The ability to understand, respect and embrace differences in opinions and mindset is no longer referred to as a desirable skill; it has become a necessity in today’s highly globalised and diverse employment landscape.

Diversity skills: What and why
Before we delve into the details of why employers are constantly in search of individuals equipped with diversity skills, let’s understand the difference between “diversity skills” and “diverse skills”. This is important to avoid confusion.

While diversity skills refer to the ability to manage and work harmoniously with different kinds of people under the same roof, diverse skills simply indicate that an individual is equipped with multiple skills.

Diversity skills involve effectively navigating the rich tapestry of backgrounds, experiences, viewpoints and ways of thinking in today’s workforce, says Sonica Aron, Founder of Marching Sheep, an HR advisory firm. During disagreements, these skills deliver the ability to maintain ..

In her opinion, employers actively seek individuals with these skills because they contribute to the creation of stronger and more innovative teams. Additionally, companies that embrace diversity are seen as more progressive and attractive employers, allowing them to tap into a wider talent pool.

Piyali Bandopadhyay, People Experience and Operations Manager at Progress, an infrastructure software company, expresses a similar opinion. Talking about the reason why employers are in search of candidates equipped with diversity skills, she says skill-based hiring is gaining traction among companies aiming to diversify their workforce. This ensures that talented individuals from various backgrounds have equal opportunities, promoting a more inclusive workplace.

Plus, this form of hiring allows companies to expand their talent pool, introduce new perspectives, create a level playing field for all applicants and, ultimately, foster an environment that celebrates differences, she adds.

Diversity skill versus cultural intelligence
Diversity skills have a broad meaning unlike cultural intelligence, which focuses on understanding and adapting to different cultures, says Aron. Diversity skills include cultural intelligence but also extend ..

Unlike cultural intelligence, which focuses on understanding and adapting to different cultural contexts, Bandopadhyay says, diversity skills encompass broader competencies like empathy, communication and conflict resolution across various dimensions.

Hence, it wouldn’t be wrong to deduce that cultural intelligence is a subset or one of the many skills under the broader concept of diversity skills.

Where diversity skills are highly valued
While diversity skills are in demand in every other industry and role, there are certain areas where they are registering unprecedented demand.

Arora says diversity skills ensure effective communication in companies that operate at a global level as they have to cater to different market needs. Similarly, they can be used in client-facing roles where one has to interact with people from distinct backgrounds, and in innovation-driven fields such as in tech startups, design agencies and other innovation-centric industries, where creativity is paramount, she explains.

Industries such as technology, IT, healthcare and education greatly value diversity skills, says Bandopadhyay, as they rely heavily on multiple teams to drive innovation, enhance problem-solving, and serve distinct customer bases.

While in technology, people with diversity skills are crucial for developing inclusive products and services, in healthcare, she says, they offer assistance in improving patient care and communication. The education sector also benefits from unique perspectives in teaching and learning. Global businesses, too, require these skills to navigate cross-cultural interactions and expand market reach, she adds.

How freshers can use these skills to seek career growth
By honing their diversity skills, which is the ability to effectively navigate and leverage differences, Aron says, individuals can position themselves for a wealth of growth opportunities.

Since leaders need to navigate various perspectives, foster inclusivity and motivate teams, individuals can land leadership roles by demonstrating strong diversity skills. Whereas, since effective collaboration with colleagues leads to a more cohesive and productive work environment, it can help pave the way for promotions.

Moreover, she says, as diversity and inclusion become more critical, demand for individuals with these skills surges, making them more attractive candidates across industries.

Individuals with diversity skills can be valuable assets to employers, contributing to multiple areas of a business, says Bandopadhyay. Plenty of career advancement opportunities are increasingly available for individuals who can bridge cultural gaps and foster collaborative environments. Besides, she says that these skills are often linked to better leadership potential, making skilled individuals prime candidates for managerial roles.

Quick strategies to cultivate diversity skills and enhance them

For those planning to take a stronger position in the employment landscape that is being heavily driven by a heterogenous and inclusive workforce, cultivating and continuously refining diversity skills can be a game changer in the long run. Both the experts suggest a few effective strategies to help you do so.

To begin with, they emphasise on developing cultural awareness through easily accessible resources to effectively collaborate and communicate with people from different backgrounds. Exposing yourself to various experiences by participating in multicultural events, undergoing diversity training, and learning new languages is also crucial to moving past geographical, social and psychological barriers.

Besides, one should focus not only on communicating but also on patiently listening and engaging in respectful dialogue exchange by using inclusive terminology. This creates a safe space for everyone to express and share their viewpoints, which may be significantly different from yours, add the experts.

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