How to Develop Diversity in the Office

Many business leaders say that companies interested in surviving and thriving need the competitive advantage of a diverse workplace. But to do so successfully, leaders and HR managers must be similarly diverse in their commitment, strategy and communication to make concrete changes to their structures and processes.

You can look at diversity to mean including people with differences in personality, gender, race and ethnicity, IQ, culture, nationality, religion, marital or parental status, position, or department, as well as union/nonunion. So, as you see, the definition of diversity is broad and goes beyond visible differences.

To manage diversity successfully, you need to recognize that race and gender are only two factors of many. So workplace diversity management is a way to develop an environment that works for all employees. Inclusiveness permits connections and fortifies relations, enabling staff to deal with more potentially volatile issues that may arise later.

Critics worry that this approach could too easily devolve into a general “feel good” approach that substitutes for real change. They argue that this definition fails to acknowledge the unequal treatment and limited opportunities experienced by those who differ from the dominant culture. Change cannot happen in the workplace unless management understands that diversity is about being susceptible to employment consequences based on being within or outside certain groups.

Promoting workplace diversity has many bottom-line benefits. Approach the hiring process holistically and realize that retaining employees may be more difficult than recruitment. This is especially true if your company is located in a less diverse region where relocated minority employees may feel disconnected. You may need to take a more active role in helping them adjust to the culture at work as well as in their new communities.

How to develop a hiring strategy to increase workforce diversity? Talk to local organizations, including churches, cultural institutions and colleges. Also enlist help from nonprofits like the Urban League and the National Council of La Raza, or even from websites such as diversityworking.com that offer searchable channels of minority job hunters.

Don’t limit yourself to local chapters or schools. If you have something to offer out-of-area workers, expand your search to other cities, states or countries. The internet makes it easy to cast a wide net.

Ask employees for referrals since they may have peers in the industry or may know of qualified candidates who are looking for work. Offer rewards for successful referrals.

Establish a meritorious hiring practice that is neutral regarding age, race, gender and ethnicity. Create a committee to help implement the policy and come up with new ideas on how to attract more diversity to your company.

Be culturally sensitive when describing what makes your company a good place to work. Provide diversity training in your company that emphasizes that hiring decisions are based on finding the best candidate for the job and not on quotas.

By making the recruiting process more transparent, you will help ease the minds of skeptical employees. Be sure that managers fully understand the benefits of a diverse workplace — because they implement personnel policies, you need them to be fully committed to supporting the practice. Of course, make sure you are in compliance with the wide range of antidiscrimination regulations.

You can offer on-site day care, childcare subsidies and flexible schedules, and you should let new hires know that you’re willing to accommodate cultural and religious holidays.

This will give new hires a reason to stay and shows that you are willing to devote time and effort to retaining new employees. Talk about their future with the company by clearly communicating opportunities for advancement. You may want to set up mentoring programs to build working relationships. Mentors who share personal interests can foster friendships.

Forming affinity groups empowers small groups of employees to brainstorm about improving products or expanding into different markets. This reassures employees that their differences are assets.

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