3 tips for getting the most out of working on a diverse team

(BPT) – Growing up, we’re constantly taught to play well with others. Did you know that skill might actually help you land a job? Nearly 80 percent of employers seek candidates who work well on a team, according to a National Association of College and Employers report. From automotive engineering to business management, odds are you’ll work alongside diverse individuals throughout your career.

An article in Scientific American says, with an open-mind, diversity enhances creativity, problem solving and decision making. That goes for diversity in areas of interest and expertise, as well as race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation.

“The ability to thrive in a diverse environment is essential for job-seekers,” says Kristen Wahl, director of EcoCAR 3, the current Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition sponsored by the Department of Energy and General Motors.

Of the thousands who’ve participated in student competitions led by Wahl, a perfect 100 percent have been hired or accepted into a post-grad program upon graduation.

In the spirit of self-improvement, we’ve rounded up three tips to help you maximize the benefits of working in a diverse group.

1. Freshen up your newsfeed.

In today’s connected world, information is shared continuously, across multiple platforms, like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Access to new ideas, ways of thinking and knowledge is at our fingertips.

To stay smart, you need to follow 400+ accounts on Twitter according to Bloomberg’s Tom Keene. Luckily, Twitter allows users to create “lists,” where you can curate a group of Twitter accounts in one place. Follow a diverse set of influencers, journalists and business leaders and you will start seeing daily topics, issues and news from varying perspectives.

“Part of being a steward of an inclusive environment is being aware of what is going on in the world and finding out what has worked for others,” Wahl says.

Wahl uses Facebook and Twitter to post stories about how EcoCAR 3 students embrace their differences. In the competition, students transform a 2016 Chevrolet Camaro into a hybrid electric vehicle without sacrificing the iconic cars performance or safety. To succeed, each team needs members from engineering, business and communications departments. Students also represent a variety of races, ethnicities, genders and sexual orientations.

Wahl also posts about industry trends toward globalization and diversity. She recommends also following the National Science Foundation for research findings that could shape the future.

2. Ask questions.

Bill Nye once said, “everyone you meet knows something you don’t.” Working with others grants you access to different ideas, information and perspectives.

The next time your group gets together to work on a project, make a point of asking how each person feels about the project and what gave them that insight or opinion.

As noted by Scientific American, in the same way that a writer and a scientist will approach a problem differently, those “different from one another in race, gender and other dimensions bring unique information and experiences to bear on the task at hand.”

Not only do you stand to learn something, your members will likely appreciate you listening and giving them the space to contribute.

3. Embrace open communication.

Effective communication drives positive experiences in diverse workplaces.

“In EcoCAR 3, we use open communication as a tool to create an inclusive environment where all students can learn and succeed, regardless of their sex, ethnicity, background or learning style,” Wahl says.

Wahl invites students to email or call her with questions. She also encourages them to work with one another through problems.

Additionally, EcoCAR 3 hosts annual fall and winter workshops where students converge for a week to meet, participate in breakout sessions led by industry leaders, and speak with EcoCAR 3 organizers in person.

“While they technically compete with one another to build the best hybrid vehicle, the students actively find ways to collaborate with and help one another,” Wahl says. “They come to workshops as strangers and leave as friends.”

Keep lines of communication open with your team by planning weekly get-togethers or creating a group on Facebook.

Are you ready to take the next step? Join organizations that value diversity and inclusion. Most companies, colleges and organizations post a diversity mission statement you can find online. You can also find out where a group stands by asking people already involved in the organization.

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