Merriam-Webster defines diversity as: the condition of having or being composed of differing elements and verity, especially the inclusion of different types of people (as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization.
In the last decade, the face and make-up of the workplace have had significant changes. Many organizations, such as Google, have embraced diversity; at the same time many other organizations have not addressed diversity in their workplaces. Without having a formal diversity initiative, many workplaces may already be more diverse than they realize.
Diversity encompasses a plethora of characteristics that make each person a unique individual that may include, but is not limited to: race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, age, personality, employment history, education, and background. However, diversity is more than the sum of characteristics that make up an individual; diversity also involves how people perceive themselves as well as others and how these perceptions affect the day-to-day interactions in the workplace.
Some items to consider when developing a diversity initiative:
- Ability: Does the organization have the people and resources in place to assess the needs, and if so, develop and implement the initiative? If not, is the organization able to commit the resources, in both time and money, to bring in a consultant to facilitate the process?
- Commitment: Are the owners and/or management invested in developing and maintaining a long-term diversity initiative? This commitment is imperative to the success of a diversity initiative, and in not only shifting the culture of the organization but also maintaining that shift.
- Evaluation: Once the resources have been allocated and owners/managements are committed, it is necessary to evaluate existing diversity in the workplace. This assessment is an integral and invaluable step in the process, as you want to make an inclusive, diverse workplace for those who may feel diversity is lacking, while at the same time not alienating those that feel the workplace is fine as is.
- Development: The assessment above should highlight any obstacles that are present, and with that knowledge it can be determined how to best overcome those obstacles. A strategy then needs to be determined; to best affect those changes needed, to ensure the new culture of diversity flows through every department and function, in addition to becoming a permanent presence in the organization.
- Dedication: Once the diversity initiative has been fully implemented, regular reassessments should be conducted to determine the success of the program and identify areas that need to be tweaked. Maintaining a diversity initiative is a long-term commitment that can yield many beneficial results if executed properly.
Diversity will continue to increase considerably in the coming years and failing to recognize and address diversity may have substantial negative repercussions.