We all know the importance of demographic diversity in the workplace, but when was the last time you thought about the cognitive diversity of your workforce?
A fundamental yet regularly overlooked element of diversity, equality and inclusion, cognitive diversity (also known as diversity of thought) refers to the different patterns of thinking, understanding and problem-solving shown in different people. As well as impacting cognitive reasoning and thinking styles, cognitive diversity also affects how people perceive, process and learn information.
Cognitive diversity can arise from a number of factors, including:
- Education - the level of education received and where the individual went to school or university.
- Cultural background - a person's ethnicity, religion and/or culture can impact their opinions, attitudes and thinking styles.
- Developmental disabilities - neurodiversity such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Dyslexia can impact thinking, cognition and understanding as well as social, emotional and interpersonal behaviours.
- Personal experiences - such as mental illness, trauma and socioeconomic experiences bring diverse ways of thinking and unique perspectives.
Over the years, businesses have become adept at monitoring workplace diversity when it comes to demographics such as age, gender, sexual orientation and race. Now perhaps more than ever, they have come to understand the importance of ensuring that their teams - whether they be leadership or entry-level - are an inclusive collection of people with diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. However, many businesses are still learning about diversity of thought and are consequently missing out on the plethora of benefits that come with building a cognitively diverse workforce.
Fitting-in vs. Adding-to
Psychological studies show that we as humans have an innate, intrinsic tendency to gravitate toward similar and like-minded individuals; whether that be based on gender, age, life experiences, perspectives, skills or cognitive habits. However, this penchant for parity can sometimes have disastrous effects on team performance and the success of a company. By bringing together a homogenous group with similar thinking, understanding and learning styles, you risk stagnating your workplace, preventing innovation and harbouring a culture of reduced inclusion within your workforce.
So, how does a company become cognitively uniform? Unsurprisingly, it often starts right at the beginning - recruitment.
Whether explicitly or implicitly, unconscious bias impacts the recruitment and onboarding processes of millions of companies all around the world, every single day. One of the ways in which a company can become cognitively uniform is by seeking out candidates who fit in with a pre-existing company structure or culture, rather than those who could add to it with different experiences, perspectives and new ideas.
As mentioned, we have an unconscious preference for those who are similar to us and who think in the same way. Therefore, it's not uncommon for employers and hiring managers to be swayed into hiring individuals who mirror themselves in one way or another; whether that be in educational experiences, culture, personality traits or cognitive reasoning. When this is a consistent pattern of recruitment, it doesn't take long before you have a workforce consisting of employees with similar characteristics, strengths and skills - and one seriously lacking in cognitive diversity.
Benefits of Cognitive Diversity in the Workplace
The lack of cognitive diversity in one's workplace is a problem that any manager or business owner would benefit from addressing, due to the range of advantages that a cognitively diverse workforce has on the success of an organisation and the long-term happiness of its team members. Workplaces with high levels of diversity of thought benefit from:
Smarter Approaches to Problem-solving and Decision-making
There is a measurable correlation between cognitive diversity and effective problem-solving and decision-making. Writing for the Harvard Business Review, Alison Reynolds and David Lewis provide insight into this diversity-driven team skill by showing that cognitively diverse teams solve problems quicker than teams with lower levels of thought diversity. A second Harvard Business Review article states that in decision making, diverse groups show two key differences; they focus more on facts and process these facts more carefully and accurately, leading to better performance.
Inclusive Working Environment
Diverse and inclusive teams ensure that every employee feels seen, heard and respected.
There is an abundance of research showing that cognitively diverse teams encourage creativity, out-of-the-box thinking and innovation. Research by the Human Resource Management International Digest states that teams with greater diversity of thought are more likely to result in innovation due to greater levels of knowledge sharing between team members. When teams share knowledge, they identify areas of improvement, generate more ideas and approach old problems in innovative ways. Such innovation has the potential to skyrocket a business' success.
Enhanced Employee Satisfaction, Engagement and Retention
When organisations are more cognitively diverse, not only does the business benefit, but so do your employees. Higher levels of cognitive diversity are associated with enhanced employee satisfaction, engagement and retention.
By building a diverse team, each individual employee is given more opportunities to interact with and understand people with different backgrounds, experiences and cognitive styles to themselves. Such diversity and inclusivity allows room for personal and organisational growth as well as essential learning - something which 91% of employees find very or extremely important to encourage, according to LinkedIn.
When teams are more creative, contribute new ideas, think differently and place a high value on inclusivity and sharing viewpoints, great things happen. New ideas allow a team to innovate, grow and scale their operations. Moreover, the organisation's reputation as an inclusive employer enhances their reputation among prospective, highly-skilled, creative employees who want to make a difference.
In other words, great minds don't actually think alike.
Enhancing Cognitive Diversity through Skill and Psychometric Testing
It's easy to tick a few boxes and measure a company's demographic diversity, but it's a bit trickier to do so when it comes to cognitive diversity. However, here at Skillsarena, we have a wide range of skills tests and psychometric tests on offer that give you the ability to easily and accurately assess the cognitive styles and personality traits of your job candidates and/or existing employees.
Skills-based hiring is believed to be one of the most effective ways of reducing unconscious bias during the recruitment process and enhancing cognitive diversity in the workplace. This is because skills-based hiring removes the emphasis placed on education, qualifications and work experience and places greater importance on the candidate's skills, performance and reasoning; regardless of age, cultural background, socioeconomic status or life experiences. It's no wonder then that LinkedIn has seen a 21% increase in skills and responsibilities-based job postings in recent years.
Incorporating skills testing into your recruitment and training processes couldn't be easier. Our vast collection of skills tests have been expertly designed to measure and evaluate a wide range of skills, abilities and aptitudes across numerous professions - from clerical to industrial. By providing a virtual assessment centre, our skills tests can be seamlessly integrated into any recruitment or training process and can be accessed by any individual, any time, anywhere. Moreover, our tests can be designed or adapted to suit the specific needs of your particular organisation.
When it comes to the assessment of cognitive skills, our logical reasoning tests are a great place to start. These tests give valuable insight into how an individual perceives, uses and interprets information in a professional setting. We have two logical reasoning tests available for the assessment of numerical and verbal reasoning.
However, if a more in-depth analysis of the cognitive styles of your candidates is what you're after, our personality profile tests are a fantastic and extremely intriguing choice. By using scientific theories of personality and colour psychology, these tests allow you to map an individual's personality traits against one of four colour-coded personality dimensions, with each dimension revealing a plethora of detailed insights into the skills, characteristics, strengths and weaknesses of that specific personality type. Not only can this information allow you to assess how suitable a candidate may be for a particular role, but it can also help you assign individuals to roles that are best suited to their natural aptitudes, thinking styles and skills; allowing you to adapt your workplace to the needs of your team members. By joining one of our Character DNA Discovery Workshops, we can bring the magic of personality testing to your office and allow your team to discover fresh, new ways of working, communicating and innovating.
Don't allow your organisation to fall victim to cognitive uniformity. Encourage your team to think differently and reap the rewards of cognitive diversity in your workplace!