It is generally agreed amongst savvy business owners and operators these days that workplace diversity is a major asset. And this tenet doesn’t just apply to multi-national conglomerates anymore. Diversity in the workplace, including employees of different genders, races, religions, economic backgrounds, nationalities, ages, family status, and more, provides for a variety of different experiences that expand the scope of the company think tank and lead to a wide range of opinions and viewpoints. This is great news for the company looking to diversify because it allows for a virtual in-house focus group. Although one person obviously doesn’t speak for an entire cultural or economic standpoint, for example, having a different point of view can only help companies to cater to a wider range of potential customers. And with the global economy in much easier reach thanks to internet and mobile technology, this sort of thinking is imperative for growth. It is for this reason that you need to implement a diversity and inclusion training program to ensure that all of your employees exercise tolerance in the workplace, treat each other with respect, and value the contributions of their coworkers. Here are a few things you might want to consider along the way.
- Legal obligations. There are many laws concerning diversity practices in hiring as well as appropriate workplace behavior. And harassment, persecution, threats, and more serious offenses cannot be tolerated. It is your job to uphold these legal obligations and make sure that employees are well aware of the rules and the consequences for failure to comply. This should be a part of your basic training program that every employee is expected to complete upon hire. You may even choose to enact a zero-tolerance policy for offenders, going above and beyond what the law requires. This will let employees know that you’re serious and help everyone to feel as though they are safe from harassment and bias within the workplace.
- More than tolerance. Informing employees of the laws in place to protect everyone in the workplace is a good start, but if you want to ensure a productive workforce you need to go beyond basic tolerance of differences in the workplace. You need to create an atmosphere of inclusion, encourage a sense of camaraderie, and reward those who go above and beyond to integrate every team member and truly collaborate on projects.
- Ousting prejudice. Sometimes the only way to deal with bias and bigotry is to talk about it. So you might want to conduct group seminars that encourage employees to talk about their experiences with discrimination. Humanizing your diverse workforce can help every employee to realize that we’re all just people, dealing with the same kinds of problems and working towards the same goals.
- Encouraging positive identities. When employees feel like they’re accepted for who they are, they can become comfortable in the workplace and exhibit peak levels of performance and productivity as a result. So it’s important to account for all kinds of needs, such as holidays for different cultures, swing shifts or daycare services for working parents, and access for handicapped employees. When your staff feels like you care about their particular needs, they’re going to give their all. And you can lead by example, setting the stage for appropriate interactions amongst employees.
- Team building. Embracing workplace diversity starts with what you say, but it succeeds or fails based on what you do. For this reason, you need to carry your efforts beyond initial training sessions. And team building exercises offer your employees the opportunity to get to know each other on a personal level, in a more casual setting than the work environment. Of course, you can also get ideas about how to proceed on the path of inclusion from a site like Diversity Inc. that offers insights and profiles of companies that are embracing diversity in the workplace and providing a safe and nurturing environment for their employees. There are many ways to incorporate diversity into your workforce, but you’ll have to put more effort into fostering a truly tolerant workplace that provides the greatest benefit to all parties involved.