If you’re reading this article, wherever you are, chances are that you’ve experienced diversity in the workplace. As boundaries between cultures blur, a variety of people integrates a wide spectrum of professions. This means an unprecedented amount of cultural exchange is happening all around the world. It is now your responsibility to lead an assorted, open-minded and accepting team!
Workplace diversity enhances both personal and professional progress. But it can also be a challenge. On the one hand, we get to learn from one another. People from every part of the globe bring valuable experiences from all walks of life, helping their colleagues and organizations evolve. On the other, we must work hard to deconstruct often deeply rooted prejudice and limitations to create a harmonious environment for this wholesome exchange to flourish.
Of course, hiring a diverse workforce is the 1st step: more ethnicities, more gender variety, more indigenous nations, more visible minorities… However, it doesn’t stop there. Now that we have expanded our team to a beautiful mosaic of identities, we must focus on promoting diversity and achieving harmony within our milieu. So how do we succeed in this task?
For starters, it’s important to clearly establish the fact that our workplace is a safe zone, free of judgement and discrimination. It may sound silly to mention, since we assume that, as reasonable adults, it’s a given. But you must make it clear from the get-go.
State it during training, include it in your company policy, etc. Let it be known that your workforce must keep an open mind toward the views of their colleagues. Of course, you needn’t make it look like you’re policing them. You can mention that one should avoid debating delicate topics such as race and religion at work. And when appropriate, add a little humor. Say, for example, “You should also not discuss sports teams… but Bruins fans in Montreal might have a tough time! ” Make it clear, educative, yet fun!
If you’re looking to achieve diversity in the workplace, cultural intelligence training is a definite asset. It’s possible you may have to mediate an issue between employees with inherently different views on a topic due to their cultures. What will truly make the difference is how well you know each stance and the reasoning behind in order to help them find common ground.
As the school of life knows no vacation, keep learning! Did you just hire a person from a country that you know little about? Take time to read a BBC country profile about it. Do you have an opportunity to go abroad, travel to visit an office overseas, get to know other teams around the world? Seize it! These are experiences that will serve you faithfully for life!
One of the best ways to promote diversity in the workplace is to make learning fun. Organizing events for different communities will benefit your environment in many ways. It will celebrate the various cultures within your team, thus making your employees feel welcome and at home. It will educate their colleagues on aspects of their customs and traditions that make them awesome and unique.
Celebrating culture will make your workplace colourful, exciting and fill the lives of your coworkers with a wealth of unforgettable experiences! It’s always a great idea to make people discover other cultures through things they enjoy: music, art, history, food… Especially food! Make sure to always include signature snacks on the table!
A great way to organize it is to invest in a Diversity Committee. Don’t forget to let your employees volunteer and pool their ideas to plan events and celebrations. While your committee may consist of a handful of people, make sure that they reach out to their culturally diverse colleagues.
A few event ideas…
- Have Muslim team members introduce everyone to a cultural feast on Eid
- Invite your Caribbean confrères to wear their countries’ flags during Caribana
- Celebrate gender diversity and enable your teammates to shine in their personal identities
- Get creative and don’t miss an opportunity to highlight the diversity in your workplace!
Once you overcome the challenges of communication and understanding between different cultures, diversity becomes fun. Live it, embrace it, and create valuable and fun experiences for your team!
Photos by Chris Barbalis and Samantha Gades on Unsplash