If you were to take a snapshot of the American workforce now, it would look very different than it did just two generations ago. Today’s workplace features a variety of employees, from women to immigrants, from Millennials to Boomers. But managing diversity in the workplace does present challenges. Employees come into the work environment with a vast range of expectations, needs, and skill sets. So how do businesses start managing diversity in the workplace?
Take the cultural pulse. Don’t rely on a hunch or suspicion to assess your company’s current cultural environment. Use an employee satisfaction survey to gain insight into what the employees feel about workplace diversity.
Develop a framework for workers who speak limited or no English. If the work environment is rich in these employees, decision makers should start managing diversity in the workplace by considering language issues. While businesses cannot insist on a blanket language policy, a manager might consider these tactics:
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- Pinpoint which types of company documents might need to be translated. This may include work rules, discrimination/harassment policies, health insurance information, etc. This managing diversity in the workplace strategy will go a long way toward reducing confusion among your employees and their co-workers.
- Don’t impose an English-only policy without very careful consideration. From a cultural diversity standpoint, banning a foreign language is a sure way to alienate the employees who make your business work. Just as importantly, the EEOC sets strict guidelines regarding English-only policies. For example, the policy must be specifically and narrowly tailored to legitimate business purposes and cannot prohibit non-English languages during breaks, meals, or other non-work time. Always consult with an employment lawyer or HR professional before creating English-only policies.
Train employees about harassment and discrimination issues. Team members may not be aware that their culturally insensitive comments or jokes offend others. Educate employees about the types of conduct that might be considered harassment or discrimination. And, if you employ a number of workers from the same foreign culture, consider educating other employees about language or behaviors a particular culture might find offensive.
Make complaint processes culturally sensitive. The American workplace typically depends on the employee to assert their rights by registering a complaint. In some cultures, it’s considered disrespectful to complain about co-workers or managers. If you employ workers from other cultures, partner with them to develop a system in which they’re comfortable filing a workplace-related complaint.
Recognize you may encounter opposition to change. If the company hasn’t historically been diverse or if diversity policies are new to the workplace, it’s not uncommon to encounter resistance to the changes. Start managing diversity in the workplace resistance by explaining the reasons why the changes are happening and how they will benefit employees and the company.
Establish achievable, measurable goals. Best-in-class companies don’t enter a new market or build a new product without having a sense of where they want to go or where they need to be. If you want to start managing diversity in the workplace successfully set reasonable, attainable goals and benchmarks.
Diversity is not just a business buzz word. Proactively managing diversity in the workplace is a smart way for businesses to capitalize on the experiences, talents, and skills of all employees.
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