • Power gap management
    • A leader must seek to bridge the power gap between senior executives and rank-and-file staff. In other words, senior executives should strive to narrow the social distance between themselves and their subordinates.
  • Self-awareness
    • You have to develop self-awareness in order to thrive as a leader. This means developing a keen sense of personal strengths, weaknesses, and behavioral tendencies.
  • Brush up on communication skills
    • Focus on improving your verbal and non-verbal communication skills especially the art of bridging cultural divides.
  • Diversity alignment
    • Base your leadership on aligning strategic operational decisions and business objectives.
  • Cultural competence
    • Cultural competence refers to a leader’s ability to draw on learned and ingrained cultural knowledge to function well in a culturally diverse environment.

Benefits of a Diverse Workforce

First, diversity offers an organization different skill sets and talents. At the same time, an organization can create an inclusive work environment thanks to diversity. Moreover, diversity simply mirrors a company’s customer base that is in most cases highly diverse. A fourth diversity benefit is empowering a business to compete globally. Finally, diversity can boost a company’s competitive advantage by improving employee retention rates, employee morale, and ability to attract new talent.

Final Word

According to a Forbes study, 85% of 321 large corporations surveyed globally say diversity fosters innovation. As such, organizations that promote workplace diversity attract and retain highly skilled staff and boost customer loyalty. Studies have also shown diversity improves creativity, job satisfaction and employee performance. Furthermore, diversity translates to better gross revenues, shareholder value, market share, productivity, and profitability. Thanks to diversity, the US female workforce accounts for 47% of total GDP.

Learn More

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Norwich University’s online Master of Science in Leadership program is designed to help you demonstrate the skills and knowledge needed to lead teams and inspire progress, while also growing your career. The program is practical and pertinent, allowing students to apply leadership concepts immediately to their careers.

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