As the American workforce reflects an increasingly diverse population, organizations must effectively manage diversity in order to attract and retain high-quality employees and create a more cooperative, creative and productive work environment. One important aspect of managing diversity is demonstrating and encouraging respect for all employees’ abilities and perspectives. There are a number of steps an employer can take, including:
- Creating a policy on diversity and inclusion, and making sure that all employees have read and understood the policy
- Providing training for all employees about diversity and the employer’s commitment to recognizing every employee’s abilities and perspectives
- Training supervisors and managers on the diversity policy and how to handle situations, if they arise, where differences between employees are causing conflicts or interfering with productivity.
Why should you be concerned about workplace diversity?
- Figures from the most recent census show that minorities account for nearly a third of the U.S. workforce, 10 percent of workers are age 55 or over, and about half of the workforce are women.
- In the future, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that minorities will approach 50 percent of the American workforce, and the number of workers age 55 and older will jump to almost 20 percent.
- Growing diversity among your employees has a big impact on how your organization functions. Increasingly, supervisors will be required to work effectively with men and women of different races; religions; ages; lifestyle preferences; and social, ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
What are the benefits of workforce diversity? A welcoming and diverse workplace where all employees feel empowered and supported in their career goals is the best way to attract quality employees—and the best way to keep them. With high-performing employees come higher productivity, quality and improved morale. When employees feel and see that diversity is appreciated and promoted in the workplace, they are generally more satisfied with their jobs. Oftentimes a diverse workforce will provide the opportunity to have many different angles or points of view in the decision-making process, which enables leaders to make better decisions that are often more innovative. Another benefit of encouraging diversity is the reduction of discrimination complaints and costly lawsuits.
What are the applicable regulations? Although there are no specific laws or regulations that require workplace diversity, diversity is at least in part about equal opportunity, and provisions of the following federal fair employment laws should be kept in mind: Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), Americans with Disabilities Act, Equal Pay Act, Rehabilitation Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In Illinois, laws to be considered are the Illinois Human Rights Act, The Equal Pay Act of 2003 and the Military Leave Absence Act.
Want to promote workplace diversity? Consider your answers to the following questions. Do you have a diversity policy? If you have a policy, how do you support it? Do you train employees to recognize the benefits of diversity? Have you built work teams with employees from different backgrounds and diverse perspectives? Your answers to these questions will shed light on whether or not there are opportunities to enrich the workplace experience through enhanced diversity efforts. iBi