Many companies, both small and large, are becoming more sensitive to diversity. The world is becoming more global. The United States, especially, is becoming more culturally diverse than ever. Most companies recognize diversity as a business imperative that is critical to the continued success of their organization. There is a common thrust among companies to recognize, respect and appreciate individual differences in their employees, customers, partners and suppliers. Diversity in the workplace is about inclusiveness, mutual respect and doing what is right. Teams can become stronger with the leveraging of the power of individual differences. The embracing of diversity is more important now than ever due to the recent rash of lawsuits against corporations alleging racial discrimination. Both small and large companies are being forced to settle multibillion dollar, class-action lawsuits as a result of discrimination.
Suggestions on embracing diversity in the workplace whether you are an employer or employee:
• Become a sponsor in a local or community event that supports the welfare and health of all members of society, regardless of their race. • Distribute a list of holidays and major religious events that people of different cultures commonly observe. This should be given to all employees. • Seek help from diversity consultants on understanding the body language of individuals from various cultural backgrounds. This is especially important when doing international business. Certain cultures embrace bowing one’s head over handshaking and are otherwise offended. • Observe and become aware of all work styles. • Respect your employees’ differences, regardless of their cultural background. • Investigate and consider hiring diversity consultants and training programs. This can assist employers considerably in ongoing training on diversity. • Sponsor a “lunch and learn” or lunchtime “brownbag” series and bring in diversity consultants. • Conduct annual employee surveys/measurements to monitor your company’s commitment to diversity. • Encourage diversity with the creation of an environment conducive to learning about people from various cultural backgrounds. • Encourage diversity with the creation of an environment conducive to cooperation and acceptance of individual differences. • Post a listing through email and bulletin boards highlighting local cultural events, festivals, and exhibits. • Establish employee-mentoring groups. This is especially effective as a diversity initiative when employees reach out to local high schools and colleges, offering mentoring to students of various cultural backgrounds. • Ask your coworkers about their racial background and be willing to share yours with them. Encourage dialogue and communication with coworkers having a cultural background different from yours. • Establish diversity as an initiative or business goal. Communicate to all employees that you would like to secure a high degree of commitment to this initiative. • Express diversity as an initiative in your employee manuals and handbooks. • Set aside a display area where employees can post notices of events, happenings, and activities in their community.