Just a few years ago, a business employing one person of color was considered “diverse.” If that “diversity” person was not outright discriminated against, the company congratulated itself on its “tolerance.” Today’s American workforce, however, is more diverse than ever – and “tolerance” isn’t good enough – it’s time for business owners and employees to fully embrace the diverse workplace – whether your employees are black or white, homosexual or heterosexual, Muslim or Jewish, disabled or overweight – they should be judged only by their work ethic, the quality of their work product, and their professionalism. The top three things to know about managing a diverse workforce:
1) Smaller companies have the best chance of establishing a diverse culture, because the owner is able to make changes without having to deal with corporate bureaucracy.
2) By managing diversity successfully, the small business has a better opportunity to compete in the global marketplace.
3) Establish and enforce a no-tolerance anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy.
4) Building personal relationships breaks down barriers to diversity – both internally and externally.
Learn (and teach) all civil rights laws applicable to the workplaceBefore you can effectively embrace and manage a diverse workforce, you have to take the first step and learn the applicable anti-discrimination laws, the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and more.
Federal Equal Opportunity (EEO) laws. For additional information, check out these specific sites: The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, National Origin Discrimination, and the Americans with Disabilities Act Web site. For state-specific laws, visit the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
Invest time and money into diversity trainingIf your company has not yet begun diversity training, the time to do it is immediately.
Ensure that your employees have cultural sensitivity trainingThere’s more to managing the diverse workforce than just preventing discrimination. In the global marketplace, you and your employees must be sensitive to cultural differences and respect those differences.
Take diversity all the wayDon’t fall into thinking that if you have employees who, on the surface, appear diverse – men and women, black and white – you’ve “done your duty.” Take it another step, and be fair to all diverse people – including those of different sexual orientation, age, religion, ability levels, etc.
National Association of ADA Coordinators (NAADAC) is a non-profit organization founded in 1992 by a group of public and private sector professionals, who saw a need to educate entities regarding both the requirements and the opportunities of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The NAADAC offers customized ADA training workshops throughout the U.S., reasonable accommodation development, program and physical accessibility compliance assistance, and much more. Visit the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), a free consulting service providing info about job accommodations, the employability of people with disabilities, and the ADA.
List job openings with a variety of sourcesIf you only advertise your job openings in your community paper, the odds are that you’ll end up with a less diverse workforce than if you advertise online and in a variety of publications/sources.
- Encourage all of your employees/supervisors to listen to each other’s ideas, perspectives, and thoughts, regardless of the speaker’s diversity.
- Never stop learning – or teaching – your employees about workplace diversity.
- Visit the bookstore to find dozens of books, workbooks, and audiobooks promoting workplace diversity ideas and plans. Then set up a business book library at work, so employees can borrow the resources for free – and learn on their own.
- Offer incentives for those employees who come up with new, effective ways to embrace diversity at work – and then put those ideas to work!
- Make the learning fun – not drudgery – and see how your employees’ attitudes about diversity training change for the better.
- Consider hiring multilingual employees – especially if your customer base is made up of people who speak a language other than English.
- Encourage employees to learn American Sign Language (ASL), a “foreign” language. How many of your competitors can communicate with those customers who use ASL?