I attended a session on diversity this week at the Granite State HR Conference in New Hampshire. The speaker, Regina Clark, opened her presentation with this question, “Why are you attending a session on diversity when New Hampshire is one of the least diverse states in the country?” The response was eye opening and it proved how broad the definition of diversity really is in today’s global market. The audience was made up of mostly HR Professionals and they are dealing with constant diversity challenges in their organizations. These challenges are no longer just about race, nationality, or the color of someone’s skin– it’s about generational differences, tattoos, earrings, religious beliefs and practices, sexual preferences, genders, and multiple languages being spoken in the workplace.
In today’s workforce, we have four generations in the workplace and each generation brings something different to the table. The Baby Boomers want to meet in person to discuss things while the Millennials are happy to discuss it over email or through a social media tool. There are also diverse attributes that we can’t physically see when looking at someone. These attributes are family status, some disabilities, family traditions, education and sexual preference, to name a few. One of the participants in the session named a challenge with a customer and a transgender individual. The customer refused to allow the individual to use a male or female bathroom and required them to use the gender neutral or family restroom.
Diversity is real and it’s here to stay. While there are challenges, diversity can bring more value to your organization than challenges. Franklin Covey offers a great training on diversity called Championing Diversity. In this training they state that organizations that embrace diversity see the following benefits:
- Eliminate litigation costs
- Enhance productivity by tapping into every employee’s skills
- Shake loose from old ways of thinking
- Create synergy through diversity
- Grow future leaders.
So, how do you harness this new definition of diversity to add value to your organization?
Step One: Step out of your own bubble and realize that differences will bring new ideas and innovation to your organization.
Step Two: Talk with people. I have traveled the world in my career and have learned so much just by talking with people. People all over the world love to talk about their language, traditions and their country. It’s very eye opening, but it’s also a very quick way to build rapport.
Step Three: Educate others. Consider implementing a learning management system that will allow your leaders and staff to take eLearning courses on site to ensure they understand the importance of diversity in the workplace.
Step Four: Own it. Everyone in the organization from the top down is responsible for embracing diversity in the organization. Leaders need to set the example and show that diversity is an important part of the organization.