A diverse staff enriches and energizes the workplace, often delivering benefits to the employer such as innovation. In addition, people in outward-facing roles, such as customer service, must relate to a wide range of people. Sometimes, however, employees who are not used to mixing with people with different abilities and backgrounds can display prejudice or discriminatory behavior. Employers can counter this by introducing activities to explain and celebrate diversity.
Formal diversity training is intended to combat racism, sexism and other prejudices. It helps people to respect others and behave appropriately around people with a diverse range of abilities, lifestyles, beliefs and backgrounds. It can raise awareness of people's different needs, question assumptions and address directly the problems of offensive and derogatory language.
Workplace celebrations of any type are a good way of raising morale and creating effective teams. By encouraging different groups of staff to share their cultural or religious celebrations, employers can celebrate diversity and develop a united, positive workforce. Examples of different activities include staff bringing in traditional food to celebrate religious festivals or (when appropriate) sharing different music and dance styles.
Employers can integrate diversity directly into the workplace by maintaining a central calendar in which religious observances such as Ramadan and Lent are marked, so that it is tacitly accepted that some employees may be fasting or engaged in some other religious activity. All religious holidays and celebration days (such as International Women's Day) can be marked by the company, perhaps through an emailed card to all employees or a message on the front page of the intranet.
Employers should ensure that an appreciation of diversity is built into their organizational values, through concepts such as "respect" and "equality." Teams should be encouraged to discuss the behaviors that demonstrate that they share those values. For example, someone organizing a creative brainstorm should invite members of other teams and members of diverse groups. Rewarding those behaviors can be built into the performance management system.
Lalla Scotter has been writing professionally since 1988, covering topics ranging from leadership to agriculture. Her work has appeared in publications such as the "Financial Times" and "Oxford Today." Scotter holds an honors Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Bristol.