Tips on How to Successfully Achieve Diversity in the Work Place

Gone are the days when everyone in the workplace looked alike. Thank goodness! The multicultural workforce is here to stay. Therefore, it is in your best interest to learn how to create an environment where members of a variety of ethnic, racial, religious, and gender backgrounds can thrive. The changing face of the workforce and increasing globalization of business has propelled the management of cultural differences onto the top of the agenda for business leaders.

Like most things in life, those things worth having don't always come easy. If not managed properly, cultural differences can increase costs through higher turnover rates as a result of interpersonal conflicts and miscommunication. However, the benefits of this diversity include improved decision making, innovation, and greater success in connecting with foreign and ethnic minority customers.

Here are some tips to get you started.

Don't confuse diversity with inclusiveness
"The Inclusionist"- Simma Lieberman, who is the president of Berkeley, California based Simma Lieberman and Associates finds that companies often believe that if they are diverse, people will automatically feel like they are working in an inclusive environment.

"Diversity has come to just mean representation by number. Inclusion means that everyone has an equal chance to show what they can do, and be recognized for what they bring, and help the company increase profits. It also means that they understand that hiring on the basis of numbers and nothing else means that they don't really believe that "minorities," are not capable of being the best candidates. I believe that we have to go beyond diversity and inclusion to utilization of individual talent and skills," states Lieberman.

Be prepared for resistance
Not everyone in the organization will value diversity as the diversification of the workforce usually results in change. We know that change can be difficult for people. Suddenly, they are asked to work with people who may have a different way of doing things.

The best way to overcome resistance is through inclusion. By that I mean, including the people who you think will be most resistant in the process of planning for change. For example, suppose you are hiring a new group of people to work on a project that will begin shortly. Consider asking some of the potential "resistors" to participate in the interviewing process. Be sure to provide them with the proper training they will need to assess candidates.

Think about setting up a "buddy program" for all new hires. This pairing of experienced people with those that are new to the workplace can accelerate the assimilation and acceptance of new hires (regardless of background) into the organization.

Long-term commitment versus short-term compliance
Sure you can get people to comply short-term with any initiative. However, managing diversity is a process, not a one-time event. You have to be committed to weaving diversity into the fabric of your organization or you may as well do nothing.

Those at the top of the organization must believe in and support the mission of creating a welcoming workplace for all. This means allocating funds to ensure workers are trained on how to effectively work with people who are different from themselves. This may also require redesigning your promotional materials, including websites and recruitment brochures, so that your organization appeals to more than one sector of the population.

Actively seek input from minority groups in the design of your diversity initiative. Involving minority groups in this process allows them to share their unique perspective with others, while confirming that the company values their opinions. On the flipside, asking minorities to participate in irrelevant task forces that are clearly going no where can create barriers that may be impossible to topple.

Keep your eye on the prize
Creating a workplace where employees of all backgrounds feel accepted takes time and lots of effort. Be patient and be willing to learn from the mistakes you make along the way. Celebrate when you achieve certain milestones and remember that everyday you are getting closer to achieving a workplace where the word "diversity" is no longer spoken. It just happens.

© 2009 Human Resource Solutions. All rights reserved.

Roberta Chinsky Matuson is the President of Human Resource Solutions (http://www.yourhrexperts.com) and has been helping companies align their people assets with their business goals. She is considered an expert in generational workforce issues and authors the popular blog Generation Integration http://generationintegration.typepad.com/matuson/ . Roberta publishes a monthly newsletter "HR Matters" which is jammed with resources, articles and tips to help companies navigate  through sticky and complicated workforce issues. Roberta is also an expert blogger for Fast Company. The name of her Fast Company blog is Management Escalator. Click here to join her for the ride http://www.fastcompany.com/blog/roberta-matuson/management-escalator-0 . Roberta can be reached at 413-582-1840 or Roberta@yourhrexperts.com.

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