Dealing With Workplace Diversity Proactively

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Organizations who address diversity proactively will have the most success implementing and enhancing diversity programs.

Encouraging Diversity in the Workplace

There are many compelling reasons to encourage diversity in the workplace. A diversity program offers the following benefits to an organization:

Increased productivity

Fewer lawsuits

Retention and growth of the business

Increasing marketing capabilities

The fostering of a wider talent pool

Becoming and being perceived as an employer of choice

Better morale

Increased creativity of the workforce

Improved decision-making processes and capabilities.

Several key traits are common to successful organizations that encourage and support diversity in their workplaces. They:

Behave proactively

Support top-down, leadership-driven initiatives, clearly communicated throughout the organization

Promote ownership of issues throughout the organization

Think and behave inclusively

Make diversity a part of as many initiatives as possible.

A strategic plan allows the organization to begin to work the vision initiatives. This task may be handled by a task force, or a change management team, or a diversity council. Having a diversity council (or similar group) is often a good approach, because its members represent diverse ethnic and other groups. They serve in an ongoing role, advising about — and even overseeing — diversity initiatives.

Conducting a Diversity Audit

The diversity council or team will want to conduct a diversity audit to gauge where the organization is now, and where it wants to be. Audits typically consist of three parts: a document review, one or more surveys, and focus groups.  Typical projects that emerge after a diversity audit include:

Creation of a corporate diversity policy

Diversity awareness training

Revision or enhancement of a job development system using neutral language about diverse groups

Use of job postings to attract diverse talent to new or open positions

Marketing and promotion of the diversity program without and outside the company using the corporate intranet (internal) and extranet (public web site).

Building a Diversity Training Program

Often the next step is to conduct a needs analysis and create a diversity awareness training program. It typically includes topics such as:

Why implement a diversity program in the organization?

The dynamics of discrimination

Results of the initial diversity audit

Understanding the issues of discrimination and the investigation process

Creating an inclusionary culture

Action plans for personal and workgroup follow-up.

Other, more specific courses may follow, dealing with topics such as culture bias, or management training specific to diversity. Organizations may also set up mentoring programs, designate an affirmative action officer, or create outreach programs to inform its constituency of its work — and to help to attract a diverse talent pool.

Instituting Diversity Recruitment

To build a diverse workforce, an organization must have a broad candidate pool. Some initiatives to consider are to:

Maintain a list of educational institutions with a qualified and diverse student body

Model the diversity of the organization to potential recruitment sources

Utilize a diverse recruiting team so that the organization is appealing to candidates

Perform recruiting outreach in potential recruiting communities

Employ a wide range of advertising venues

Make sure the website explains and celebrates the diversity program

Seek out internal employees and liaise with suppliers and vendors to identify appropriate candidates.

Large organizations in the United States who are known for proactive diversity initiatives undertaken over a period of time and with significant change management activity include Xerox, American Express, Digital, Pepsi, and the federal government. While these large organizations have spent significant dollars, many activities to foster diversity in the workplace cost little or nothing — and can be undertaken by organizations of any size.

Preventing Discrimination

To prevent discrimination from occurring, you must take firm steps within your organization to educate managers and employees about what constitutes discrimination and how people must behave in order to avoid committing discriminatory actions.


Make sure you understand laws regarding diversity.  In a larger organization, look to the human resources department to provide up-to-date information. If you work in a smaller organization, visit web sites to keep up with them yourself, and purchase books or periodicals.

Maintain open communications about fairness, diversity, and discrimination.

Work to understand the unique needs of each ethnic, cultural, disability or lifestyle group.

Policy development

The organization should develop the following policies.

Anti-discrimination: Define discrimination. Include language about prohibited conduct, complaint procedures, intolerance of retaliation, responsibilities of managers, and corrective action the company will take with anyone who violates the policy.

Anti-harassment: Define harassment, clearly state it is prohibited, describe the complaint procedure, explain that retaliation is prohibited, lay out managers’ responsibilities, and explain what process the organization will follow for investigation and corrective action.

Other Policies: Similarly, create and publish policies for complaints, anti-violence, and how your organization handles open door procedures so communications can flow between employees and management.


More About Workplace Diversity

Understanding Stereotypes
Breaking Down Barriers in The Workplace
Dealing with Diversity Complaints as a Manager
Dealing with Diversity Complaints as an Organization



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