It takes more than effective recruiting to maintain a diverse workforce. As more employers have realized the importance of fostering diversity, they’ve also realized that even if they win at recruitment, the work of developing diversity is far from over. It also takes holding on to the good employees employers have worked hard to attract.
Bonuses and raises are among the tools an employer has for retaining employees, but those monetary rewards aren’t the only tools in the retention toolbox. Employees also appreciate being valued for their contributions, being treated with respect, and having enough flexibility to allow a measure of control over their work and home lives.
At their most basic level, diversity initiatives work to build a culture of respect in an organization. An employer should take concrete steps to foster a culture – a shared – expectation – that cordial, professional behavior is the rule and that harassment won’t be tolerated.
That means taking time to familiarize employees with the company. It’s important for new employees to know they have a future with the organization. Supervisors should sit down with employees and tell them exactly what it takes to advance in the company. Consider mentoring for new employees to provide them with support, direction, and feedback regarding career plans and personal development.
In addition to promoting a respectful culture, employers can take steps to promote inclusion. Here are some ideas:
- Banish materials that disparage of make fun of particular groups. That includes an off-color joke or that email making the rounds about, well, anyone! If you think something might cross the line, it probably does.
- Make sure the line is known in family-like workplaces. TV workplaces encourage people to view their colleagues as family, and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. A friendly working atmosphere is a good thing, but make sure employees know where the line is so they can keep things professional.
- Beware the nonverbal. Make sure supervisors know that harassment includes not only words but also sounds, expressions, and gestures. Whatever its form, it isn’t appropriate professional conduct.
- Lose any dubious nicknames. That includes “honey,” “sweetie,” “gramps,” “psycho,” and worse. Even when used affectionately, nicknames may be viewed as derogatory or disrespectful.
- Watch the hands. A brief, professional handshake or a tap on the shoulder to get someone’s attention is OK. But always respect others’ personal space, and try establishing rapport with a smile rather than with physical contact.
- No sex-life discussions. Tell supervisors that if employees come to them about problems in their personal relationships, it’s best to get the conversation back on work-related topics. Supervisors can always refer employees to the employer’s Employee Assistance Program if one is offered.
- Email and voicemail messages. There’s a word for email and voicemail messages: evidence. Make sure employees, especially supervisors, know not to say anything in email or voicemail that they wouldn’t write on paper or wouldn’t want to be read in a court proceeding. Remember to counsel employees that they shouldn’t expect to have any privacy with workplace email or voicemail messages. In fact, with the ease at which one can be recorded these days, it’s best if employees are instructed to treat all workplace interactions as if they were being recorded. Lots of workplace legal cases these days involve recordings taken by workers who felt harassed.
- Rules of the road. All workplace rules apply whenever employees are on company business or at functions – wherever they are. They apply on and off the company premises. Yes, that includes the company holiday party.