It’s no secret that a strong workplace is a diverse one, because it offers a unique range of skill sets, experiences, and backgrounds to pull from. Many companies are building diverse teams to include gender and racial differences, but diversity doesn’t end there. The potential benefits extend to looking at age, lifestyle, learning style, and personality—all of which can further impact productivity and innovation.
A Harvard Business Review found that companies who take a holistic approach to inherent diversity (the traits that we are born with) and acquired diversity (traits we collect as we grow) operate with a higher level of innovation and inspiration.
However, diversity in itself isn’t just about who you hire. Though hiring individuals of differing ages, genders, and races can create team diversity on paper, companies do themselves, and their employees, a disservice by failing to leverage this diversity to create an inclusive, productive work culture.
Consider the following five ways that companies can better celebrate the cultures of a diverse workforce and allow each person to feel like they truly belong.
1. DEVELOP A MULTICULTURAL CALENDAR
Understanding an individual's culture or religion can be complicated as companies are usually only privy to this information if the individual chooses to share it. To maintain fair hiring standards, companies shouldn’t include questions about religion or culture during the interview process. But if your employees choose to share these details, take the opportunity to learn more about their practices and values and how you can incorporate them into the workplace.
At the very minimum, HR should develop a multicultural calendar that allows employees to mark important religious holidays or events. With these dates known well in advance this can better allow HR to plan for festive activities to celebrate the event, as well as accommodate for time off.
2. ENCOURAGE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES
If employees from minority religions or cultures are open to sharing, consider allowing them to lead educational events that highlight some of their traditions. You can also turn the typical lunch hour into a potluck where everyone brings a culturally inspired dish. These can serve as valuable opportunities for others to recognize team diversity and gain a greater appreciation for their coworkers.
3. CREATE A CULTURE-FOCUSED BULLETIN BOARD
Dedicate a bulletin board (or an entire wall) to promoting cultural diversity in the workplace. Employees can share pictures or information on this board that promote their culture, background, or lifestyle. For example, they might share a photo of themselves with their family celebrating a religious or cultural holiday. They could also post information about an upcoming holiday, including its background and what it means to them personally.
Ideally, all employees will be able to contribute to this project. Disallowing some members of your workforce to participate can widen the rift of exclusiveness and have the opposite effect you hope to achieve.
4. INVEST IN EMPLOYEE DIVERSITY TRAINING
Cultural diversity shouldn’t be treated as an afterthought. Just like you would onboard your new hires on company policy and provide job training, diversity training should also be a natural part of the process.
One focus of cultural training should be on the importance of workplace diversity and how it helps create a stronger organization from within. You may even be able to share stats on how your own workplace culture stacks up and how it’s helped you to remain competitive.
Another core focus should be on how to treat others from different backgrounds. Though people realize that everyone deserves basic respect, they may not understand that certain questions or comments can cause discomfort or sound offensive and should be left out of the workplace.
In addition, you may need to update HR policies to reflect your focus on diversity in the workplace. Take this time to review opportunities to strengthen your policies, including reporting procedures for violations.
5. SUPPORT ADVANCEMENT OPPORTUNITIES
Minorities, particularly minority women, often struggle to advance in their careers and report the lowest in job satisfaction levels. Black women, in particular, are more likely to say their boss doesn’t advocate for their careers, but fail to report such feelings for fear of gender and racial bias.
To create a more inclusive workplace, companies should support advancement opportunities for diverse employees. Many professional organizations support minorities and diversity and can help them network and nurture their skill set.
Such an investment also reflects back on your company in providing advancement assistance that many other companies fail to prioritize.
CELEBRATE TEAM DIVERSITY
Embracing team diversity is a privilege that too many companies don’t take advantage of. When done correctly, celebrating the unique attributes that make your team special can help employees find common ground, deepen each person’s appreciation for others’ differences, and create an inclusive work environment where everyone can thrive.