Organizational Strategies for Managing Workforce Diversity

08/10/2021 2 By indiafreenotes

Workplace diversity refers to the variety of differences between individuals in an organization. Diversity not only includes how individuals identify themselves but also how others perceive them. Diversity within a workplace encompasses race, gender, ethnic groups, age, religion, sexual orientation, citizenship status, military service and mental and physical conditions, as well as other distinct differences between people.

In many organizations, it is common for the managers to discriminate against particular racial and ethnic employees because they would be playing favorites with those employees of their own kind. These needs to be avoided at all costs and the senior leadership should send an unambiguous message that discrimination and harassment would not be tolerated at any cost. Further, in Asian countries, it is often the habit that employees lapse into their own language without considering the implications that it would have on the employees who do not speak their language. These needs to be avoided at all costs as well and strict enforcement of the language of communication (whether it is local or global) must be done. The point here is that in many industries, the managers need to communicate in the language that the workers are comfortable with. Therefore, there are no issues in this case since the language of communication can vary. However, in corporate settings and in services sector companies, there are employees from diverse backgrounds who feel lost when the manager and the employees communicate in languages other than the official language of communication.

Remember the Many Dimensions of Diversity

Check yourself and your leadership on how you define diversity. Diversity isn’t just about race, which is one of the most common things that come to people’s minds when they hear the word “diversity.”

Gender is another well-known dimension of diversity. Although society has made a lot of progress in this area, much remains to be done. One-third of female survey respondents in an inclusion survey from Culture Amp still feel that expressing a contrary opinion has negative consequences for them in the workplace.

Race and gender continue to be important domains of diversity. But it should encompass all the ways that human beings can be different from each other. Diversity must also recognize our differences in culture, religion, income, education levels, physical abilities, and other domains.

Another emerging area, for example, is generational diversity. This refers to the balance of workers having different ages or belonging to different generations.

Incentive slabs and bonus criteria should not change with designation and hierarchy.

Policies need to be same for every individual associated with the organization. If you scold your subordinate for coming late to work, make sure your top manager also comes on time. Don’t change your policies for people.

Enforce Workplace policies that Support Diverse Groups

Next, it’s time to look at all your workplace policies to see if they support diverse groups of employees. For example, providing benefits like flexible work schedules and on-site day-care facilities makes your organization more appealing to employees with different interests and needs. The absence of benefits like these marginalizes workers who have young children. Also consider access to benefits like health coverage. Does it place certain groups at a disadvantage?

Aside from benefits, also examine other areas of how you get things done at work. This may include auditing employee forms and how communication takes place. Walk through your physical workspace to look for ways that the environment may be prejudicial to groups of people.

All areas of your organization have the potential to exclude specific types of people. So, you must examine every inch of your workplace both literally and figuratively.

Appreciate employees whenever they do well.

Individuals need to be given their due credit. Generally, what happens is that whenever a team performs well, the team leader gets all the recognition and appreciation whereas the team members are left out. You need to be impartial towards your employees to promote organizational diversity.

Uncover and Overcome Unconscious Bias

As mentioned before, most people have unconscious bias. As the name implies, an unconscious or implicit bias is a prejudice against specific groups of people that you’re not aware of. Yet, unconscious bias still affects your behavior and decision making.

Unconscious biases stem from associations your mind forms about a certain gender, race, age group, or other classification. These associations and stereotypes may be based on a single, isolated incident, experiences that took place in childhood, or even something you heard somebody else say in passing. You may never know. But their effects linger.

Your job as the manager of diversity is to help people discover and acknowledge their unconscious biases so they can work towards removing them. This can be part of the diversity training in the workplace. This article discusses other ways to counteract unconscious bias.

Encourage effective communication at the workplace to promote organizational diversity.

Make sure everyone in the organization irrespective of his designation or level in the hierarchy is aware of his roles and responsibilities. Make sure organization policies are communicated well to each and everyone.

Create a Diverse Organizational or Corporate Culture

Aim to build an organizational culture that supports and promotes diversity. Business Dictionary defines organizational culture as “The values and behaviors that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization.”

It further says that organization culture, also known as corporate culture, is expressed in:

(1) the ways the organization conducts its business, treats its employees, customers, and the wider community.

(2) the extent to which freedom is allowed in decision making, developing new ideas, and personal expression.

(3) how power and information flow through its hierarchy.

(4) how committed employees are towards collective objectives.

Include Diversity in Your Performance Reports

Finally, approach diversity quantitatively to increase your chance of success. Make diversity one of performance indicators, not just for human resources, but for all managers, team leaders, and members of the C-suite. Make diversity efforts measurable, track progress, and report on them regularly.

This makes you and other office leaders accountable for managing diversity in your organization. Given the complexity and depth of diversity, it can’t be the responsibility of only one department, let alone one person in a company. In the final analysis, increasing diversity is the job of every single employee, from the lowest intern to the CEO.

Get Leadership on Board

As with any initiative, it’s easier when you get the leadership on board with increasing diversity. Make sure your company executives are fully behind your diversity efforts. That way, the other people in the organization are more likely to embrace diversity, too. Leadership sets the tone for the rest of the company.

They’re also critical to your success. With the backing of leadership, you’ll find it easier to get the budget, time, and other resources you need. Ensure also that you’ve got the mandate to pursue diversity in the organization. It needs to be officially set in the company’s policies, so that efforts to increase diversity continue even when key people leave.

Recruit for Maximum Diversity

There are many things to look at in your recruitment process. Here are a few:

  • The job description itself
  • How you present and publish the job posting
  • Ways to involve employees to reach more diverse applicants
  • How and where you hold interviews
  • How you ensure non-biased assessment of candidates

Managing diversity in recruitment is developing rapidly in the human resources space. You’ll find an array of reference materials, courses, and experts to help you in this area.

Conduct Diversity Training

Even though an increasing number of people are becoming aware of the importance of diversity, it doesn’t always come naturally. Even the most outwardly inclusive individual can have unconscious biases. This is why it’s a good idea to provide training on how to achieve and maintain a diverse workplace.

You can provide several types of training. The most basic is awareness training, which covers the importance and benefits of diversity in the workplace. The other type of training is skills training, or how to reduce prejudice and be more inclusive of others at work.

Diversity training isn’t as simple as it sounds. Even though most people may say they support diversity, they may have unconscious biases or simply not know how to live it out. Some training approaches can even backfire, especially if workers feel they’re being forced to take the classes or brainwashed in them.

Remember Retention

We’ve talked about recruiting a diverse group of job candidates. That’s only part of the story. Once you’ve hired them, you want to keep them.

And so, one of the strategies for managing diversity in the workplace is to look at how employee attrition or turnover is affecting your workplace diversity. This is a good barometer of how inclusive your organization is. You may be hiring people with a variety of backgrounds but if they’re leaving, that may be a sign that they don’t feel included after all.

Conduct an exit interview with minority employees to find out why they’re leaving the company. Use what you learn to make your policies and practices more inclusive.

Keep the Work Environment Positive

Discussion and activities around diversity can become contentious, yet it doesn’t have to be. If you promote a positive environment at work, then employees are more likely to feel happier. That also means they’ll be more likely to get along well with each other.

As you’ll learn from this article, creating a positive work environment also covers the physical environment and facilities, training, and communication in the workplace, among others.