7 steps toward managing a diverse workforce: a series of workplace diversity articles (part 2)

7 steps toward managing a diverse workforce: a series of workplace diversity articles

In 7 steps toward managing a diverse workforce part 1, we learned about forming a diversity committee and starting a mentorship program. Part 2 of this series focuses on community outreach programs as a teambuilding exercise as well as way to shift your corporate culture toward engaging with community groups that foster an ideology of inclusion. We will also take a quick look at flexible holiday schedules which in recent years has become a popular way to manage your diverse workforce. Finally, we will discuss the “open door” policy. This policy is really the cornerstone of managing a diverse workforce.

Step 3 – Community Outreach

Community outreach or partnerships is a great way for your company to show commitment to managing a diverse workforce. It is also a teambuilding exercise that can unite colleagues in an effort to make the community a better place.

In order to integrate a community outreach strategy into your diversity planning, there are four questions that you should be asking:

Does the organization foster the same inclusive values as your company?

It is important to find a community partner that has mandated and implemented a strategy for inclusiveness and diversity. In their strategy, are their end goals similar to yours? For example, if an organizations goal was to provide skills training to community members to help them access hiring paying jobs and one of your diversity goals is to provide extra training to those that would like to take on a larger role in your organization, I would say that the match is quite good.
Of course, this isn’t a hard and fast rule but it gives your organization and your community partner a common thread and a deeper understanding of each other’s mission.

Is your community partner a religious affiliate?

When choosing a community partner, choose a secular organization. This way, all of your colleagues can get involved without feeling like they have to subscribe to a particular religion.
Is the community partner representative of the diversity of your company?
When choosing a community partner, you should make sure that its structure and the community it serves closely resembles the demographics of your company. Lean towards community partners that employ and serve men and women as well as people from all cultures.

Has Anyone Objected to the Partnership?

After you have chosen a community partner, be sure to reinforce that you have an “open door” policy. That is, any employee should feel welcome to speak freely about any concern they may have with the community organization partnership. Should a diversity-related issue arise out of this partnership, it should be reevaluated to ensure that your team members feel included and represented.
Answering these questions will allow you to commit to a community partner that allows everyone to participate equally. Doing this will help increase company unity and a deeper understanding of each other.

Step 4 –Flexible Holidays

Holiday observances can vary from culture to culture. To ensure that every employee can observe the holidays that they wish, flexible holidays could be offered. For example, employees could swap December holidays with the holidays that are more in line with their culture. If this is not possible, due to business cycles, your holiday policies could be reviewed and revised to allow some flexibility during times of religious celebration.

The take home message here is that employees should be allowed some choice in their availability during religious holiday observances. This shows the company is in-tune with cultural diversity and the needs of their employees. Additionally, it can serve as a way to celebrate the diversity of your company through recognition that not everyone celebrates the same holidays.
Here is an example of a policy addition that can be used when implementing accommodations for religious

holidays:

Religious Accommodation (flexible schedule)
[Your Company Name] offers floating holidays to accommodate various religious observances. Should you require time off during a specific time period due to religious observances, you may do so in lieu of the standard holidays as listed in this document.

Some companies offer additional personal days for those that celebrate various religious holidays. The difficulty with this is that it is not an “inclusive” solution. Those that choose not to take time off or who are not affiliated with any religion may feel that they are being excluded from additional time off. Flexible holiday schedules give every employee the opportunity to organize their holidays according to their preferences.

Step 5 – Open Door Policy

The open door policy has been used successfully by many of the biggest companies in the world. Originally stemming from the idea that managers keep their doors open to encourage other staff members to come in, it is now a wide-spread communication strategy that can be used to enhance your diversity strategy.
The implementation of the open door policy is fairly simple in new companies but can be difficult in established ones. It takes a shift in company culture to successfully implement this policy. In companies where “doors” have been shut for a long time, encouraging senior and non-senior staff to open up lines of communication will take a great deal of time and trust.

In order for the open door policy to be successful, all employees should feel like they can approach senior staff with new ideas, solutions to old problems, and questions and concerns they may have. They need to feel like they can communicate openly without reproach. The most successful open door policies have some general guidelines. For example, communicating a problem should be accompanied with a suggested solution. The solution can be as simple as “I think [employee name] might have some good insight into this problem, we should ask him what he thinks”.

Here is an example policy directive that could be added to your policy manual:

[Your Company Name] recognizes that in any company, issues and improvement opportunities will arise. [Your Company Name] is always open to suggestions and encourages employees to communicate these opportunities with management.

[Your Company Name] will make every effort to make sure that:

1. Every employee has the opportunity to speak openly with their supervisor or to anyone else in authority, when an issue arises, with the assurance that it will not be held against them by their supervisor or anyone else in authority.

2. To provide an open door at all times for all employees to discuss with upper management any decision they feel affects them.

One of the main goals of the open door policy is to let every employee know their input is important and to make sure they have a way to be included in the “conversation”.

In Managing a Diverse Workforce part 3, we’ll wrap up by talking about translations and the assessment of your programs.

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