While employees have different intrinsic beliefs about the value of diversity, an organization can focus on the value of leveraging diversity as a business asset. (Ref 1 page 1) This approach acknowledges a changed American workplace, one more diverse in terms of employees' age, race, gender, disability, family makeup, income level and sexual orientation. (ref 1 page 1) Valuing diversity helps employees of all backgrounds feel included and committed to the organization's business strategy.
To describe the value of diversity, it helps to begin with a working definition of this term. People of all races and ethnic backgrounds and of every age and ability level are entering the workforce. (Ref 2) Each person has a set of knowledge, skills and abilities to contribute to a workplace, and, most importantly, a diverse perspective to suggest in group projects and discussions. An organization that does not recognize or value diverse perspectives will not see issues from every angle and make the best decisions.
Describe diversity's value by recognizing the groups evident in your workforce. If your organization has more diverse groups represented in your organization, it will resemble the global consumer base or at least a diverse national consumer base. Employees come to the workplace with their own group identity, including traditional language, religion, customs, family backgrounds and workplace attitudes. Their group identity is a huge part of who they are. (ref 2) When employees suggest something from their own perspective that differs from a majority group's perspective, their ideas should not be rejected just because they are outside the mainstream.
It's hard to describe the value of diversity without examining any barriers minorities face inside an organization. Employees may perceive barriers for minorities and may feel a conflict between a statement that values diversity and real working conditions for minorities. You can word a statement to reflect the organization's vision and to suggest how the organization will move toward becoming an organization that values diversity.
An organization can emphasize the potential for all employees to make a greater contribution over time, regardless of their backgrounds. A statement might include how an organization will look for talent anywhere among its ranks and promote employees into positions where they can help achieve the organization's business strategy.
Top leaders play an important role in developing a statement that values diversity. Their commitment will demonstrate the importance of this statement to all personnel. Later, leadership's support will help develop employee diversity as a goal and implement it at all levels of the organization.
- Goddard Space Flight Center: The Business Case for Diversity: Starting the Dialogue
- National Center for Research in Vocational Education: Diversity Initiatives in the Workplace
- U.S. Department of Commerce and Vice President Al Gore's National Partnership: Best Practices in Achieving Workforce Diversity
- BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images