The textbook definition of diversity is “the set of characteristics, experiences, and values that cannot be changed and which define an individual, such as sex, national origin, age, race, color and ethnicity”. But, the practice of diversity goes so much further than gender, ethnicity and color. Diversity is also the freedom to explore these differences in a safe, positive and nurturing environment; going beyond simple tolerance and embracing difference. Today’s workforce continues to be in a state of evolution with regard to diversity. While we have come a long way, there is much work to be done.
Managing diversity in the workplace is not an easy task. Yet, when business owners and leaders make concerted efforts to promote and celebrate the uniqueness of all people, the result will likely be a more tolerant and accepting workforce. A place where everyone feels valued and respected.
It is recommended that business leaders review all current processes, policies and procedures to ensure they are accepting and promote equality. As you walk through this process, some questions that should be addressed include but should not be limited to the following:
Are we actively recruiting in the best places to yield a diverse candidate pool? Register and attend multi-cultural recruiting events in the community. Also, reach out the student union at a local college to tap into their alumni networks.
When assigning special projects to groups, do those teams reflect diversity? Do managers actively seek out individuals who may bring a unique perspective to team discussions? Or, are the same individuals selected for special projects as they arise? Do we have a selection process that is fair and impartial?
How do we celebrate and recognize employees? Most businesses celebrate American and Christian holidays but fail to observe or recognize holidays of other cultures. It is important to recognize and celebrate the traditions of all cultures to promote inclusion. Or, at the very least, research and observe the equivalent holidays of what is traditionally celebrated in your office.
Does this procedure/practice/policy have a disparate impact on any group? Disparate impact is the adverse effect of a practice or standard that is non-discriminatory in its intent, but ultimately has a disproportionate negative impact on a protected group of people.
Is there a systematic process for handling complaints? Uniform procedures are the best line of defense for business leaders. It is important to inform every one of what steps to take, and what steps you as the manager will take in return. I strongly suggest implementing an Open Door Policy to combat adverse reporting connotations.
What does Diversity Training look like? It is recommended that businesses conduct diversity training annually and in New Hire Orientation. Encourage employees to actively participate in discussions to improve and promote diversity within the organization.
As the world, our country and the family structure continues to evolve, so must businesses. Leaders must be proactive in identifying internal and external challenges to developing and maintaining diverse cultures; then, be prepared to implement processes and procedures to facilitate change.