Karla News

How to Apply Diversity Skills in the Workplace

Diversity, Diversity Training, Training Seminars

The world is a different place from the time before the Civil Rights era of the early 1960s when many businesses would not hire people of a different race. Back then, minorities were nonexistent in many companies. If minority workers were hired, employers rarely used or even thought to consider diversity skills. All companies have a different dynamic, and there is no uniform diversity model. However, some methods have shown good results.

Thought Process

Diversity skills apply to race, age, gender, physical and mental ability, sexual orientation and religious beliefs. Applying diversity skills involves more than just having a diverse group of people in the office. Employers, if they haven’t already, must develop empathy for what the plight of others who are not male Caucasians in top physical shape between the ages of 25 and 40 might be. They must understand their own prejudices or biases. The mindset, to foster an atmosphere of equal collaboration, should be that everyone is an individual. There should be no preconceived notions based on how the employer views a certain group. This same mindset should be used when dealing with customers outside the workplace.

Ongoing Training

Apply diversity skills designed to help employees understand their biases by having ongoing training sessions conducted by a diversity expert. Just having one half-day or full day seminar or workshop is not enough. A 2007 study by sociologists Frank Dobbin and colleagues confirmed this. After studying decade’s worth of federal government statistics of companies that offered diversity-training seminars, there were no changes in the number of minorities and women receiving promotions to management. Prejudices and biases are often deeply ingrained, and a mandatory one-time seminar might do more harm than good by causing resentment, according to the study. A better approach is to have a diversity expert on your staff or one that you use as a regular consultant. This person can track how diverse your business is and the sort of progress minorities, women and non-U.S. citizens make there.

See also  Making Schools Safe for Gay and Lesbian Students

Social Events

Plan social gatherings where people can get to know each other better. You or a diversity expert would monitor these get-to-know-you sessions. Give everyone a chance to speak while others listen. The goal is to encourage dialogue between types of people who might never have socialized before. If an employee is uncomfortable around blind people, gay people or people from India, for example, getting to know the people he considers different is one way to rid his bias. Annik Stahl, who writes the Crabby Office Lady column for Microsoft, observed that if employees do not rid their prejudices, they would probably have a difficult time hiding those negative feelings in or out of the workplace. Once employers and managers learn diversity skills, namely to treat people as individuals and not part of a group, they can teach those skills to employees. R. Roosevelt Thomas, founder of the American Institute for Managing Diversity, teaches executives using this example: “In a foxhole, I want someone who can shoot. I don’t care where they’re from.”

Outside Partnerships

Lend your business support to multicultural groups. Dell, for example, partners with The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute to help people in the Laptops for Scholars program. This program helps people in the Latino community complete their college studies by providing participants with a laptop. Non work-related activities to help with diversity skills outside the office could include something as easy as trying the new Korean restaurant in town.