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February 13, 2017

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CHALLENGES OF DIVERSITY IN THE WORKPLACE

February 20, 2018

 

In a perfect world, it’s easy to see the benefits of a diverse workplace: new ideas, employees who represent the customers they serve, a rich dialog based on a variety of viewpoints.

 

And, of course, more interesting and delicious office potlucks.

 

But we live in not a perfect world, but the real world, and that means diversity also presents challenges for human resources professionals. In 2018, when everything from how women are treated in the workplace to whether racial and ethnic minorities are on an even playing field are hot topics, those challenges are front and center.

 

As the 2018 Multicultural Career Expo approaches in March – and with it comes the opportunity to build a more vibrant, multicultural workforce at many of the Mid-South’s leading employers – it’s important to not just celebrate the value of diversity but to address the challenges it presents.

 

Communication breakdowns top the list.

 

Even two people who share a common upbringing, cultural norms, ethnic background, etc. can find themselves the victims of poor communication – especially as our world moves away from face-to-face interaction in favor of emails, text messages, social media, etc.

 

Throw language barriers and different styles into the mix, and coworkers can find a real struggle. What one person considers efficient and professional another may find standoffish; even rude. A slang term that is innocuous to some could be read as a slap in the face to others. It’s a minefield, and deft HR professionals need to take an open, honest and transparent approach to making sure employees hear each other correctly – and that everyone’s voice carries the value it deserves.

 

An increasingly diverse workplace can also run up against the very human inclination to push back against change. Everyone craves their comfort zone, and long-term employees may struggle to adapt to a new generation of colleagues. Companies must listen to all of their employees –through surveys and conversations – and take an active approach toward building bonds between the old guard and new wave. Companies must lead by example, and in this case the example that needs to be set is one of inclusivity and involving everyone in crucial decision-making processes.

 

Of course, every company is different, and therefore every company will face different dilemmas when it comes to building a healthy and diverse environment.

 

Our advice? Be proactive by making diversity part of the conversation. An inclusive leadership team sets the right tone. Diversity training – with the help of independent consultants – works wonders. Listen to everyone and use what you hear to set new policies and create new norms.

 

We’re here to help. We hope this year’s Multicultural Career Expo – set for Monday, March 19 from 2-7 p.m. at Hilton Memphis, 939 Ridge Lake Boulevard – will not only help companies hire diverse job seekers; we hope it will continue a productive conversation on how to bring those talented individuals into the fold and build a happy, functioning workplace. You know, one with cool new ideas, rich brainstorming sessions and plenty of delicious potlucks!

 

 

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