Diversity and Diverse Teams

Managing Diverse Project Teams Requires Diverse Skills

Project teams are as varied as the industries in which they work, with those of different skills or backgrounds working together in new and evolving ways. In fact, diverse teams continue to be more common as they reflect the workforce itself; they can also lead to an array of challenges for the project manager seeking effective and efficient collaboration. Project Managers benefit from training in team building, emotional intelligence, and conflict management to better guide diverse project teams.

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What is a Diverse Team

There is no single type of “diversity” as it is a concept “rooted in the appreciation of differences.” In the Project Management Institute article, “Leading and Motivating Diverse Project Teams,” the authors shared that “Today’s project managers must expect to manage a team of individuals with diverse ages, values/beliefs, traditions, ethnic backgrounds, and personalities.” Your diverse team’s differences could encompass factors such as:

AgeRace GenderNationalityWorker Type (Part time, freelance, full time, etc.)
ReligionSexual OrientationEthnicityMarital StatusParental Status
Work Location (office, remote, etc)Socioeconomic StatusWork TenureNative LanguageMedical/Health Condition

As you should glean from these example differences, each of your team members would have a unique combination of experiences, factors, and traits. Research, like the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)’s Future Insights report, confirms that the diversity within the workforce has increased and will continue to do so. With that increased diversity within work teams, there is the potential for complicated day to day communications and team dynamics. However, a diverse team in which people of different backgrounds and experiences come together to solve a problem using their combined skills, can result in a win-win situation for everyone in terms of an increase in workplace productivity, effective communications, meeting of deadlines, cost reductions and a tension-free environment.

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Why Project Managers Need to Understand Diverse Teams

Project Management work is 90% communications: leading meetings, providing stakeholders with updates, negotiating resources, managing vendors, preparing and sharing project updates, etc. With the trend of increasingly diverse project teams, Project Managers must effectively communicate with the diverse team to prevent team issues rooted in differing understandings. When those that should be working together are unable to collaborate or communicate, the Project Manager will have an inefficient team likely leading to lose of productivity, increase in costs and timelines, and even project failures. Project Managers cannot afford to ignore the human element of their teams; the ability to effective manage diverse teams should be embraced and managed as vigorously as cost, scope and quality. And yet, many Project Managers are not educated or attuned to diversity. The Project Manager with the skills for leading a diverse team will likely see that group solve complex problems and identify innovative solutions.

What Skills Project Managers Should Develop

To motivate and enable a high-performing team, Project Managers need leadership and communication skills that foster a collaborative and inclusive work environment. With the same focus you place on pursuing formal Project Management skills for Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, you should seek training in support of leading a diverse team. Consider:

Diverse Team 2

Diversify Your Skills For Leading Diverse Teams

Communication and collaboration with a diverse team will become more challenging in the days ahead with continued shelter-in-place orders and remote work preferences for 2020 and possibly beyond. Project Managers must expand their traditional training focus to include skills focused on the people on their teams. As the workforce continues to reflect the diversity of the customers and stakeholders served, so must the Project Manager gain skills to lead diverse teams.  After all, team diversity can directly contribute to the successful outcome of a project.

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Megan Bell
Megan Bell
Project Manager & Writer at Project Management Academy
Megan Bell