The Impact Of Diversity In Creating A High Performance Team

The Impact Of Diversity In Creating A High Performance Team

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The purpose of creating teams is to solve a problem or issue through the use of diverse ideas and solutions. There are many times in life, whether at work or at school that one will encounter a diverse mix of personalities. Workplace diversity is everywhere, from the small corner business to the fortune 500 company, and is one of the most important challenges facing companies today. This mix of diverse personalities, gender, race, experience, and culture is what makes a team successful. This is an example of a heterogeneous team. On the other hand, a team with the same make-up, or homogeneous, has limitations on creativity, viewpoints and ideas. This paper will look at cultural diversity and demographic characteristics, specifically age, gender, expertise/ experience and how each plays an integral part in the construction of a high performance team.
Cultural diversity is an essential piece of the team-building puzzle. As stated earlier, a heterogeneous team usually equals a successful team. A culturally diverse team brings the obvious cultural differences in language, dress and traditions to the table. In addition, less tangible characteristic such as moral values are equally, if not more important. These different methodologies and teachings help influence the team's direction. Persons of Western culture will have a different set of beliefs and methodologies from those of Middle Eastern or Eastern ethnicity. When team members take the time to learn and understand each culture's moral value, the result is a strong team foundation. High performance teams take and incorporate these cultural differences and use these different beliefs and values to attain the team goal.
Demographic diversity is necessary for a team to be successful. A high performance team not only has these demographics present within the make-up of the team members, but a high performance team also has the ability to take these distinct characteristics and use these differences for the team's benefit. Each member from a differing demographic characteristic possesses a unique view on various issues. These assorted viewpoints, moral values and beliefs are what help the team broaden their vision and help produce a better result. Creating a team with diverse backgrounds is only the first step to creating a high performance team. If the team's members are not willing to accept differing viewpoints and opinions, than the team is likely to fail.
The first two demographic characteristics to be discussed are age and gender. A generation gap between team members creates a wide range of perspectives and is advantageous.

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A team member in his/her 50's is likely to have an overall different perspective than a team member who is in his/her 20's. If one generational angle reaches a dead end, than a different generational angle may be used to solve the problem. In the case of top management teams, research has shown that younger managers are more inclined to pursue aggressive strategies, whereas senior managers sought more information to evaluate the situation and required more time to take action (Horwitz, 2005). There are some negatives associated with diversity in age, and these will be discussed later, but overall, age diversity offers a wider range of viewpoints and experiences that positively impact a team. Gender is also important when building a high performance team. A team that has a mix of males and females offers the opportunity for more creative ideas as well as differing viewpoints. Not only are males and females different for the obvious reason, but different for each one's thought processes as well. Problem solving is approached from very different angles, and when these different ideas are combined together to help solve a problem, the company as well as the team, benefits.
Expertise and experience are also vital to the success of a high performance team. The expertise of team members is found to be positively related to team effectiveness and efficiency (Horwitz, 2005). A person who is 30 with 10 years experience coupled with continuing education offers as much as an individual who is 50 with 30 years experience. Each member brings something different to the table in terms of work related experience and opinions. These differences are what make a high performance team. Like gender differences, if these differences are successfully combined to solve a problem, everyone benefits.
Although there are many positives associated with cultural and demographic diversity, there are also negatives. There are arguments stating that homogeneous teams are more successful than heterogeneous because of the similarities and shared characteristics between team members, which create a synergistic effect on performance (Horwitz, 2005). Conversely, proponents for heterogeneity claim that contrasting viewpoints and ideas enrich a team, thus making a high-performance team. Cultural diversity may detract from team performance the following way. The multiracial differences that enhance team performance can also harm a team's performance. Stereotyping and racism will destroy a team. If one is judged by religious beliefs or skin color, the team will fail. Demographic diversity can also detract from a team's performance. If a subordinate differs in gender from a superior, a discrepancy in performance review the subsequent pay raise may happen. A gender mix and an experience mix within a team may not work for the very basic of reasons: the members just do not get along. Independent of any deeper issues such as stereotyping, racism or chauvinism, irreconcilable differences may happen because people just do not get along.
Teams that possess a diverse range of demographics and culture are well-rounded teams. A well-rounded team usually performs at a high level, thus making the team a high performance team. Heterogeneous teams enhance team productivity through the integration of different viewpoints and opinions when compared to homogeneous teams. However, the same characteristics that make a team successful can also be a detriment. All this makes workplace diversity a challenge for all employers to manage, from the corner store business to the fortune 500 companies. When successful, a culturally and demographically diverse team will have a positive impact for the employer, both from a financial viewpoint and a perception viewpoint.
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