Diversity and Mindfulness Go Hand-in-Hand
In recent years, the Canadian workforce has seen a rise in the share of immigrant workers from different parts of the world in various roles in both the public and private sectors. At the same time, most companies are making significant efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in its myriad formats — including gender, generations, culture, orientation, mindset — allowing employees to proudly share with others who they are and what they represent.
As a result, the workforce is now more diverse, and people are more open and comfortable talking about their personal and professional lives. However, diversity can only prevail in an organization if a mindful effort is made to ensure that it is implemented throughout and in full spirit — rather than for the sake of corporate numbers.
That said, let’s explore some of the different ways organizations can set the tone to allow diversity to not only prevail, but flourish.
Make Diversity Meaningful and Visible?
Companies need to include diversity and inclusion as one of the fundamental pillars of their organizational culture. In order to achieve that goal in an organization, one person from the executive leadership team should take the ownership interest as a sponsor of implementation to ensure that all available resources are being deployed — and so that a thorough policy is developed and followed throughout the organization.
A company-wide study also needs to be conducted — whether through focus groups or surveys — to understand the demographics of the employee population, and to learn from them how they can be best supported. This gives employees the opportunity to share openly with their managers if they need support.
A lot of companies are striving to have greater gender balance both on their boards and at the executive level, but they also need to be mindful that the world is even more inclusive now, and debate should not solely focus on the gender as this discouragement those people who don’t identify with either gender. A more comfortable environment needs to be created which is beyond gender, and companies are now able to add more options to the employment forms, allowing people to identify however they are most comfortable.
Tailor Feedback for Varied Cultures
Today’s workforce is becoming more diverse in terms of ethnicities and backgrounds, giving rise to a new language of business in which some words that might be comfortable for people of one culture might not be for others. Thus, managers need to modify their methods of providing feedback to the employees — as in some cultures direct negative feedback is considered offensive and can take a toll on the mental health of the employees.
The other consideration that needs to be accounted for is how managers talk about culture and diversity with their employees, as some employees may not be comfortable to immediately join in or feel offended if they hear misconceptions voiced about their culture.
Accommodate a Changing World?
As the workforce is getting more diverse, so is the need to accommodate and provide support when needed. Many people observe religion duties and sometimes with work it becomes hard for them to balance their religious and work life. In such cases, companies can introduce a policy to allow one paid day off apart from the regular vacation allotment to observe their religious celebration once a year.
Similarly, accommodation can take the form of greater flexibility in the working hours. Consider that Muslims keep fast during the the month of Ramadan, which means for one month they don’t eat food and drink water from dawn to dusk; one of the accommodations that could be made would be to allow them to leave early from work by shortening the break time or even allowing them to work from home for two days a week if possible.
And while the religious example is an obvious one, such flexible accommodation might as easily be extended to those with aging parents, young children, or community volunteering.
Create an Inclusive Space With Education and Awareness
In order to create a culture where diversity is not only accepted but celebrated, an inclusive environment needs to be created. One of the ways it can be done is through educating the managers and employees by creating awareness of other people’s cultures and heritage, and allowing others to feel comfortable sharing their stories and traditions.
Another thing that can be done is to host annual company-wide diversity and inclusion training to teach people about common misconceptions and taboos about other cultures and countries.
Companies can also proudly celebrate ‘big’ events — such as Diwali, Eid, Hanukkah, Christmas, etc — by hosting events at even a small scale and allowing the employees to wear their traditional clothes on that day, so they can share with others the stories behind the events and create more awareness and inclusiveness.
Be Aware of the World (as it Happens)
Knowing what is going on in the world is more important than ever with a diverse workforce — whose friends and family span countries and continents. Managers need to stay aware of the fact that something ‘in the news’ almost always hits far closer to home in a diverse workforce. What can have a huge positive impact is if managers are aware and able to talk to employees and provide support should such an event occur. A manager need only share that they are in the know and available to provide support to have a huge impact in such cases, to say nothing of increasing employee loyalty and embodying the inclusive culture of the organization.
Companies can also create a diversity and inclusion resource group in the organization to host small lunch-and-learn sessions throughout the year to promote diversity and inclusion. Such a group can work with senior leadership to create a list of employees who celebrate various events and send them greetings on their big ethnic days — as well as keeping each other aware of world happenings that hit home.
Be Lifted by our Differences
Ultimately, the success of diversity and inclusion in the workplace rests not only with the leadership team, but throughout an organization. It is only through working together that a team grows mindful and appreciative of its diversity, but such leveling of the playing field yields dividends on many levels.
Not only does acknowledging and celebrating such differences create a more mindful environment, it brings a richness to corporate culture that both buoys and goes well beyond the bottom line.
Ali Najaf is a recent graduate from Beedie School of Business with a BBA in HR and is now an active HR assistant with ICBC. He believes life is not made by the number of days you live, but the number of lives you inspire
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