To offer diversity in the workplace is to offer an inclusive environment that accepts individual’s differences while embracing each other’s strengths and providing opportunity to all to achieve their full potential. Typically we talk about diversity in terms of age, gender, cultural background, physical and mental disabilities, race, religion and so forth. Rarely do we raise the diversity of skill sets as a means to differentiate and escalate the performance of our workforce.

For years diversity has been an ‘it’ word for business and we have at times found ourselves placing emphasis on diversity in the traditional sense throughout the recruitment phase. And have been guilty of sacrificing skill in its pursuit. When business is seeking to grow by expanding into new markets, it is often diversification of skill sets that will achieve this. Not a balance of gender, for instance. So why succumb to policy rather than pursue actions that achieve broader organisational goals to advance business and in turn industry?

Not often do we recognise various skill levels among employees as a diversity option. Yet an acceptance of different viewpoints, expertise and knowledge can generate creative exploration and deliver a competitive edge. Blending an assortment of talent allows for the injection of flexibility and an ability to accommodate an array of needs, both internally and within the wider marketplace. And when this occurs, limits previously established are surpassed.

Businesses who embrace a progressive culture understand that our differences are not barriers, but rather a key to success. Not all team members can be skilled in all relevant areas for which skills are needed, however the skill sets can be complementary and contribute to the right mix of experience. Thus building a team that is able to understand, critically examine and assess objectives and the means to achieve them will be a team that exceeds production levels.

An organisation that values, supports and mentors skill diversity will experience lower turnover, higher job satisfaction and more innovative thought and practices. And will ultimately attract and retain a high performing and leading edge workforce. In a market where change is the now the norm, it is more important than ever to focus on attracting, developing and retaining a dynamic workforce to meet evolving needs.

Those companies that can predict market advancements and the changing role of workers and skill sets in their industry will be able to establish the talent pool required to bridge skill gaps. Future skilling requirements may see the creation of new occupations that presently do not exist in your industry. So while traditional skills sets will certainly remain a fusion with digital skill sets will likely be necessary to create a balance that can meet future demands. With the speed of implementation of new technology unlikely to slow, flexibility, adaptability and continuous learning will be required attributes across businesses. Career development and succession planning will be influenced by strategies to create sustainable talent pools in the overall recruitment and development plan that will ensure the availability of a workforce that can meet ongoing business goals.

As we seek out the best ways to create and maintain diverse and productive teams, the skill level of our team and the effects it will have on productivity and future advancement will become vitally important. As will knowing how to attract non-traditional skill sets to industry and integrate them with existing employee competencies. Failure or fear to walk this path could have an adverse effect on your business, stymieing growth opportunities and creating service gaps. Contrastingly, responding to future demand and significantly impacting the economic prosperity, performance and productivity of industry can lead to very rewarding outcomes.

Traditional diversity strategies do have their advantages, however thinking outside the square and diversifying your workplace through skill can create positive outcomes, not only for your business, but for the industry in which you operate. Perhaps this will manifest itself in the integration of unconventional job roles or the strategic alignment of complementary businesses to achieve a common goal. Regardless of the structure you adopt, technical advancements are moving at an accelerated rate and changing the landscape of many industries. The question you need to ask yourself is where do you want to be in five years’…at the forefront of industry or pedalling at a rate of knots to keep pace and not be left behind to fade into oblivion?

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