Diversity plays a key role in business success, as it allows businesses to draw from the best talent regardless of personal demographics. Still, the inclusion of different ethnic, religious, sexual identity and gender groups in the workplace may make some employees uncomfortable. By delivering training sessions on diversity, building team dynamics and linking diversity to the company's success, employers can make great strides toward promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Deliver Diversity Training
Most large corporations routinely provide some form of diversity training for employees, and many report some measure of success. Diversity training programs can be as short or as long as necessary. However, the training should focus on how people, despite their apparent differences, are fundamentally the same and deserve the same respect and accommodations as others.
If your workplace has large concentrations of two or more diverse groups, your diversity training program should make some mention of the typical customs or beliefs of each group, and how the other group should respond to cultural differences. Overall, the training program must demonstrate that diversity and inclusion are not only important factors in the operation of the business, but are also embraced at all levels of the company.
Once management delivers diversity training, reinforce the message by "walking the walk." Demonstrate inclusive acts as part of standard management practices.
Nothing drives home the message of inclusion more powerfully than simply exposing diverse groups to one another. Team-building activities provide an excellent opportunity not only to refresh and encourage employees, but also to mingle diverse groups. In the process, seemingly different individuals may form new bonds (or even friendships), creating a powerful example of inclusion.
Team-building activities for improving diversity include sports, with teams assembled to represent a fair cross-section of the office staff. Picnics, cookouts and other events also encourage individuals to mingle with coworkers they may not be exposed to normally. If you hold a team-builder away from the office, consider inviting employee families for extra exposure to diversity.
Link Diversity to the Bottom Line
In a business environment, diversity has a direct link to commercial success. Businesses that draw the top talent regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or other personal factors create a naturally diverse staffing situation. To help coworkers understand why they work in a diverse environment, demonstrate how each individual brings a unique set of talents. In addition, demonstrate that the company's diversity reflects the diversity of its customers. When employees see how each individual contributes to the overall success of the company, regardless of any personal factors, they gain a new appreciation for diversity and inclusion.
Keith Evans has been writing professionally since 1994 and now works from his office outside of Orlando. He has written for various print and online publications and wrote the book, "Appearances: The Art of Class." Evans holds a Bachelor of Arts in organizational communication from Rollins College and is pursuing a Master of Business Administration in strategic leadership from Andrew Jackson University.