Diversity in the Workplace: It’s More Than Just Race

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More than half of the workers in the U.S. are minorities. Added to the diversity of different cultures, there are gender considerations, age groups, religion, education, fashion, beliefs, diet, and a variety of other choices that make us all very different and add to the complexity of getting everyone on task and dedicated to achieving common goals.

Whether you supervise one or 100 people, you are faced with complex combinations of preferences, styles, and personalities.

Organizations that adapt to the variety of differences in the workplace enjoy greater profits and better performance, as they have the advantage of being globally oriented and experienced. It is a huge challenge to weave a cohesive pattern of all people coming together toward a common goal. The challenge of diversity once overcome can bring you and your organization many advantages.

Here are some things that you can immediately implement (without cost to your organization), which will allow for greater harmony and productivity.

Become a change purveyor. Diverse groups have diverse habits. These habits may require change. The best way to implement change is to ensure buy-in from all concerned. Change is accepted when everyone understands the reason for the change.

People must be aware of how they benefit from the change or who benefits from the change. If they don’t have a clear understanding of why they must change or who benefits from the change, they will fall back on old habits.

People become anxious, then become resistant, when they lack the skillsnecessary to make the change. So training is an essential key to success.

No one likes to be blindsided by change. An effective action plan indicated before the change is required. All the details and information must be communicated prior to the change implementation date.

Finally, we must be sure that the resources are available to make the change happen (time, money, equipment, etc.).

Acceptance of diversity cannot be mandated. Rather, it must be “sold” to all involved. To gain productivity from diverse groups, your strategy must include:

  • Metrics — What gets measured, gets done.  Keep score often and regularly. Publish results of progress toward goals.
  • Inclusion — Don’t exclude anyone from the communication process.
  • Openness — Be as transparent as possible. Avoid keeping secrets.
  • Training — Implement a consistent program of communication skills training and make it available to all employees.
  • Feedback — Provide constant, constructive feedback.

Don’t forget to have fun! Conduct “lunch and learns” where people can explain their cultures to one another.

Have potluck lunches where people can bring food indigenous to their respective culture. Reward the behaviors that demonstrate inclusiveness.

A quote by John Cogley Commonweal provides an appropriate summary: “Tolerance implies a respect for another person, not because he is wrong or even because he is right, but because he is human.”

Agree? Disagree? Add your insightful comments here.