Diversity, Recognition, Respect and Rewards

By Lindsay Macintosh, CHRP

More organizations are wisely taking action to effectively manage an increasingly diverse workforce. Managing diversity with a program that respects, recognizes and rewards all employees effectively is critical for organizations to sustain a competitive edge in today’s globalizing economy.

Impending shortages of skilled workers, increasing diversity of the workforce, and an aging population pose great challenges for organizations to accommodate changing values of workers. Organizations are becoming aware of the importance of a system-wide approach for aligning diversity management with organizational strategy, culture, training programs and rewards systems.

The fabric of today’s organizations is becoming increasingly diverse both in terms of their employees and the communities they serve.  Employees in today’s organizations encompass many individual attributes such as race, nationality, language, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and disability;  they bring their unique capabilities, opinions and life experiences to work.  A healthy, diverse work environment respects and utilizes the unique characteristics of all employees.

Build Diversity into Core Culture

To attract, retain and motivate high-performing employees, it is essential for organizations to develop a welcoming workplace that reflects the communities in which they serve.  Recognizing and fully utilizing employees’ talents is not just complying with legislation.

Organizations need to invest in an effective diversity management program adopting best practices in building and sustaining an inclusive workplace that attracts and retains diverse staff, wherein the unique talents of all employees are valued and rewarded.

Align Organizational Strategies and Goals

For maximum effectiveness, diversity management needs to be incorporated into the overall organizational strategy and goals.  According to Jas Cheema, president of Inter Cultural Services Inc. and leader, diversity relations and translation services at Fraser Health, “A good starting place is to develop a Diversity Policy/Mission statement that clearly outlines the organization’s commitment to honouring diversity.”

Cheema added, “A diversity framework can help crystallize values and goals which can be weaved into the organization as a whole and not just the responsibility of an office or diversity position.”

Make Diversity a Program and a Princple

An effective diversity management program:

  • promotes recognition and respect for individual differences;
  • encourages employees to be comfortable with diversity in their workplace;
  • encourages employees to accept the fact that there are different values, physical characteristics, backgrounds, and interests rather than being prejudiced by those differences;
  • can convert a hostile environment into a welcoming environment where employees communicate and support one another;
  • clearly outlines and identifies organizational values and beliefs;
  • has a clear, open and honest decision making process;
  • can be adapted into any type of work environment; and
  • is integrated in different management styles.

Effective diversity management must include education programs as a key component.  Diversity education programs develop individual employees’ interest in understanding their own values, cultures, beliefs, stereotypes and biases through training and team building workshops.  The goal is simple: to help employees develop their communication skills and knowledge of their diverse workplace and communities.

Diversified Mentoring a Priority

Mentoring on a more one-to-one level is similarly valuable.

“Mentoring has been proven to be successful in optimizing the skills and talents of minority employees and in helping them progress to more senior positions,” said Cheema. “Last but not least, make sure you are able to evaluate your success.”

By aligning the goals of a diversity program to the organization’s strategic goals, the means of this measure are made more apparent. Rewards, recognition, challenging work, and career development should be seen as diversity-based opportunities.

Accepting and capitalizing on the strengths of each employee is essential to effective diversity management. Diverse work teams provide the opportunity for many points of view in the decision-making process; this leads to more innovative decisions.

To understand how all employees in a diverse workforce would like to be recognized, it is necessary to develop cross-cultural awareness programs essential for effective diversity education and organizational strategy and goals.  For example, Western culture values independence and individual efforts while the work of the team is more valued in other cultures.

Balance the Plus and Minus

Advantages of effective diversity programs are:

  • the development of latent skills and talents among employees’
  • employee empowerment: individual employees who may have felt unable to move forward in an organization due to factors such as race, gender, and cultural differences finding these attributes no longer issues; and
  • the realization of innovative potential: employees who feel valued are more willing to go out of their comfort zones and develop their skills for the benefit of their teams, organizations, and themselves.

Ineffective diversity management creates an unpleasant environment of distrust and disagreement; unfortunately, it also leads to employees feeling undervalued and leaving.  With the impending shortage of highly qualified workers, it will be difficult to attract similarly high-performing employees.

Engage Management: Retain Commitment

Managers who are aware of cultural difference are able to create effective work teams that respect differences while working towards a common goal. They develop culturally sensitive strategies that address the needs of all employees and the diverse communities they serve.

In organizations that respect and reward all employees in meaningful ways, employees are engaged and more loyal and committed to their jobs and the organization.

Lindsay Macintosh, CHRP, has over 20 years experience in payroll and benefits in the retail, foodservice and logging industries. graduated with a B.A. (Honours) from Queen’s University. Lindsay has served as advisor on HR policies/procedures and volunteer co-ordinator for non-profit organizations, as well as  interviewer for Volunteer Richmond’s 2010 Information and Volunteer Program.

PeopleTalk Summer 2012

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