The Challenge of Managing Diverse Teams

       Studies and research have consistently found that workplace diversity leads to better performance (Hunt et al. 2015, Sommers 2006, Levine 2014). Thomas (1990) argued that well managing and fully utilising diverse teams could maximise potential benefits which lead to competitive advantages for organisations. The Chartered Management Institute (2014) suggested that diversity management involves establishing and implementing strategies to integrate individual differences into a dynamic workforce. It is not only legislated to promote fairness and prevent discrimination but it also recognises and values different personalities to positively utilise the unique talents within (CMI 2014). Therefore, manging diversity is an important but challenging responsibility for leaders nowadays (Yukl 2013).

Figure 1 Total foreign-born population from 1993-2015 (ONS 2017)


       London consists of more than 42.6% black and minority ethnic, the trend in immigration as shown in Figure 1 is a key driver to cultural diversity (GLA 2016, ONS 2017). To understand the differences, the Hofstede model is a particularly useful tool to study how values in the workplace are influenced by different national culture (Hofstede 1997). For example, PWC is a leader in managing cultural diversity and received the Race Equality Awards in 2016 (Business in the Community 2016). Comparing UK’s and India’s Hofstede score, British is more indulgent where they put a higher emphasis on leisure time whereas Indian is more restraint where they have the perception that realising impulses and desires is not appropriate in the workplace (Hofstede 1997). PWC leverages the differences by its Flexibility2™ programme which aims to balance work-life demands for individuals (PWC 2017). Teams are encouraged to accommodate each other’s priorities by allowing remote working, flexible hours, casual dress code e.t.c. (PWC 2015). Taking the example of indulgence, PWC managers could therefore make use of the programme and arrange flexible working hours especially Fridays for British members and maintain a more regular work hours for Indian members and adjust when necessary. Allowing the teams to plan for their own flexibility, PWC could benefit from demonstrating ethical leadership to improve employee engagement leading to increasing productivity and quality (PWC 2015).

       Diversity does not only limit to ethnic origins, but it also takes other forms including attitudes and abilities. Nomothetic approach such as the Big Five theory and Eysenck’s theory (1947) views personality as inherited and stable which can be measured (Smith 2013). Idiographic approach by Erikson’s theory (1950) uses a more dynamic perspective to identify the whole development of personality in response to environmental conditions (Smith 2013). Other approaches like Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (1980), Type A and Type B personality tests make use of different psychometric tests. These diversityapproaches’ common purpose is to provide a tool for managers to identify individual characteristic in the attempt of making a more precise decision and predicting future performance to reduce uncertainty (Mullins and Christy 2016). However, it is often expensive and time-consuming due to the complexity of individual personalities (Smith 2013). Psychometric tests rely on self-reporting, which could be distorted and therefore unrealistic. As they are readily available in an unregulated market, these tests are often associated with data privacy issue making them hard to implement in businesses.


       Gender equality is one of the most important aspects of managing diversity (Mullins and Christy 2014). Although McKinsey’s research (2016) found that more than 78% of surveyed companies treat gender equality as their business priorities, the outcome is often insignificant (McKinsey 2016). The glass ceiling does not only come from bias of gender stereotypes, but also from unequal opportunities for advancement (McKinsey 2016). The United Nations and governments continuously promote gender equality through campaigns like ‘HeForShe’ and ‘Think-Act-Report’. Leaders should actively commit to these campaigns and establish an accountable diversity governance structure.snip_20170615172311 Providing support and corporate guideline could gradually shape the organisation culture (Yukl 2013). PWC started manging gender diversity in 2004 by promoting a globally standardised approach (PWC 2016). The result was however insignificant as one size does not fit all. PWC has therefore evolved the strategy and tailored it for each of its operating country. For example PwC Brazil has ‘FlexMenu’ programme to increase employee engagement while PwC Germany has ‘Up! Talk’ programme to provide female mentoring (PWC 2016). Updating its annual Women in Work Index Report and monthly Gender Agenda blog further reinforce the accountability of this firm’s core value and mission (PWC 2016). Despite the challenge, PWC acknowledges there is no ‘quick fix’ for gender diversity (PWC 2016). Since recognising its past mistakes, a significant improvement is reflected as 17% more female employee felt equal opportunities in 2015 (PWC 2016).

       Although there is always differences within people, it is equally important to focus on the similarities. Below is one of my all-time favourite quote that concludes it all!


Figure 2 Kennedy 1963 (Picture from Quotefancy 2017)



Anon, (2017). HeforShe. [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 Jun. 2017].

Anon, (2017). Think Act Report. [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 Jun. 2017].

Business in the Community. (2017). Race Equality Awards 2016 – Employee Network. [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 Jun. 2017].

