When we think of the ideal team, many of us might imagine a group of people with a shared vision, all agreeing with one another, and all on the exact same page. However, this may not be as advantageous as it initially sounds.
Research by McKinsey has shown that teams with greater diversity are 35% more likely to see financial returns which are above the median for their national industry.
The importance of having a range of differing opinions within teams hasn’t gone unnoticed. According to a LinkedIn Global Recruiting Trends 2018 report, 62% of employers are focusing on hiring for diversity as a means of improving company performance and 78% are looking to diversify to help improve company culture.
The results appear conclusive: diversity works when it comes to business output. But why is this and how can it be incorporated into an existing team?
Why are differing perspectives and opinions important in the workplace?
When each member of your team is already on the same page, you run the risk of creating a stale environment. In order to push boundaries and consider all possible angles, a wider range of influences and opinions are needed. This is especially true for tasks which involve creative problem solving, innovation and collaboration.
When each team is comprised of professionals with different experience levels, different areas of expertise and different cultural backgrounds, there are far more sources of inspiration and knowledge to draw from.
Research has shown that teams which have diverse work approaches make decisions up to 60% faster. It has also been shown to increase retention—employees who feel that their contributions are meaningful and rewarding are far more likely to be happy at work.
How to encourage opinion sharing in a productive way
It can take a huge amount of courage to speak up in a team meeting, especially when your opinion potentially conflicts with those in charge of running projects or initiatives. Employees are hired for their expertise in a certain field, as well as their experience in the wider industry, so (in theory) every opinion is a valuable one which offers a new consideration or perspective.
The leadership team also have a huge part to play in the creation of an environment that champions the productive sharing of differing viewpoints. They should strive to establish a culture of acceptance and creativity within their teams. Staff should feel that they can share ideas—regardless of what they might be—without fear of ridicule from co-workers or authority figures.
This culture of contribution and collaboration should be led by example, starting right at the top. Instead of shutting down bad ideas, remain encouraging and actively create opportunities for staff to learn to assess future contributions. Remember—there’s no such thing as a bad idea!
By Matt Weston, UK managing director at Robert Half