As an employer, are your employees gender and culturally diverse? If YES, then find below proven tips that will enable you manage gender and cultural diversity in your workplace.

Gender and cultural diversity is a big challenge for a lot of managers and supervisors especially those who are in technical companies. In particular, engineering, scientific, information technology, and oil and gas companies are faced with the problem of recruiting and retaining female employees.

Gender-diversity discussions tend to focus on three main concerns:

  1. the relationship between corporate profitability and gender diversity
  2. the problem of recruiting and retaining women professionals in technical companies where the corporate culture can be inhospitable, and
  3. the number of women entering and graduating from science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programs.

Gender and cultural diversity is essential in the business world today because diverse groups tend to succeed more than homogenous groups. People of both genders can be resistant to diversifying the workplace, but as the manager, you can help the process flow smoothly.

If you are desirous of a successful and harmonious workplace, then you need to consider each and every one of your employees, get to know their interests, and offer them the best treatment and commitment. However, one of the most important principles that should be commonplace in every organization is the equal treatment of employees (regardless of gender, race or religion).

Gender for example, should not be a factor that influences how we treat our workforce. Having a gender equality policy shows employees that they are valued and that the company is serious about ending discrimination. Having a fair remuneration policy that is not distinguished by the employee’s gender, but by their job position and their development within the company is an important step towards gender quality too.

Many organizations aspire to be inclusive employers that embrace diversity, value differences and support its employees.

Gender and cultural diversity in an organization is not a just another “nice to have” alternative, but a necessity in order to succeed in today’s world. Any organization that does not employ or under-employs qualified candidates based on their gender or cultural background will eventually lose out.

Even though some human resource (HR) managers are really desirous to promote diversity as their main corporate agenda, many however find it difficult. Despite their best intentions, corporate bureaucracy, the lack of awareness and know-how sometimes prevent them from pushing the agenda through.

Diversity however, does not have to be difficult to navigate. With the right approach and attitude, diversity can become a differentiating point for an employer – a value that offers positive visibility and long-term sustainability to the organization that chooses to adopt and affirm it authentically.

What is Diversity in the Workplace?

Workplace diversity refers to the variety of differences between individuals in an organization. Diversity not only includes how individuals identify themselves but also how others perceive them. Diversity within a workplace encompasses race, gender, ethnic groups, age, religion, sexual orientation, citizenship status, military service and mental and physical conditions, as well as other distinct differences between people.

Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace

There are a lot of benefits that are attached to having a diverse work place. Firstly, organizations that commit to recruiting a diverse workforce have a larger pool of applicants to choose from, which can lead to finding more qualified candidates and reducing the time it takes to fill vacant positions. Businesses that do not recruit from diverse talent pools run the risk of missing out on qualified candidates and may have a more difficult time filling key roles, which increases recruitment costs.

According to a survey conducted by Glassdoor, 67 percent of job seekers said a diverse workforce is important when considering job offers and 57 percent of employees think their companies should be more diverse. These numbers are telling. Not only can organizations fill positions with qualified candidates more quickly by recruiting from different talent pools, but a diverse workforce also benefits their employer brand which is crucial when it comes to getting the right talent.

Having a diverse workforce with multi-lingual employees and employees from varying ethnic backgrounds can also be helpful for organizations who want to expand or improve operations in international, national, regional and local markets.

Employees from diverse backgrounds imbue organizations with creative new ideas and perspectives informed by their cultural experiences. A diverse workplace will help organizations better understand target demographics and what moves them. A diverse workplace can better align an organization’s culture with the demographic make-up of America.

It also increases customer satisfaction by improving how employees interact with a diverse clientele.

How to Manage Diversity in the Workplace

Managing diversity in the workplace presents a set of unique challenges for HR professionals. These challenges can be controlled to an extent if the organization makes serious efforts to encourage a more diverse environment by way of culture of tolerance, open communication and creating conflict management strategies to address issues that may arise.

In order for management to effectively manage diversity in the workplace, they need to understand their backgrounds and how their behavior and beliefs can affect their decision-making within a diverse environment.

Here are some tips for managing diversity in the work place.

  1. Prioritize communication: in order to manage diversity in the work place, organizations need to ensure that they effectively communicate with their employees. Policies, procedures, safety rules and other important information should be designed to overcome language and cultural barriers by translating materials and using pictures and symbols whenever applicable.
  2. Treat each employee as an individual: every individual is unique and as such, you should avoid employing a one-size-fits-all approach. Avoid making assumptions about employees from different backgrounds. Instead, look at each employee as an individual and judge successes and failures on the individual’s merit rather than attributing actions to their background.
  3. Encourage employees to work in diverse groups: you should encourage your employees to work in diverse groups because, diverse work teams let employees get to know and value one another on an individual basis and can help break down preconceived notions and cultural misunderstandings.
  4. Base standards on objective criteria: a standard set of rules should be for all employees irrespective of their background. You should never excuse someone’s wrong doing because they are of a female gender or that they are from a different cultural background. Ensure that all employment actions, including discipline, follow this standardized criteria to make sure each employee is treated the same.
  5. Be open-minded: you should make sure that your employees know that their own experience, background, and culture are not the only valuable one to the organization. Look for ways to incorporate a diverse range of perspectives and talents into efforts to achieve organizational goals.
  6. Hiring process: during your hiring process, you should make sure that you incorporate a diverse interview panel to ensure candidates are chosen based on suitability for the position. Managers should be trained on what can and cannot be asked in an interview. For example, questions about an applicant’s personal life, such as which church they attend, their romantic life and political beliefs etc, are off-limits.
  1. Get creative when recruiting: For instance, if an organization would like to hire more women in the engineering department, they could reach out to professional groups that cater to women in engineering and ask to advertise open positions in their newsletter or member communications.
  2. Policies and Practices: it is very important for an organization to think about the impact that company policies and practices have on a diverse group of employees. Companies ought to have a way that employees can use to easily leave feedbacks in order to gain a better understanding of how employees feel about diversity policies. Any feedback received, both positive and negative, is valuable. Companies should constantly evolve and change the policies that may be interpreted as obstructions or not helpful for employees.

