HR Policies & Procedures

Understanding the Big Picture of Workplace Diversity

More and more employers are realizing the advantages of a diverse workforce and are putting considerable effort into attracting workers from varied backgrounds who bring varied strengths. Often, though, employers see diversity just as it relates to an organization’s looks or ethnic composition. But diversity is about much more.

Diversity

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It’s really about creating an organizational culture in which all employees can work together courteously and effectively, whatever their race, ethnicity, age, sex, religion, physical capabilities or disabilities, national origin, gender identity, sexual orientation, talents, personality quirks, problem-solving styles, and a host of other factors that make people unique individuals.

The bottom line is that an organization’s diversity initiatives should ultimately shape an organization that respects and values employees of all backgrounds and descriptions and that allows them to participate fully in its business.

An important point to consider: Diversity isn’t the same as affirmative action. There are laws that require certain employers to adopt affirmative action programs, but there’s no law that requires employers to have diversity programs. Even if everyone in the workplace has similar ethnic backgrounds and is about the same age, broadly defined diversity efforts can enable the organization to create a workplace in which all employees feel empowered to do their best work.

Here are some ideas for diversity efforts:

  • Start with a hiring plan. Build a hiring plan that values diversity in the broad sense of valuing employees with a variety of experiences, backgrounds, and personalities. A diversity program can help broaden your search for new employees. The more potential applicants, the greater the chances of finding the best people for the company. The better the employees, the more likely that the organization will grow and prosper. Hiring new and diverse employees can bring in ideas about new markets and new business opportunities.
  • Recognize the strength in differences. It’s important for an organization to recognize that differences in work styles are opportunities to learn a new approach, not opportunities to change the diverse work style to “fit in” with the existing norm. Learning how to use those differences more effectively makes an organization stronger. Diversity is all about creating the kind of business in which everyone is valued. Treating employees with respect builds loyalty, and happy, loyal employees tend to be productive employees. Diversity really means equality in the sense that if people are treated equally and with respect, they feel freer to offer ideas and suggestions. The more ideas and suggestions, the more likely one of them turns out to be a home run idea.

Promoting Diversity Programs

Employees in diverse organizations are more productive when they know they’ll be treated with respect because more of their energy will be focused on the business and their contributions to the organization’s success.

Here are some ways to promote diversity programs:

  • Develop a diversity mission statement. It never hurts to look at the mission statements by companies that are well-known for their diversity efforts.
  • Show profiles of managers and employees from a variety of backgrounds. Posting profiles of a large group of diverse managers and employees helps employer branding efforts.
  • Mentoring programs. Make sure that mentors are aware of how to be sensitive to diversity so they can get new employees settled on the right foot.
  • Create affinity groups.
  • Showcase suppliers whose owners come from a variety of backgrounds.
  • Create community outreach programs.
  • Showcase community diversity organizations or activities that the company sponsors.