The 3 Kinds of Workplace Diversity You Need to Be Productive

123RF Stock Photo

It’s widely held in the HR field that the most productive organizations are the most “diverse.”

The problem is that concept is misinterpreted by most HR Pros and executives. Most still believe that concept pertains to the ethnic diversity of your team (the color of the faces you hire).

It might be the greatest fallacy in the HR industry today!

In actuality, productivity has zero correlation with team ethnic diversity. So, what kind of diversity does make us more productive?

The 3 types of diversity you need

From Fast Company:

A growing body of research shows that diversity – in gender, thinking styles, and intro- and extroversion – is needed for teams to be their most productive.

Writing at 99u, Christian Jarrett, the psychologist-turned-writer behind the British Psychological Society’s superlative Research Digest blog, helps us to see why.“

You need three (3) types of diversity to get the most productivity out of your teams:

  1. Gender;
  2. Thinking style;
  3. Behavioral Style.

None of those have anything to do with the color of your skin.

Let me break down the three types of diversity and why I think they have such impact on productivity:


To me this is good old nature at its best!

Boys want to impress girls, girls want to look good in front of boys — for the most part. Sometimes boys want to look good in front of other boys. I get that, I’m that old.

The other thing with gender that I’ve learned from being married 20 plus years, is that women and men sometimes think differently. Yes sometimes, which in itself will lead your team down a path in a number of ways with a number options if you have a good gender mix.

Gender diversity on teams in relation to productivity might have the greatest impact to positive productivity over anything else we can do.

Article Continues Below

Thinking Style

Whereas Gender is probably underutilized by HR Pros to help productivity, Thinking Styles might be the one we most rely on when thinking about non-ethnic diversity.

It’s diversity of thought!” is the most over utilized statement in diversity — primarily because so few of us actually use real scientific tools to measure what someone’s thinking style is. “Oh, Tim’s old and a Republican so he must think one way, and Mary is young and Democrat, so she thinks the opposite!” is potentially so wrong, yet it’s how most organization determine  “Diversity of Thought.”

Behavioral Style

Having both introverted and extroverted individuals on a team is huge.

Too many people like me on a team and no one gets a word in edge-wise. Too many introverted folks and either nothing happens, or the one extroverted person controls the entire process. All can be very bad.

Getting your introverts in an environment where they are comfortable to share their knowledge is key to your organization’s performance.

This is not a message that is being shared to your executives at most organizations. They are still very “black and white’”in their thoughts on diversity.

While ethnic diversity can make great additions to your workplace culture, don’t mistake it for having positive impact to your productivity. There isn’t any science that proves this, yet.

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


7 Comments on “The 3 Kinds of Workplace Diversity You Need to Be Productive

  1. Though I really like the call out and addition of “other” factors like thinking style and behavior, if you mention gender I think it important to address other demographic factors as well. As since, where people come from (ethic group, culture, orientation etc.) all has a direct impact on their behavioral and thinking interactions. Many diversity factors exist that are important and they shape how we each view the world via various lenses.

    1. Scott, you were reading my mind. I guarantee you that my race, gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status all impact my thinking and behavior and that my thinking and behavior will vary in significant ways from someone who doesn’t share all or some of these characteristics.

      It’s good to think beyond the obvious, but no offense, I’ve found that often those who talk about diversity beyond ethnicity are using the conversation as a convenient excuse for why they don’t have any persons of color in their employ. “But we’re diverse in the ways that matter!” they cry. Yeah ok.

    2. You make an excellent point. Our cultural values and assumptions shape our thought process and behaviors. To try to just distill diversity needed for effectiveness down to three above without taking cultural diversity into account is simplistic view of a complex issue. The cultural lens of a woman from the Confucian Asian part of the world is going to be different from that of a North American woman though they are both women. The perspective above can actually lead to stereotyping the groups assigned to the types of diversity described. We need to re-imagine diversity and inclusion.

  2. The diversity of thought catches my attention. Companies are so busy hiring for “fit” they are leaving out people who think differently about things that if hired cause people to consider alternative recommendations, really dig deep down and understand all the ramifications of recommendations. “Cultural fit” is a slippery slope —- companies don’t want their employees to be “yes men/women”.

  3. I love this! I would add the other three points on Myers Briggs, in addition to E/I. As a strong intuitive, I really need people to bring me down from the clouds. And those who count on “logic” to make decisions need those who focus on their “values/feeling” to see where logic might need help. And can you imagine a bunch of “Js” jumping to quick decisions without considering whether there are other issues to consider?

    Also agree with Scott’s comment on cultural diversity. In healthcare that is huge, as providers care for patients whose culture or religion is prescriptive on healthcare. Without diversity of thought in the planning, it would be easy to make one-sided decisions.

  4. Racist and sexist. You can not have diversity and seniority in the same universe. The people championing diversity usually can NOT do their jobs, but have a big mouth.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *