Workplace diversity. What, why and how?

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By Grant Hall, Founder of League Cultural Diplomacy

Workplace diversity is a personal passion of mine, so I’d been looking forward to the recent launch of League Cultural Diplomacy’s workplace diversity services which I enjoyed designing in partnership with a range of international experts. To succeed in today’s globalised and multicultural business world, organisations of all types should make diversity in their workforce a business imperative.

But what exactly is workplace diversity? Why should you implement it and how do you implement it? Let’s see!

What is workplace diversity?

In their excellent Diversity in the workplace resource for employers, the Anti-Discrimination Commission of Queensland (ADCQ) in Australia describes workplace diversity as:

“Creating an inclusive environment that accepts each individual’s differences, embraces their strengths and provides opportunities for all staff to achieve their full potential.”

This means that the workplace reflects the diversity of the broader society, and allows people from migrant or indigenous backgrounds, women, people with disabilities, LGBTI folk and others to have the same opportunities to prosper in the workplace as anyone else.

Citing some statistics from the USA, including the Census Bureau’s estimate that minorities will make up over 40 percent of the American workforce by 2020, safety.blr.com’s online guide Simple Steps to Support Workplace Diversity points out that “we are all different in some way”,  and “that diversity has many dimensions” including:

• Age
• Gender
• Race
• Ethnic heritage
• National origin
• Skin colour
• Family status
• Mental or physical abilities
• Religion
• Sexual orientation
• Regional origin
• Generation
• Socioeconomic status
• Education
• Occupation
• Work experience
• Work style

Why is workplace diversity important?

Organisations whose workforces reflect the communities in which they operate report better stakeholder relations and increased innovation and productivity. Leveraging different cultural perspectives across your workforce helps you to stay connected with today’s rapidly transforming client bases and access new and emerging markets.

Discussing the advantages of diversity in the workplace, Sahar Andrade, in her blog post 6 advantages of Workplace Diversity delivers a great summary of why organisations should adapt the concept:

“Businesses are recognizing the need and importance of investing in diversity and inclusion as part of their overall talent management practices and to continually challenge their organizations to make the connection between those principles and their corporate performance. Diversity is especially crucial in today’s global marketplace, as companies interact with different cultures and clients. The payoffs touch every area of the business by potentially resulting in increased creativity, increased productivity, new attitudes, new language skills, global understanding, new processes, and new solutions to difficult problems. greater agility, better market insight, stronger customer and community loyalty, innovation, and improved employee recruitment and retention.”

She then goes on to list some more advantages that diversity in the workplace delivers, such as:

• Increased creativity and problem solving abilities
• Enhanced communication skills and synergy in teams
• Cost savings on litigation expenses generated by discrimination lawsuits
• Increased market share and a satisfied diverse customer base

The LCD team has seen first hand how having a diverse workforce provides many benefits to organisations entering foreign markets and expanding their operations abroad. For example, organisations which have staff who speak one or more of the Chinese languages will find this to be a real asset when they commence doing business in China, or with Chinese companies.

Sahar Andrade also rightly points out that it’s “the right thing to do” and we strongly believe that as well. Non-discrimination and equality rights are central to each of the major human rights treaties, and non-discriminatory corporate sectors contribute to building stronger economies and stable social environments. Andrade’s article is worth reading in full and you can access it here.

How?

The ADCQ also offer the following tips for creating a diverse workplace:

• Discuss diversity with your employees, highlighting the benefits of having a diverse and inclusive workplace.
• Identify and address any unconscious bias in recruitment, retention and promotion that may be preventing particular groups of people from joining or staying at your workplace.
• Value individual skills that employees bring, including language skills and international experience that may help to broaden your market and business connections.
• Ensure flexible work options are available to all staff, including comprehensive parental leave policies for both men and women.
• Be aware of different cultural practices and special needs of employees and make workplace adjustments where appropriate.
• Take steps to prevent discrimination and harassment in your workplace.

From there, it’s important to initiate a workplace diversity program which includes policies, strategies and initiatives to ensure diversity in the workplace. The program needs to be developed and subsequently initiated, monitored, measured and adjusted.

There are many different approaches that you can take and initiatives that you can implement in regards to your workplace diversity program. Mac McIntire, President of the Innovative Management Group details some worthy considerations in his LinkedIn post Four Approaches to Diversity Management in the Workplace. It is up to you which approach, or combination of approaches will best suit the needs of your workplace. There are many online resources available, and a good starting point is to read the workplace diversity programs of other organisations.

League Cultural Diplomacy’s workplace diversity services

League Cultural Diplomacy takes an approach to workplace diversity that is holistic and innovative. What makes our services unique is the way we incorporate aspects of culture, be it visual arts programs, sport initiatives or food events into workplace diversity programs. Our culture based initiatives have the power to bring people together and craft a positive workplace culture whilst providing outstanding PR opportunities that demonstrate leadership and contribute strongly to business growth.

Our cultural diversity specialist partners have provided dozens of businesses with cultural competency training and diversity strategies. My personal experience in working with diversity includes managing a multicultural arts centre in Adelaide, working with Indigenous artists in WA on behalf of the Australian Government and managing a youth orchestra in Northern Ireland, an initiative designed to improve relations between Catholic and Protestant youth.

LCD’s cultural workplace diversity services have been designed through international partnerships with noted thought leaders and trainers in the cultural intelligence field, including David Clive Price PhD, London based cultural intelligence mentor, author of Bamboo Strong: Cultural Intelligence Secrets to Succeed in the New Global Economy and official Adviser to League Cultural Diplomacy, Susan Salzbrenner, Copenhagen based CEO and Head of Consulting at Fit Across Cultures and author of Play Abroad 101, Patti McCarthy, Melbourne based Director of Cultural Chemistry and author of Cultural Chemistry: Simple Strategies for Bridging Cultural Gaps and Anna Ridgway, Director of InterMondo Cultural Consulting in Melbourne Australia.

League Cultural Diplomacy offer a range of workplace diversity services including:

• Developing and managing your organisation’s workplace diversity program, in full or in part
• Organising workplace diversity events and initiatives, such as cultural events
• Working with you to ensure your workforce maintains its diversity
• Providing cultural competence training for your business or organisation
• One-on-one diversity mentoring for executives

If you would prefer to manage your workplace diversity program in-house we are able to provide you with consulting services or train your staff in managing successful diversity strategies, initiatives and events.

Click here for further information or contact us today to arrange a consultation.

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