Diversity is a hot-button issue, particularly for businesses. Chances are, your employees and consumers care about how your company handles issues related to race, gender and age, both in policy and action. By providing appropriate diversity training and education to your staff, you can build a more inclusive atmosphere for all types of people.
The best time to start thinking about diversity training is now. Don't wait until after a negative incident happens — when you do, it can be difficult to move past the media coverage or negative customer attention. Instead, consider a more proactive approach. You might work with a training consultant to develop a module that each employee must go through after being hired, for example. In the short term, you could conduct an education session with all of your current employees and managers. When your staff is aware of the issue, they're better able to correct behaviors that are potentially problematic.
One of the most important things you can do to help educate employees about diversity is to encourage discussion. If an incident happens in the news, talk about it. If an employee has a question, open it up for conversation among the team. Honest, genuine dialogue is a great way to supplement your diversity training. It can help dispel myths, explain appropriate behavior, and help employees spot their own biases. As a bonus, an open atmosphere can make it easier for staff members to speak up when they see a potential problem.
Bring in Speakers
Exposure is an important part of diversity training — the more your employees know about people of different backgrounds, the easier it is to behave in a kind, inclusive way. One way to increase this exposure is to bring in speakers for lunchtime sessions. A Muslim speaker might explain the significance of the hijab, for example, while a representative from the local senior citizen community could talk about the unique needs of older customers. If possible, open the floor up for respectful questions. This process dispels the fear of the unfamiliar and helps your staff become more sensitive to the unique backgrounds and needs of a diverse customer base.
Hire for Diversity
To add a serious punch to your diversity training, prove that you're serious by hiring a diverse team. Your options are limited by your hiring pool, of course, but you can aim to bring in people of different ages, backgrounds, genders, races and ideologies. It's also helpful to examine your hiring process for biases. The more diverse your staff, the better equipped they are to serve customers from different backgrounds.
Done correctly, diversity training can go a long way toward building a welcoming workplace and preventing discrimination. With an inclusive attitude and an understanding of diversity issues, your staff is better able to serve a diverse customer base.
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