Fostering Diversity in the Workplace

–submitted by Kevin Hoffman; photo by Pete Christianson

DSC_0003Karen Lincoln Michel challenged us to think in a different way about workplace perceptions, the importance of fostering diversity in our workplaces (particularly if we are leaders), and to be sensitive to the welcome our workplace culture extends to those with different ethnicity, gender, or cultural background.

Leaders with hiring responsibility need to be aware of affinity bias – the tendency to hire those who look like us or have the same background.  Our perceptions can powerfully influence our decision-making process, often without us realizing it!  By selecting people with similar characteristics we miss out on key insights and perspectives that someone outside of our experience and background can bring.  She challenged leaders to have the courage to step out of their comfort zones to realize the benefits that increased diversity can bring.

True workplace diversity demonstrates benefits in terms of being able to attract top talent, improved customer relations, improved employee satisfaction, better decision-making, and retaining talented employees.  The business environment is a diverse place and hiring and retaining staff to effectively address that environment only makes good business sense.  On a tangible basis, Ms. Lincoln cited a McKinsey study that indicated that firms with greater diversity showed a greater likelihood to financially outperform their peers.

Finally, culture matters.  Workplace and community culture is important to the success of diversity efforts.  Is the culture welcoming?  Do persons of color feel isolated?  Programs and policies are not enough – leaders have to truly engage and drive the initiative and commit to recruiting and supporting diverse candidates.

Ideas for true engagement in workplace diversity programs include having an officer or position in charge of fostering diversity, mission statements that include diversity as part of the organization’s core values, creation of an inclusive and positive atmosphere, widely seeking out candidates, and providing mentoring relationships to support individual success.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

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