The Value of Diversity in the Workplace

Importance of Diversity

“If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

This saying, attributed to Abraham Maslow, sums up the value of diversity. The ability to see something from a different point-of-view is valuable. It can help an individual or a business honestly evaluate what is happening. Without it, they may view everything in the same way and miss the changes that are taking place around them and in the market.

This is particularly important for any real estate company because change that comes to real estate can either create or destroy value. An inability to see change as it is happening will cause a real estate firm to lose touch with potential buyers, and cause sellers to take their business to firms that have a better sense of the market.

Why Diversity Matters

The easiest example of diversity in real estate is ethnic diversity. It is easy to understand because it changes the demographic nature of a neighborhood or area, with one group moving out and a very different group moving in. Sometimes the change is complete, leaving real estate firms that lack an understanding of the new ethnic group unable to operate in that area.

In its most extreme form, this can be a problem that looks like racism, but that appearance is often deceiving. It is simply a natural affinity for doing business with someone who looks like, or has a similar background, to oneself. It is the reason women make up the majority of residential real estate agents. Women tend to make the buying decisions on a home and are more comfortable working with other women. It is not sexism. It is human nature.

The easiest way to offer real estate services to a diverse community is to have agents of diverse backgrounds in the office. At the most basic level, it is useful to have agents who can speak the language of the new ethnic group moving into a neighborhood. But diversity goes well beyond basic communication. It includes cultural understanding.

This means that certain features of a residence may be more highly valued by the new ethnic group than the group moving out. A large backyard, for example, might be prized by a group that has large family gatherings. Staging the house to showcase the yard would improve the marketability of the house. An agent unfamiliar with the cultural traditions of the new ethnic group would not see the value in the backyard and miss this opportunity.

How to Achieve Diversity

The most basic rule of any business is to know your customer. This certainly applies to real estate, and can be very important in ethnically changing or diverse areas. A good real estate agent keeps themselves informed about the cultural traditions of the different groups in an area, and pays close attention to any changes in the ethnic mix. An influx of new buyers in any group could mean better market prices reflecting the interest of those buyers.

The most direct method of achieving diversity in a real estate office is to have agents of different backgrounds working in the office. So long as the “token” representative syndrome is avoided, this strategy works well. It is particularly effective if each agent is willing to share their expertise with other agents without compensation, knowing that the service will be reciprocated in the future.

However, the most fundamental way to achieve diversity is to value it. Communicating in a non-judgmental way with every client can teach a real estate agent what they need to know about any potential buyer and their ethnic group.