What do a vampire, a burlesque performer, and a professional hugger all have in common? They could all have day jobs in your organization.
Diversity in the workplace – what does it look like?
The above diverse, wonderful people are all real. A not-so-nefarious, self-proclaimed vampire with fang implants needed an accommodation to work from home on sunny days, due to a legitimate photo-sensitivity abnormality. Another employee who danced burlesque part-time needed help managing an identity crisis when she wanted to be referred to in all records and communications as Bettie (as in Bettie Page) when her legal name was Jill. The professional hugger was a determined gentleman who insisted that the company tuition reimbursement policy applied to his professional hugging course using the argument that what he was learning from his hugging courses could be applied to his current role as a Financial Analyst.
Other real-life examples of amazing diversity include an East Indian Hindu HR Generalist who was a converted Southern Baptist… A Black Jewish woman from Detroit who spoke Hebrew fluently and was a successful consultant… A Buddhist Monk, who was also a Kung Fu master and the organization’s most talented labor attorney… A reformed White Supremacist, who was among the first to the altar once same-sex marriage became legalized in California (they made a lovely bi-racial couple).
Each of these individuals were stellar employees that excelled remarkably in their respective disciplines and they all brought a uniquely delightful interest to the environment and their work.
Diversity goes far deeper than the color of an employee’s skin, hair color, or race. It also has to do with a variety of characteristics including but not limited to religion, sexual orientation, and ethnicity. Diversity encompasses interest, personality, age, hobbies, ideals, values, talents, and even cognitive styles. It is something to be recognized, promoted as a valued asset, and something to be capitalized on.
Diversity is not a chore, it’s a goal and your organization is exponentially stronger when you foster and promote it.
The benefits of diversity and inclusiveness
An organization that is represented by a variety of cultures, perspectives, ideas, and skill-sets is an organization with a strategic advantage. Diversity brings to any organization a multi-dimensional edge in an evolving global marketplace. You may find that diversity provides an opportunity for employees to enjoy and learn from one another’s differences which promotes a mutual respect and tolerance, and that a diversity of perspectives and ideas gives rise to creative solutions and innovative ways to execute and deliver to both your internal and external stakeholders. Some organizations still view diversity as a requirement vs. an aspiration. Consider it an investment in your employees and the future of your organization. Successful organizations have made diversity and inclusion a critical business imperative.
How does your organization measure up?
If your goal is to foster an environment of diversity and inclusiveness consider starting the process with a preliminary assessment of your organization’s commitment to the cause as follows:
- Do you have a current set of diversity policies?
- Do you have any quantifiable diversity practices?
- Is diversity and inclusion a part of your corporate Social Responsibility Statement?
- What were the results of diversity audits the company has carried out?
- Has your organization conducted any briefings or training around the topic of diversity?
The following is a four-step framework used to determine where an organization stands when it comes to attitude to diversity. Where do you fall?
Diversity is always worth the investment
The more diverse employee experiences and backgrounds are, the more diverse their viewpoints and opinions. A strategic brainstorming session can be a prime environment where outside-of-the-box thinking can thrive. Your team will be better equipped to develop fresh ideas that will meet the needs of a diverse marketplace. You can also broaden your service range as cultural diversity includes inviting a variety of on-the-job skills that drive innovation in your company.
When you have diverse workforce, diverse customers in your target market are more likely to trust your brand and feel comfortable doing business with your company. As our economy becomes increasingly global, your workforce will also become increasingly diverse. Your competitiveness and success will depend on your success in managing diversity and inclusion in your own organization
Make diversity a part of overall talent management strategy. Aside from a positive impact on your bottom line, your employees’ work experience will be enriched because of it. To invest in creating a diverse, collaborative, and inclusive workplace means making a cultural shift from checking the box to skill building and development of these skills are well worth the investment.