Diversity Initiatives

With myself contracting the last 12 odd years, I have noticed that organizations with high workplace diversity often exhibit increased creativity and problem solving. Diverse values, skills, and experiences lead to different ideas. The more ideas there are, the easier it is to find the right solution. Additionally, organizations that embrace diversity are more open to change and can adapt and respond to client needs. Diversity initiatives can lead to not only improved customer service and problem-solving, but often result in increased employee productivity as well.

Diversity initiatives are often confused with Equal Opportunity Employment (laws and requirements that prohibit workplace discrimination). However, EEO are mandated by law whereas diversity initiatives surprisingly are not.

I feel that the most best diversity education should be deployed across the entire company (as in every department and employee should be committed to the program). There should be a specific goals that are measurable and tied to the company’s overall business strategy. Many diversity initiatives focus on recruitment, general employee training and sales or marketing efforts.

One way to do this may be cultural competence. This is the ability to successfully navigate diverse cultural backgrounds and accomplish goals by respecting each other’s differences.  Ways to introduce this could be;

Awareness of your own worldview: How conscious are you of your own prejudices? It is often hard for us to spot our own biases, but diversity education can help expose personal prejudices.

Your attitude towards cultural differences: How do you react towards people of backgrounds different than yours? What is your ability to adapt your views of other people and other cultures? Role playing and scenario based learning are a good way to break down these biases and open discussion with others.

Your knowledge of different cultures: The more knowledgeable you are about other people and cultures, the less likely you are to say something offensive. Furthermore, cultural knowledge can help with problem solving, management roles, traveling, and more. This could be a simple exercise like a monthly gathering for teams to share and celebrate each other’s cultures and traditions in a respectful way.

Cross-cultural skills: Skills refer to the ability to look at and interact with others. Such as being self aware of your communication style, your jargon, tone and even speed. Emotional Intelligence is a huge thing, but that is for another topic, another day. That’s enough for now.

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