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Written by: David Ramage

 

According to the Spring 2017 HR Trends Report released by the Human Resources Institute of Alberta, at most 23% of organizations have an ameliorative program for diverse groups. Furthermore, only 18% of organizations have a leadership program for women, which scored the highest of all diverse groups. This is a very troubling result for organizations. And as HR professionals, we need to highlight the importance of diversity in our organizations but also ensuring we manage diversity effectively and efficiently. Throughout this article, I will quickly touch on the differing types of diversity, what to recognize when shaping an environment for underrepresented individuals, and lastly, what you may need to prepare for.

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Every page you turn in the news articles you read and the conferences you attend, we often hear the benefits of diversity trumpeted around, but what does diversity really mean? Some question diversity as just a tokenizing attempt at “globalizing” workplaces, while many suggest diversity is an important factor to modern organizations (both operationally and when recruiting top talent). Regardless, diversity’s relevance is continually growing and ever increasing. For example, in a survey conducted regarding employee opinions to diversity, 47% of millennials believe diversity and inclusiveness are important compared to only 33% of Gen-Xers. Diversity challenges assumptions, and in theory, should create an environment that allows ideas, but most importantly, allowing people to flourish. Despite the quite divisive rhetoric displayed in certain mediums, diversity will play an ever growing reality in our organizations, province, and country.

When looking at diversity it is important to note that it is not created equally. There are two distinct categories of diversity: surface-level diversity and deep-level diversity.

Surface Level Diversity

Surface level diversity is the demographic differences amongst people. For example, surface-level diversity would be race, gender, age, height, or weight. These differences amongst people are very important to note, yet they do not always provide an automatic or immediate change to an organization. Surface level diversity, if managed effectively, can help foster a more inclusive organizational culture. Despite this benefit, we must look deeper to see additional benefits of diversity.

Deep-Level Diversity

Deep level refers to the cognitive differences amongst people. This can be fostered from diverse life experiences, perspectives, and work experiences. Moreover, this level of diversity provides a team with higher levels of creativity and innovation, due to differing ways of thinking. Deep-level diversity amongst people will allow individuals, with differing viewpoints, to create and develop ideas that may have never been considered.

Is your organization struggling with developing new markets for goods? Can your product potentially serve a new function in a differing market? These questions may be answered by a diverse perspective that may not always be at the table to express their perspective. 

Both categories of diversity provide differing benefits to organizations, but also note that one individual may provide both surface-level and deep-level diversity.

When creating a more appealing environment for diverse individuals, the single most important criteria is to constantly maintain dialogue between the organization and the employees. We do have our legal framework that may provide protections in the workplace, but going the extra mile with accommodational requests will be greatly appreciated. For example, if a demographically diverse employee has differing needs, and you are unsure, take the step to create the dialogue. Your organization can create structures in place to allow the individual to be open about their particular needs. Consider suggestion/feedback time for employees or a confidential conversation. Some actions may be as simple as removing gendered signage from a single stalled bathroom, or changing the language on organizational documents to be more inclusive. These particular changes may seem small but they have the potential to make a very significant difference to an employee. When dealing with diversity recognize that this is not a short project that can be quickly implemented and remain; diversity and inclusion must constantly be managed.

In conclusion, this introduction to diversity will assist you to continually build your organization's strengths, one puzzle piece at a time.

References:

Alberta HR Trends Report – Spring 2017, Human Resources Institute of Alberta

Institute of Public Relations, http://www.instituteforpr.org/nearly-half-american-millennials-say-diverse-inclusive-workplace-important-factor-job-search/, Sarah Kochhar, Dec. 6, 2016