In addition to the written policies, it is also essential to ensure that the non-official “rules” of an organization are thoroughly explained to all employees to communicate company values and culture to all workers effectively.

  1. Documentation of Policies and Procedures: Properly documenting diversity policies is an effective means of communicating an organization’s stances on diversity. Once concrete plans are ready to be implemented, documents that outline each policy should be included in the employee handbook. Diversity policies should be reviewed with every new hire, and when updates to policies are made, they should be shared with current employees as well.

Employee handbooks should cover diversity in the following sections:

  • Code of conduct should outline the company’s policy toward diversity
  • Non-discrimination policy lets employees know about diversity
  • Compensation and benefits policy
  • Employment conditions and termination
  • Zero-Tolerance Policy

If you have a workplace that is diverse, it will mean that jokes that are of poor taste about ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or religion need to be met with zero-tolerance. Slurs, name-calling and bullying employees for any reason has no place in today’s workplace. There should clearly defined polices that are related to checkmate misconduct and expressly tell the employees that any foul behavior will not be tolerated. There is also a need for organizations to make sure that aggrieved employees feel safe about reporting such misconducts without fear of victimization when the report the aforesaid inappropriate behaviors by establishing a formal complaint policy, so employees know how to report misconduct to the proper authority within an organization.

  1. Sensitivity Training: sometimes you may find out that some of your employees do not know how to co-exist with people who are from diverse backgrounds and as such, it is up to you carry out a cultural sensitivity training, to achieve harmony within a diverse workplace. Sensitivity training can help an organization manage diversity in the workplace by helping employees become more self-aware, which plays a vital role in helping employees understand their own cultural biases and prejudices.
  2. Stay Abreast of Diversity Laws: in order to effectively manage diversity in the work place, it is necessary for organizations to keep abreast of changing employer-related laws and trends, especially diversity-related changes. There is need for organizations to regularly review internal policies, especially those around harassment and equal opportunity, and make sure they reflect the most current laws and regulations.

If an organization has an international or multi-state presence, it is necessary to track regional changes to laws and regulations as they vary from country to county and state to state.

  1. Make It Personal: gender diversity in a workplace goes far beyond ensuring that women are hired. To manage gender diversity effectively, you must have a personal drive to make diversity a priority. Sometime, there may be a natural tendency for people to want to go along with their own gender when a project arises, however, as a manager, you should encourage team leaders to select diverse groups for projects to ensure the genders don’t naturally separate. Talking to your employees about success stories from gender-diverse work cultures can help them relate to the idea of diversity so it becomes the culture at work, not just your pet project.
  2. Keep Decision-Making Diverse: when you want to discuss important decisions or new project that the organization should go for, it is best to gather a diverse group of employees. If possible, design the group with the same number of men and women, or as close as you can get. The diversity brings more innovative ideas that the others can elaborate on, creating a true team mentality. This also goes a long way to show that all employees of different genders and cultural background are just as important as any other person. This helps develop the idea that gender diversity is key to the company’s success; when your employees value each other’s skills regardless of any gender boundaries, your business can be more productive.
  3. Equality is the key: It is important to not only review the salaries of your employees , but also other professional aspects such as career plans and promotions, ensuring that there are equal opportunities for both men and women. Equality will undoubtedly be a motivational element for employees, regardless of their gender, as having clear objectives is a contributing factor in maintaining employees’ interest levels.
  4. HR must ensure gender equality in the company: HR’s role is essential in managing and promoting gender diversity within the business. They must ensure that the motivation and commitment of their employees is strengthened, which, in turn, strengthens the workforce overall and benefits the entire company.
  5. Educate employees about how stereotypes work: most at times, we may not even be aware that we are biased neither do we realize when they are influencing our decision-making or our interactions with others.

Education and awareness are key because when people understand how stereotypes work, they will rationalize their own decision-making and communicate more carefully. This will help to break the tendency to use stereotypes as a shortcut.

This type of education should start right from the employee orientation or onboarding stage. New employees need to understand the company’s commitment to diversity and its potential challenges.

The company also needs to ensure that things like its forms, processes, “corporate speak”, and meeting agendas are designed in such a way to encourage diversity and inclusion.

Another observation is that women tend to be tougher on their own gender. Women leaders may feel conscious of how others perceive them, and overcompensate by coming down harder on their female counterparts and subordinates.

In conclusion, for an organization to succeed and thrive in this modern time, there is need for it to encourage gender and cultural diversity through any means possible. In a global talent market, businesses that can successfully manage diversity in the workplace will have a definite competitive advantage over others in terms of differentiation, innovation and employer branding.

Ajaero Tony Martins