Workplace Diversity Has Many Benefits

By Bowes, Barbara | Winnipeg Free Press, August 11, 2018 | Go to article overview

Workplace Diversity Has Many Benefits


Bowes, Barbara, Winnipeg Free Press


Today marks the midpoint of Winnipeg’s famous, world-class Folklorama event, where cultural displays, music, dance and authentic food help us to discover and rediscover the many vibrant arts and cultures that make up the diversity of our city. If you’ve attended Week 1 and/or plan to visit Week 2, you can visit pavilions such as Métis, Korea, Scotland, Portugal, Mexico, Philippines, Scandinavia and Ukraine — all which represent nationalities found in Manitoba and in the city of Winnipeg. Now that what is called diversity!

In fact, diversity is one of the elements of Winnipeg I especially love. I vividly recall when my children were in elementary grades that the school didn’t just host a February Valentine tea, they hosted a school tea that celebrated all 48 different nationalities represented by their student population. To me, this diversity is what represents what is so special about being a Manitoban and a Canadian.

Today, these students have grown up and are now part of the workforce... a diverse workforce that also needs to recognize and celebrate the importance of having different nationalities, cultures and languages in the workplace. In a global economy, diversity is a business necessity.

From my point of view, there are indeed many benefits to planning for, creating and maintaining a diverse workforce. One of the key benefits I see is the potential for a number of languages in a workplace. For instance, I recently met a young gentleman who spoke Ukrainian, Russian, Swedish, German and English, and had an international business background. Can you imagine the value these languages could create for a corporation doing business in countries with these languages? I don’t think you can put a solid dollar figure on what benefit this candidate would bring to a corporation.

Then, there’s the aspect of corporate reputation. After all, it’s your reputation that helps to attract high-quality candidates, and serves to build loyal employees and long-term loyal customers. Customers who know your staff understand their culture and speak their language will seek you out and significantly reduce the employee’s sales cycle time. When that occurs, it’s been proven time and time again that profitability will increase substantially, as well.

With so much global conflict in the world related to race, religion and nationality, I also am a firm believer that a diverse workforce creates opportunities for individuals to learn about other cultures and gain respect for each other. Being exposed to different cultures and languages at work helps to reduce implicit biases that many have grown up with. Diversity helps foster mutual respect amongst all employees, no matter where they work in the organization. It also helps put an emphasis on skills, performance and the importance of different viewpoints instead of simply focusing on one’s nationality and culture.

However, building a diverse workplace culture doesn’t just happen. It also goes beyond creating a diversity policy — developing a culture must be planned.

So, how can an organization go about this? The following guidelines will service you well:

Lead with senior management

The senior team must be visibly supportive of a diversity initiative and be seen to “walk the talk.” This also means providing financial and people resources in place to support the development of policies and procedures. Diversity-training workshops need to be developed and implemented, as do new, focused recruitment and retention strategies.

Seek out diversity in leadership

Stop and look at your leadership team. Does it reflect your customer base? Does it reflect your community? Take a lesson from successful organizations and focus on creating a management team that reflects the diversity of your community, employee and customer base. …

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