Increasing diversity in an organization is a multilayer process. The word process implies that it takes time and usually requires many revisions along the way.
Too often, however, companies think of diversity as a training event or a recruiting directive. But unless both are an integral part of an overall strategy, those isolated efforts are not likely to succeed.
A single training session will do little to make diversity an ongoing endeavor. Likewise, charging recruiters with the task of hiring diverse candidates without an understanding of what is involved—and of the consequences of bringing people who look and behave differently into their workplace—can backfire. The result may be a costly revolving door.
When diverse employees do not feel welcome or perceive that their capabilities are not valued, they simply leave. And managers who are not used to managing people whose work style and values are different from theirs fail to advance these employees because they can’t recognize their talent.
Here are some steps you can take to move the diversity process forward with fewer missteps and much higher probabilities of success:
- Devise an ongoing process to make diversity part of the fabric of your organization. Raise awareness of culturally-rooted behaviors and provide strategies to negotiate differences among all your employees. Whether you hire a diversity provider to design a custom program or take advantage of other solutions, you will have sent a clear message to everyone in the organization. Unless people understand and know how to deal with cultural differences, they can’t welcome them nor respect or value them.
- Avoid time-consuming efforts that only replicate the way people always have been hired into the organization. Finding and attracting qualified diverse candidates requires a different approach. Provide training on culturally sensitive hiring strategies for recruiters and hiring managers. If your recruiters are aware of the culturally based lack of self-promotion among Latinos and Asians, for example, they are less likely to reject their resumes. But if the hiring managers are not familiar with these cultural issues, they are likely to discard the same candidates at the interviewing stage. It all amounts to higher costs and missed opportunities to hire needed talent.
- Once candidates are hired, no matter what their color or gender, their direct manager or supervisor becomes a key determinant for retention. Provide strategies so that these individuals have the right tools and understanding to manage multicultural employees. For example, American women and other diverse candidates are generally more relationship oriented than our dominant US culture. This means that, in many cases, some tasks may be delayed if a relationship with a team member needs tending.
- As soon as you have a comfortable number of diverse employees, encourage and support the creation of affiliate networks. These are groups of employees who share a common background and values through ethnicity, race, gender, or sexual orientation. Because their members are likely to mirror your customer base—and they have first-hand knowledge of what drives your customers to buy or reject your products—these networks can be a great asset to your organization. They can make suggestions for new product development and services, and they are a great resource for new candidate referral.
- Train your company leaders on culturally sensitive mentoring strategies so they can become formal or informal mentors.
- Develop diverse leaders by providing these employees with strategies to make the best use of the guidance provided by their mentors.
Let the journey begin.