The 3 Kinds of Workplace Diversity You Need to Be Productive

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Aug 22, 2013

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.

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.