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Cultural Diversity in the Workplace

Information about creating a culturally diverse work environment and fostering a culture that drives productivity and inter-cultural communication.
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Having diversity within an organization means having employees that are not all the same. They can and should mean a workforce comprising different ages, genders, races, ethnicities, and religions. Having a diverse workforce signals that the organization does not discriminate against anyone. If one is qualified for the job, he or she has a fair chance of getting it no matter what his or her background is-unless, for the sake of diversity, people are hired or admitted on the basis of quotas or criteria, e.g., race, that change the weight assigned to other credentials.

Employers need to be alert to a subtle form of discrimination, which although not illegal, can subvert the goals of diversity, namely, an office apartheid mentality, i.e., amicable, but segregated coexistence in the workplace. If a diverse workforce sorts itself out along racial, ethnic, gender or linguistic lines, e.g., in the cafeteria, at company functions or in office seating, the diversity achieved will be nominal-in name only.

Staff at all levels of an organization should be accepting of people who are different from themselves. Further, measures should be taken to make sure that no actions will be perceived as discriminatory. Human resources departments should carefully research laws governing equal employment opportunities and construct hiring practices that invite diverse candidates. When conducting interviews, it is important that the interviewer know what kinds of questions can be asked of the interviewee without appearing to discriminate.

Having a diverse workforce enhances an organization. Having people from different lifestyles and backgrounds challenges the way others within the organization think and operate and can catalyze innovation, insight and adaptation. Additionally, it helps the organization to reach a wider customer base because there are more employees that can relate to more types of customers. On an individual level, employees will broaden their cultural and interpersonal horizons by being exposed to other ways of thinking and living.

Organizations can look to the civil rights and non-discrimination laws to guide them in hiring a diverse population. For further information, one should contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.