Erikson, E. (1950). Childhood and society. London: Vintage.

Eysenck, H. (1947). Dimensions of personality. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers.

GLA Intelligence (2016). 2015 Round Ethnic Group Population Projections. Greater London: Greater London Authority.

Hofstede, G., Hofstede, G. and Minkov, M. (1997). Cultures and organizations. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill.

Horton, H. (2017). This map perfectly displays the diversity of London. Telegraph. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Jun. 2017].

Hunt, V., Layton, D. and Prince, S. (2016). Diversity Matters. 1st ed. McKinsey & Company.

Levine, S., Apfelbaum, E., Bernard, M., Bartelt, V., Zajac, E. and Stark, D. (2014). Ethnic diversity deflates price bubbles. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(52), pp.18524-18529.

Managing for Diversity. (2014). CMI.

Mullins, L. and Christy, G. (2016). Management and organisational behaviour.

Myers, I. and Myers, P. (1980). Gifts differing. Mountain View, Calif.: CPP.

Overview of the UK population: March 2017. (2017). Office for National Statistics.

PWC (2015). Flexibility. [online] PWC. Available at: [Accessed 13 Jun. 2017].

PWC Women in Work Index. (2017). PWC.

PwC. (2017). Quality of life: Balancing work-life demands. [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 Jun. 2017].

PWC. (2017). The Gender Agenda. [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 Jun. 2017].

Rienzo, C. and Vargas-Silva, C. (2017). Migrants in the UK: An Overview. Migration Observatory briefing. COMPAS: University of Oxford.

Smith, P., Farmer, M. and Yellowley, W. (2013). Organizational Behaviour. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.

Sommers, S. (2006). On racial diversity and group decision making: Identifying multiple effects of racial composition on jury deliberations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90(4), pp.597-612.

The PwC diversity journey. (2016). PWC.

Thomas, R. (1990). From Affirmative Action to Affirming Diversity. Harvard Business Review.

Tihov, Y. (2015). Yanko Tihov ‘London Passport Map’. 1st ed. TAG Fine Arts.

Todorovic, M. (2017). Diversity at workplace: how to use poetry for improving communication and intercultural differences. [Blog] Business in Thyme. Available at: [Accessed 13 Jun. 2017].

Yukl, G. (2013). Leadership in organizations. 1st ed. Boston: Pearson.


10 thoughts on “The Challenge of Managing Diverse Teams

Add yours

  1. Hi Sharon great work thank you for your detailed blog, at the start of your blog you mentioned studies have consistently found that workplace diversity leads to better performance. Can you please expand a bit using one of the studies?


    1. Hi Taiba, thank you for your comment, really appreciate it.

      According to a market research conducted by McKinsey (2015), companies in the top quartile for diversity is more likely to financially outperform those in the bottom quartile.

      A survey in 2012 found 40% of companies expressed skill shortages is one of their top business concerns. Gender diversity and ethnic minorities could increase the sourcing talent pool. It could also strengthen customer orientation as more than 80% consumer purchases are made by women in the UK (McKinsey 2015). Diversity could also increase employee satisfaction and reduces conflicts between groups, improving collaboration and loyalty (McKinsey 2015). It was also found workplace diversity could improve decision making as it fosters innovation and creativity through a greater variety of problem-solving approaches, perspectives and ideas (McKinsey 2015).

      In general, it could enhance the business brand image as consumers are now more concern with the social responsibility of firm (Hill et al. 2006). It could in return increase the demand for businesses, creating competitive advantage.

      I hope this answer your question!


      Becker-Olsen, K., Cudmore, B. and Hill, R. (2006). The impact of perceived corporate social responsibility on consumer behaviour. Journal of Business Research, 59(1), pp.46-53.

      Hunt, V., Layton, D. and Prince, S. (2016). Diversity Matters. 1st ed. McKinsey & Company.


  2. Hi, Sharon, you mentioned that the outcome of gender equality is often insignificant. But it is actually against the law to discriminate someone according to their gender. What do you think are the barriers for the UK still not closing the gender pay gap after 40 years since establishing the Equality Act?


    1. Hi Kristal, thank you for your comment

      According to NGA’s Human Resources Research (2017), the biggest barrier to close gender pay gap is a lack of active involvement from businesses.

      Businesses only recognise gender pay gap in fear of bad publicity and brand damage. 29% interviewed business do not consider it as a business issue. Lack of active participation is one of the barriers to gender equal pay.

      Another limitation is actually the different attitude towards work-life pattern between men and women. Research found 36% of gender pay gap is due to the difference in a work-life pattern, not gender stereotype (Olsen and Walby 2004). 62% of female interviewed by McKinsey (2016) expressed the need of part-time or flexible working. As most market statistics account all earnings including part-time jobs, the need to work part-time or flexibly among female might push them to lower-paying occupations and also might have higher chance to miss pay progression. This in return exaggerates the gender pay gap.

