Diversity in the workplace can be defined through a variety of factors, including differences in age, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, educational background, managerial experience and even personality traits.
Study after study reveals that the demographics of the American workforce are constantly changing. Among the Pacific states, employees born outside of the country now make up roughly 28 percent of the labor force. And according to government estimates, the number of workers over the age of 55 will increase by 19.8 percent by the year 2024.
At the same time, stark disparities exist within different sectors and management groups. As of 2014, women held only 16 percent of S&P 1500 board seats, while they dominated the medical and health services industries with 73.7 percent of management positions.
Creating a more diverse workplace can yield a number of benefits for your business. Companies that are racially and ethnically diverse regularly outperform the industry, and when you employ staff with varied experiences and backgrounds, it routinely drives new product and process innovations.
Plus, when employees are aware of each other's unique traits and backgrounds, they can more easily find ways to use these varied strengths to accomplish a common goal. And staff that can appreciate the variety of experience shared by coworkers can promote broader cooperation.
Of course, as you create a more varied workplace, you also open the door to some of the challenges tied to diversity -- even in offices with no history of prejudice.
If all of your employees were of an identical age and had the same gender, ethnic background, sense of humor, religious beliefs, and political affiliations, the likelihood of communication problems or harassment occurring would be significantly lowered. However, when no two employees match up perfectly along these categories, the opportunity for misunderstanding only increases.
By providing management teams with diversity awareness training, you can equip them to help create a more inclusive workplace across generations and backgrounds. Educate employees on how to create a culture of respect and tolerance. Bring in outside support to provide workers with helpful tools to resolve communication problems and avoid the potential friction of culture clash.
Create a company policy that clearly defines the inclusive nature of your recruitment, compensation, benefits, professional development, and social programs. Make it clear that harassment and discrimination will not be tolerated, and define the consequences for violating policy. Obtain executive buy-in to help create a top-down culture of inclusivity.
Whenever possible try to account for the varied cultural and personal requirements of your staff. Some employees may need scheduling flexibility to accommodate prayer times or religious holidays. Those staff with disabilities may need more flexible break periods to deal with chronic medical issues.
Bring in outside experts to do a full analysis of the state of diversity in your workplace. Use this evaluation to identify any blind spots or policies that could undermine your inclusive culture.
Consider using blinded applications to evaluate potential hiring candidates. According to recent research, applicants with "ethnic-sounding" names need to send out 50 percent more resumes before receiving a callback as compared to job seekers with "white-sounding" names.
By removing these considerations from the hiring process, you can not only promote diversity but also avoid the potential of a discrimination claim.
With the strength of a diverse workforce, your business will be better equipped to meet the challenges of today's economy and in a better position to reach a broader cross-section of the market.
To learn more about our diversity and inclusion courses, you can fill out the form on the right to request a demo.
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