Workplace diversity is not a new concept, but with the changing nature of society, workforces and employees, the old-school diversity tactics companies use may not be in line with a progressive vision. How employers and employees act, think and speak when discussing the topic of diversity is important when establishing a workplace that encourages equality and a safe work environment.
Why Old-School Diversity Doesn't Work
In the past, companies have focused their workplace diversity efforts on what's known as the "Skittles Approach," according to diversity expert Susana Rinderle. This approach prompts employers to hire individuals from underrepresented groups to create a rainbow effect in offices and corporations. While diversifying the workforce is important, this approach does not necessarily take into account outcomes or goals associated with adding underrepresented groups to the payroll. This outdated approach to workplace diversity also typically follows specific requirements set forth by state or federal laws and regulations instead focusing on bringing varying viewpoints into the office. In essence, some companies have adopted a superficial approach to diversity that's based on the "look" of the company to justify social justice efforts.
As a result, many individuals see this old-school style as a form of charity for groups of people who have been marginalized. Hiring based primarily on representing specific groups might also make it seem as if the company is sacrificing quality for diversity. The outdated methods do not hold employers accountable when attempting to make meaningful changes that are vital to the company's culture and intercultural dynamics.
Why New-School Diversity Works
Employers willing to toss out the old and embrace the new find that new-school approaches to workplace diversity are driven by measurable outcomes. The focus is more about how underrepresented groups bring quality to the workforce and how their strengths are utilized. This approach also makes education a top priority for all employees. Activities bring awareness to unintended effects of biases in the workplace while creating a culture that's open to new ideas and cultural differences. When recognizing how cultural differences benefit employees and clients, the industry and the company itself have the potential to meet goals, train effective leaders and take accountability for the progressive nature of employees.
New-school tactics for workplace diversity also put the reality of unequal power into the limelight. Companies who recognize that biases and cultural differences have impeded growth for employees can look critically at their practices and operations to create fair playing fields for people of all backgrounds and ethnicities.
Fostering a safe and productive work environment is often a challenge. However, employers who seek out innovative approaches to workplace diversity to eliminate biases and discrimination are ultimately changing the face of their businesses and their industries.
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