Diversity plays a key role in business success, as it allows businesses to draw from the best talent regardless of personal demographics. Still, the inclusion of different ethnic, religious, sexual identity and gender groups in the workplace may make some employees uncomfortable. By delivering training sessions on diversity, building team dynamics and linking diversity to the company's success, employers can make great strides toward promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Most large corporations routinely provide some form of diversity training for employees, and many report some measure of success. Diversity training programs can be as short or as long as necessary. However, the training should focus on how people, despite their apparent differences, are fundamentally the same and deserve the same respect and accommodations as others.
If a particular workplace has large concentrations of two or more diverse groups, a diversity training program should make some mention of the typical customs or beliefs of each group, and how the other group should respond to cultural differences. Overall, the training program must demonstrate that diversity and inclusion are not only important factors in the operation of the business, but are also embraced at all levels of the company.
Once management begins to deliver diversity training, they need to reinforce the message by being the prime example of acceptance. They need to demonstrate inclusive acts as part of standard management practices.
At NIPSCO, the program called the Inclusion and Diversity Journey has led the power company closer to its destination.
"Over the past several years, we have been thinking a lot more strategically about Inclusion and Diversity," said Chris Smith, Director of Human Resources. "There is still recognition that numbers and stats are important, but equally important is the behavior around Inclusion and Diversity."
According to Smith, strong commitment from our senior leadership is key to their success.
"Bob Skaggs and Jimmy Staton, our Senior Leaders, have made that commitment," Smith said. "That has translated into Six Key Areas of Focus for us at NIPSCO which have continued to evolve."
1) Organization - highlight: a sustained council of middle and senior level management to set direction and execute Inclusion and Diversity initiatives for NIPSCO.
2) Employee Awareness - internally created and developed a poster campaign to get our employees to think differently about inclusion and diversity differently, meaning more than just race and gender.
3) Training - we rolled out a consistent approach of interviewing candidates to all our leaders. We've also created and have rolled out to our leaders an interactive Inclusion and Diversity workshop called, Building a House of Inclusion, developed by one of our employees, Deloras Jones, PhD.
4) Supplier Diversity - we have hosted Diverse Supplier fairs, developed and communicated a process for supplier to engage NIPSCO, and participated in the Supplier Diversity IEA (Indiana Energy Association) workshop.
5) External Awareness - highlight: We have an Inclusion and Diversity section on our website, including a message from our BU CEO, Jimmy Staton and our philosophy.
6) Talent Retention and Acquisition - we set a metric around qualified diverse applicant pools of 25 percent. This is different than setting a hiring target. The theory behind this was if you increase applicant pool to include more diverse candidates then you should increase your diverse hires.
Research has shown that nothing drives home the message of inclusion more powerfully than simply exposing diverse groups to one another. Team-building activities provide an excellent opportunity not only to refresh and encourage employees, but also to mingle diverse groups. In the process, seemingly different individuals may form new bonds or friendships, creating a powerful example of inclusion.
Team-building activities for improving diversity include picnics, cookouts and other events to encourage individuals to mingle with co-workers that they may not normally be exposed to. If you hold a team-building exercise away from the office, employers should consider inviting employee families for extra exposure to diversity.
Successful companies use diversity in their workforce as a competitive advantage. Increased diversity in a business leads to a boost in idea generation, the ability to understand a wide variety of customer segments and the ability to expand internationally with greater ease. The best strategies for cultural diversity in the workplace increase the cultural variety in the workforce as well as enhance the benefits of having employees of different backgrounds in the company.