Guide to Managing Diversity in the Workplace
A workforce without bias is usually made up of people from diverse backgrounds, cultures, gender, age group, race, sexual orientation, and biological makeup. A lot of companies today are made of immigrants, expatriates, multiracial persons, and people from minor or underrepresented ethnic groups. As an employer, who aims at being free and fair, your company should strive for equality, diversity, and inclusion of all types of people. This means that you are open to hiring employees without putting so much importance on their skin color, cultural background, or what they choose to believe in. A diverse workplace comprises people of all sorts and treats every one of them, equally.
Having distinct personalities working together to achieve a common goal creates a beautiful fusion of energy and ideas. After all, variety is the spice of life. But it also means that every employee is different from the next in regards to talent, attitude, and interpersonal skills. This calls for effective management on your part as an employer or manager to avoid friction and full-blown conflicts. How do you do this? This article is a practical guide on managing diversity in the workplace.
- Put Strict Policies in Place: To protect the rights of every employee, it is proper to enforce necessary conduct as regards how employees treat each other. Implement all the laws of your host country and the rules of your organization by allowing no toleration or compromise even for first-time offenders or petty violations. Make it clear that the work culture is inclusive and does not accept any form of imbalance. This should be included in a Code of Conduct or Staff Handbook. A zero-tolerance policy ensures that actions such as bullying, harassment, intimidation, racism, or discrimination are taken seriously (no matter how “unserious” it looks, even if it is “just” a joke) and effective measures put in place to avoid them.
- Keep Communication Lines Open: With the different personalities, backgrounds, and ethnicities you work with, try as much as possible to make the work environment welcoming. Communication is an adequate way of showing every employee that their opinion is valued. The workplace culture could be formal but not so uptight that an employee will find it difficult to air their grievance or share their thoughts. Keep an open door system that encourages dialogue between staff and between employer and employees. Look beyond barriers and communicate with respect when telling employees what is expected of them. Always give clear information on how you want a task to be carried out, bearing in mind that an employee’s diversity could sometimes impact how they understand or react to instructions. You may also need to take more time to explain to some employees because of language or cultural differences.
- Treat Each Person as a Distinct Personality: It is important to treat everyone fairly and equally but it is also vital to remember that every employee is an individual and may have boundaries. You show respect for their identity and individuality when you avoid asking prying questions. Your colleague or employee is not a foreign species to be studied. Respect their choices be it religious, political, sexual, or otherwise as far as it does not infringe on the rights of others nor is illegal. Understand that they are not supposed to act like every man/woman, young/old, etc. person you know. Celebrate what makes each employee distinct and unique. Treat each employee as a person and not as a representative of their demography. To do this successfully, you should resist making assumptions and basing your actions on them without confirming if it relates specifically to an employee. For instance, it would be improper to give Mr. X from Asia all the math work every time because you believe that all Asians are good with math. Do not treat an employee the way “all whites/blacks/Asians/women/men etc., want to be treated”. Deal with Mr. A like Mr. A and Mrs. B like Mrs. B. Also, resist associating their successes or failures with their background. That would be like saying “So-and-so does well because he is white and Mr. Y always shows up to work late because he is black”.
- Train Yourself and Your Staff: Because we are all imperfect humans, you and your employees included, we could unconsciously harbor resentment or predisposed bias due to our upbringing or personal ideas. If you want to manage diversity properly, then everyone needs the training to let go of harmful preconceived notions before joining the team. Some agencies offer training, virtually or in person, on how to manage diversity in the workplace. The training is supposed to help everyone come to terms with sentiments they already have and further teach them how to overcome them and keep an open mind. Give your staff proper orientation on the advantages of keeping prejudice and bias out the door. Training on diversity will educate employees on how to know what is offensive to a colleague, how to effectively communicate when someone has overstepped a boundary, the limits of what can be discussed in the workplace (because volatile issues could easily burst into flames), and how to resolve conflicts that arise because of differences. Everybody should learn to respect each other’s boundaries and sensitivities and in the same way, nobody should be allowed to lord it over others because he is different and has therefore concluded that he deserves special treatment.
Don’t just say, but find practical ways to practice what you preach and teach your staff. Show through your words and action that you treat everybody the same and then encourage others to do the same. This should start as early as the recruitment stage. Keep an open mind when accepting applications or conducting interviews. If as an employer you make no move to hire more women to reduce the gender imbalance, then it may be difficult for the men in your company to treat the few women with respect because they are the minority. The same can be said when you do absolutely nothing to flatten the inequality curve, rather you pay employees from a particular race better than others. Come up with ways to show good examples. This could be by regularly switching up members of a team. This presents an opportunity for different people to work together and through that process, learn about each other. That would make it easier for them to understand and respect each other’s views. It also prevents the forming of cliques in the workplace which could make some people feel inferior, minor, or excluded. Create quality time for team bonding activities.
Diversity is a beautiful thing especially in a workplace – a potpourri of different humans bringing their experience and skillset onboard. Hiring from a diverse population offers you more choices. It makes the selection process easier because you are picking from a deep talent pool that may even include multilingual candidates and people familiar with the international market. A diverse staff strength offers different perspectives and solutions to a problem and helps you reach wide demography of clients or customers. However, ensure that every employee’s right and interest is protected.