      When considering gender pay gap, it is also not only a workplace diversity issue. It involves a range of other factors such as work-life balance, availability and affordability of childcare, parently leave policy e.t.c.

      I hope this answers your question!


      Becker-Olsen, K., Cudmore, B. and Hill, R. (2006). The impact of perceived corporate social responsibility on consumer behavior. Journal of Business Research, 59(1), pp.46-53.

      Hunt, V., Layton, D. and Prince, S. (2016). Diversity Matters. 1st ed. McKinsey & Company.

      Olsen, W. and Walby, S. (2004). Modelling gender pay gaps.


      1. Thank you for your detailed explanation. I am a bit confused on why parental leave policy would create gender pay gap. Could you explain further please?



      2. Of course I could, Kristal. Thank you for stopping by again! 🙂

        Research from Institue for Fiscal Studies (2016) found that gender pay gap remains closed for women until the arrival of their first child creating a gap of over 10%. This is because women might take a longer parental leave than men, hence high chance to miss pay progression. But improving the shared parental leave policy especially paid paternity leave period allow men and women to share the responsibility of child care, which could improve the current disproportionate responsibility for childcare (Walker 2017).

        I hope this clears it up a bit!


        The Institute for Fiscal Studies 2016 (2017). The Gender Wage Gap.

        Walker, P. (2017). Improve shared parental leave to cut gender pay gap, urge MPs. The Guardian.


  3. Hi Sharon,
    Thank you for your detailed explanation on the challenge of managing diversity. Would you be able to draft a brief action plan for a manager to encourage and manage diversity in a team please?
    Thank you.


    1. Hi Iqah, thank you for commenting on my blog!

      Imagine I am a project manager who have the power to implement changes, I would encourage diversity as follows:

      1) Establish mentoring programme for any interested employees

      54% and 61% men and women interviewed by McKinsey in 2016 expressed that they do not have the same opportunity for growth as their peers. Gender diversity should not only be in favour for female. Everyone should have the same access to opportunities and resources. Mentoring programmes, such as monthly workshops, could provide opportunities for employees to undertake stretch assignments and identify their own personal objectives which could later benefit business’ growth.

      2) Provide flexible working hours

      From my previous experience as a Project Manager at Barclays, one of the strategies I undertook was to allow my team members to work from home at least once a week. As I was born in Hong Kong but have spent long years in the UK, I was highly aware of the cultural difference in working style. Work-life balance, family obligations and personal needs would affect British employees’ motivation to work while Chinese are more restraint on their own desires. Providing flexibility not only does not decrease the productivity, but it could also increase their participation in work and improve employee engagement. However, it has to be built on the basis of defining what is expected before allowing the flexibility.

      3) Make use of the available tools and systems in the business

      Rethinking on my previous experience, I think that the most obvious and distinct diversity in the workplace is the personal preference on communication methods. For example, one might prefer a phone call, while another might prefer a ‘ping’ (instant messaging). Even for meetings, some might prefer face-to-face, while others might prefer conference calls. Although this diversity might just be very little daily things that people would naturally recognise and manage, it implies that it is crucial to effectively make use of any available company’s resources to manage and encourage diversity, for example, flexible working hours, casual dress code, communication tools, workshops e.t.c.

      I hope this answers your questions. There are a lot more actions which a manager could do to encourage and manage diversity. Feel free to ask for more, and I would love to hear what you think!


      Hunt, V., Layton, D. and Prince, S. (2016). Diversity Matters. 1st ed. McKinsey & Company.


    1. Hi again, of course!

      Yes, this theory is extremely interesting to study. It is actually developed by medical students who were trying to identify the correlation between heart disease and personality (Mullins 2013). But it is later used in the workplace to analyse different personal characteristics.

      It identifies level of stress and exhibits characteristics: (Mullins 2013)
      1) Need of achievement
      2) Competitiveness
      3) Level of patience with obstacles to the completion of a task
      4) Aggressiveness
      5) Speed of walking and speaking
      6) Level of urgency about time

      Type A and Type B

      Speed of walking! You wouldn’t imagine it is part of a psychometric test, right? This test is extremely fascinating to me. Personally, I feel like I am more skewed towards Type A. But I would argue that it is hard to only choose one single type, as it really depends on different situations. For example, I do not think I am extremely competitive academically (except for debates maybe ) but in workplace, I would be more aware on peers competitions. It also depends on the aftermaths of the competition, like rewards or achievements.

      I hope this answers your questions! Thank you for your comment.


      Mullins, L. and Christy, G. (2013). Management and Organisational Behaviour.


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