We live in a colorful, fascinating and diverse world. There are numerous customs, world views, and ways of life that people of differing cultures have to offer. A homogenous workplace is in serious danger of stagnating, while a workplace with a healthy mix of diversity is an environment that will flourish.
But diversity and the acceptance of diversity in the workplace will not happen by accident. Employers need to make a dedicated effort to cultivate diversity and promote that diversity throughout the entire company. Employees at all levels of the company need to be educated on diversity, inclusion, and cultural sensitivity.
How best to do it? Here are 13 effective ways to educate employees on diversity:
- Start at the Top. Education of company employees must begin with the company leadership. For any effective and long-lasting change to take place, a commitment to diversity must be embraced by the CEO, managers, supervisors, and team leaders of the company, throughout the entire company leadership. Diversity must be modeled by the leadership, otherwise it will not be accepted by the workforce.
- Address Whiteness. Let's face it, in the United States, white and whiteness is the standard by which all other ethnic groups are compared. To be even more specific, white male straight Christian is the standard by which all other minorities are compared and are forced to measure up to. A big part of the process of educating employees on diversity is to dismantle colonization thinking and to make diversity the company standard.
- Mandatory Training. Make going through mandatory training a natural part of the company culture. Set aside time and space for paid education to take place as part of working at the company. Education needs to be for everyone, from the highest member of the company to the lowest, for both full time and part time employees.
- Maintain A Culture Of Diversity. Transform the culture of the company to reflect what is learned in the diversity and sensitivity training. Put what is learned as normal company practice.
- Use Inclusive Language. The language we use matters, and it can either be exclusive or inclusive. To affirm diversity and cultural sensitivity inclusion, use language in both verbal and written that is inclusive. Adopt the use of employee's preferred personal pronouns. Use greetings and terms from other languages and educate people in their meaning.
- Use Inclusive Imagery. In the same way with language, use images that reflect a wide range of diversity rather than of one ethnic group. Decorate the walls with artwork that celebrates diversity and encourages inclusion.
- Develop Diverse Decision-making. Cultivate diverse teams. People from differing walks of life will have differing ways of making decisions. This is will promote creativity and inclusion.
- Celebrate And Affirm Diversity. Recognize different holiday observances and allow employees time off to observe those holidays. Be accommodating to the diversity of people's needs by providing gender neutral bathrooms, company daycare and flexible work hours.
- Create Safe Spaces. Have a system in place where employees can express grievances without repercussion. Let it be known that employees are safe to express their views and have access to fair arbitration.
- Practice The Reverse Golden Rule. The "Golden Rule" is to treat people the way you wish to be treated. But when creating diversity, teach the reverse golden rule: Treat people in a way they wish to be treated, rather than the way you wish to be treated. What is familiar and comfortable for one may not be comfortable for another. Teach the principle of being comfortable with being uncomfortable.
- Ongoing education. Create and facilitate a culture of ongoing education, because the things learned must be reinforced, refreshed, and added to with new learning.
- Commit To Continuous Improvement And Assessment. Recognize that, as a company, you will never be fully perfect. There will always be things to learn, and cultivating diversity, inclusion, and cultural sensitivity is a matter growth on a continuum. Therefore, always be examining where you are as a company and always be looking for ways to improve diversity in the workplace.
- Use Outside Resources. The education of employees in diversity will not be easy and will likely be beyond the capacity of the company's resources. An outside and neutral source of educational resources is a valuable asset for ways to educate employees on diversity.
One great resource is provided by EasyLlama (www.easyllama.com). EasyLlama is an online training resource that makes it easy for companies to train employees on diversity. The courses offer modern, interactive, and cost effective content that will help companies create a diverse and inclusive workplace. Courses include diversity training in gender, age, sexual orientation, religious, ability/disability, racial identity, and much more. The courses are fully online and can be easily accessed by mobile devices.
Transforming the company culture to a sensitive, inclusive, and diverse workplace is a must for its health and future. We've looked at a short list of thirteen ways to teach and embrace diversity. More ideas could be mentioned, but we hope that this is a positive start to change your company culture.