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Strategies Promoting Equality & Diversity in the Workplace

by Ruth Mayhew, studioD

Whether you hire a workforce diversity expert or charge the human resources department with promoting workplace equality and diversity, you must have a strategic direction plan for implementing steps to achieve equality and diversity. Compliance, communication, corporate support and training are key elements of a strategic plan and its success depends on how well you implement the necessary steps.

Unconditional Compliance

Developing a strategy for compliance is simple: Ensure your human resources staff and leadership are up to date on labor and employment laws and that they regularly audit the organization's fair employment practices and hiring decisions. Although workplace equality and diversity are very different concepts, both rely on compliance to be effective. For example, staying abreast of changes to the posting requirements under the National Labor Relations Act means your workforce is well-informed about their rights. And, understanding affirmative action requirements under Executive Order 11246 means you increase your chances of recruiting a diverse pool of qualified applicants.

Commitment to Community

An organization's commitment to diversity is only as good as its commitment to the community it serves. In some cases, community could mean customer or client base, if you're a global or multinational enterprise serving the needs of a diverse market. For small businesses, commitment to community literally could mean that you embrace diversity in the geographic area surrounding the business. Building a strategy that demonstrates your organization's commitment might include sponsoring community events that enhance the business reputation or that highlight your company as an equal opportunity employer. For example, you could align your recruitment activities with those of organizations such as the National Urban League or coordinate a program for hiring veterans.

Staff and Leadership Training

Forcing employees to embrace diversity through mandatory diversity training isn't always effective, according to a January 2008 article in "The Washington Post," titled "Most Diversity Training Ineffective, Study Finds." Staff writer Shankar Vedantam points to studies that reveal mandatory diversity training may have a negative affect on workplace diversity, citing instances where the percentage of minorities and women in management roles dropped after employers mandated diversity training. This could be a lesson for HR leaders to offer diversity training without requiring that employees discard beliefs and values they may have grown up with, by making them feel like the organization's beliefs are being forced on them.

Top-Down Support

Strengthen your communication lines and engage the organization's top leadership in promoting workplace diversity to get employees on board. Support from the top brass tends to trickle down to staff levels, making it easier to show employees the value of workplace diversity. Also, developing top-level values, such as those the U.S. National Regulatory Commission implemented -- "integrity, excellence, service, respect, cooperation, commitment and openness" -- foster workplace equality and equal opportunity for every person in the workforce. Making equality and diversity a fundamental element throughout the workplace is a sound strategic move.

About the Author

Ruth Mayhew began writing in 1985. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry" and "Human Resources Managers Appraisal Schemes." Mayhew earned senior professional human resources certification from the Human Resources Certification Institute and holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

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