When most people think of diversity in the workplace, they think of it as varying by race, gender, and sexual orientation. They don’t often consider social class diversity as part of the equation, even though researchers are realizing that it has an effect on both the company culture and the bottom line. This article will take a look at how social class diversity in the workplace affects productivity, employee happiness, and profit margins over time and how employers can foster more social class diversity in their work environment to improve business outcomes overall.
The Importance of Diverse Teams
Human resources experts say that a diverse workplace provides an optimal team for business success. With a lack of social class diversity in large businesses, it’s even more important for small and medium-sized businesses to focus on bringing new, unique voices into their companies. As teamwork becomes increasingly vital to success, placing different people together can provide interesting results—which only bolsters creativity.
What’s Your Background?
It doesn’t matter if you are a small business or a large one, people from different social classes—usually defined by how much money they make—can have vastly different attitudes toward work. A study from the hiring platform Hired found that, on average, candidates who list themselves as coming from lower-class backgrounds bring home about $4,000 less per year than their middle-class counterparts and $8,000 less than those with upper-class status. Pay discrepancies exist between lower and upper-class applicants even among identical positions at comparable companies across all three class levels. Knowing what you’re working with is crucial to building an efficient workplace and keeping your company thriving.
How Does Being Raised Poor Affect You?
A study from Harvard shows that people who grew up in a working-class or low-income family have lower levels of education, get divorced more often, and have a higher body mass index than their counterparts. This is largely due to an increase in stress and a decrease in financial resources. It’s important to consider these factors when trying to diversify your workforce—but it’s also important not to discriminate against workers based on social class. While income level is often tied closely with social class, it doesn’t always tell you everything about a person or predict their success at work. Most importantly, being poor doesn’t make someone less capable than another person—it just gives them different strengths and weaknesses than other candidates for jobs.
How does this Affect Productivity?
Large businesses often find themselves in competition with small and medium-sized businesses. In addition, it’s not uncommon for smaller businesses to be bought out by larger companies for their more efficient production. This effect has created a divide between social classes. Those who work at large companies and those who own small and medium-sized businesses have both experienced negative effects due to social class diversity. Despite claims from experts, there is no clear explanation of how these conflicts occur and why they appear at certain points in time more than others, but there are theories about why certain things happen at certain times.
Let’s Get Physical!
Good health can impact your happiness and productivity at work. In fact, a 2011 study published in The Journal of Applied Psychology found that job satisfaction was highest among employees who were healthy at both work and home. Therefore, it makes sense to put resources behind ensuring your employees are as healthy as possible—not only is it good for their mental state, but physical well-being directly impacts their work output. If you want to optimize workers’ physical health at work, offer perks like on-site exercise equipment or a company gym membership (don’t forget about lunch breaks!). After all, happy workers are productive workers.
What If a Team Works in One Location?
For large businesses that have teams working remotely or across various time zones, an efficient way to ensure everyone is on the same page is to implement a social media-based employee schedule tool. You can avoid double-booking staff by using a central hub for scheduling that allows you to create and post schedules for your entire team. If any conflicts arise with your employees’ schedules, they can contact you directly from within their calendars. This also provides a more social feel—rather than being driven by email and text messages alone, you can now talk about schedules over Slack or have your team members post images of themselves at work once they’ve begun their shift.
6 Practical Tips for Increasing Social Class Diversity at Work
Over my past ten years working as a human resource professional, I’ve noticed that there is one primary complaint that keeps coming up. If a company has more than 40 employees and no diversity, I’ll hear someone grumble about it. When we have just 30 employees and almost everyone is from middle-class backgrounds, there are always discussions or suggestions for how to make sure our staff is more diverse. As many companies strive for and achieve diversity amongst ethnicity, gender, and age groups on their teams, social class often becomes an invisible barrier to inclusion that goes unaddressed—but it shouldn’t be. The fact is, if you want your team to be as productive and innovative as possible, you need all kinds of people with different life experiences contributing their ideas. The best way to ensure that happens? Make sure your workforce reflects its surrounding community—and part of doing that means hiring people who come from different social classes. Here are six practical tips for increasing social class diversity at work.
- Hire People from Other Cities/States: It may seem obvious, but when you look around your office or call out who’s new here? Chances are most hands will go up because everyone else is new too. It can be easy to hire people from within your city because they already know where everything is and how things work. However, expanding beyond those boundaries will help diversify your staff and expose them to new ways of thinking that can only improve their performance at work (and outside of it).
- Don’t Assume You Know Someone’s Background: If you don’t know what neighborhood someone grew up in, don’t assume they came from a privileged background. That might be true, but it might not. Many people from low-income families worked hard to get where they are today, and plenty of wealthy kids whose parents paid for their college education.
- Hire Through Non-Traditional Channels: For example, looking through alumni networks can be a great way to find talented candidates who haven’t had much experience in your industry. Or consider giving students jobs during school breaks; they typically need money while they’re off-campus, and it gives you access to fresh talent.
- Be Willing to Pay More for Talent: When looking for experienced candidates with specific skill sets, sometimes it makes sense to pay more than the market rate. This is especially true if you’re looking to fill positions that require specific expertise. Even though it seems counterintuitive, paying more for top talent can actually save you money in the long run by keeping turnover low and reducing training costs.
- Have Clear Expectations About What It Means to Fit In: This is perhaps one of the most important steps of any hiring process, but it’s also something that gets overlooked quite frequently. While your office culture should be welcoming and open to everyone, it’s important to define what exactly that means before anyone joins your team. Are you a creative agency that wants people who like making jokes and wearing quirky socks? Are you a financial firm that expects men to wear suits every day? Whatever your expectations are, be sure to share them with new hires, so they know what’s expected of them.
- Set Aside Time for New Hires to Learn: Some of your new hires will need more time to learn how your team operates than others. Sometimes it’s because they’re new to a certain type of work, and other times it’s because they’re still learning how to interact with their colleagues. Whatever their reasons are, don’t be afraid to give them some extra attention as they settle into their new roles.
Human resources professionals should take action to diversify their hiring and interviewing practices by reducing barriers for individuals from lower socioeconomic classes, who are less likely to have access to professional education or social networks. Organizations with diverse workforces enjoy improved financial performance, customer loyalty, and innovation due to increased creativity and problem-solving skills among all employees. However, creating a more socially inclusive workplace will only benefit companies if hiring managers and human resources departments are properly trained to use techniques that respect all applicants.