Diversity is something that we have been commiserating about for many years as it pertains to gender, age, and race – areas that are protected under federal law. Our firm leaders often go to seminars, read articles and if we are asked, we engage in a conversation about how we wish our industry was different and how we are supportive of improved diversity in our own firm. We also focus on the similarities and differences our employees possess within our firms, and although equal opportunity laws establish anti-discrimination standards in the workplace, we also recognize that these laws fall short of providing protection for personality differences that stem from upbringing, socialization and cultural characteristics. Firm leaders can support and improve their overall diversity efforts with just a few creative initiatives in 2012:
Implement a Diversity Policy
Firms can show their support of diversity in the workplace by implementing a well-defined policy to introduce diversity in the workplace. The purpose of the policy should be to focus on the acceptance of the individual differences and lifestyle choices of all workers. A strategic inclusion policy promotes diversity by focusing on areas such as recruitment, performance management and work/life balance. Firms’ can focus on practices that support diversity such as non-discrimination initiatives, affirmative action and diversity recruiting goals, domestic partner benefits, open-door policies and harassment-free workplace initiatives. This policy should be a part of your employee manual and should be posted in “well-traveled” areas of the firm.
Start a Focus Group
A focus group of employee’s from different niches and different levels within the firm who come together to share ideas, beliefs, opinions about what is working and what is not working in regards to diversity in the firm would be a good place to begin your efforts. Be very selective about the facilitator and the participants in this group. This particular focus group or groups must provide a safe environment for each person to share their feelings and their opinions. During the focus group, the firm should pose questions that uncover employee attitudes about diversity and what can be done to promote diversity.
A creative method of introducing diversity into the workplace is to execute a cultural education and training program. Cultural education and training programs improve employee communication and allow staff to view their jobs from a different perspective. Education and training initiatives focus on best practices for working in a multi-cultural environment as well as how to interact with one another despite cultural differences. This is a terrific core skill to infuse into your overall training program.
These are just few areas to consider for your firm in 2012, so stop talking and starting “acting” diversity in your firm today!