Diversity in the workplace
A comprehensive survey of nonprofit professionals found that while 90% of those surveyed believe that their organization values diversity; more than 70% feel that their employer does not do enough to create a diverse and inclusive work environment. One respondent summarized it well—“Nonprofits need to make it clear that diversity is important and that they are willing to take actions to create a welcoming and inclusive environment.”In short, many people feel their employers are all talk and no action. Hence, a vicious cycle ensues where those who comprise our diverse workforce leave their jobs due to empty promises of an all-inclusive workplace. Consequently, the recruitment of a diverse workforce becomes increasingly difficult. A company unable to hire and retain people from diverse backgrounds, especially those whose life experiences help them relate to the nonprofit’s client population, is less likely to excel.

What is diversity?
When discussing diversity, we typically think of noticeable differences such as age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, physical ability, and sexual orientation. It is important to remember that there are other aspects to diversity as well, including:

  • Behavioural diversity: Different working and thinking styles and differing values and beliefs.
  • Structural diversity: Team members that span all levels of an organization.
  • Business diversity: Customer markets, community representation and supplier diversity.

A deep appreciation of each category of diversity contributes to a well-rounded workplace that values and welcomes each other’s varied characteristics and traits.

Why is diversity important?
A diverse workforce where all employees are respected and utilized is beneficial to all and is imperative for your nonprofit’s survival. It contributes to greater productivity, enhanced problem-solving and in turn, a more successful business. On the contrary, a workplace that chooses to ignore employee differences will see lower productivity levels, higher turnover, and less overall success.

Diversity training
Diversity training can help create an ideal environment in which all employees feel valued and respected. Here are some helpful topics to address in diversity training at your nonprofit:

  • Benefits of diversity:  Discuss the benefits of diversity and how it is good for business—after all that’s why you’re here. Each and every team member has something unique to offer and the power of that can take your organization to the next level. These teamwork puzzle stress relievers are great giveaways that illustrate the point.
  • Different, differences:  Address some of the common differences observed in the workplace including religion, language, customs, manners, and traditions. Discuss common misperceptions or stereotypes associated within each of these categories. You may have heard the metaphor comparing diversity to a salad or stew where all ingredients (people) contribute something worthwhile to the dish (company). Reinforce this analogy by providing attendees with a salad shaker set or soup mug.
  • Celebrate differences:  Incorporate multi-cultural foods and music at company-sponsored events. Integrate multi-cultural holidays into the company calendar and offer employees opportunities to observe and celebrate them.
  • Start the conversation: Ensure your employees that your organization is a safe environment to discuss diversity. Challenge everyone to listen when others are talking. It can difficult, but good listening and respect is key. Provide giveaways for participation such as a world-shaped collapsible sport bottle, globe flyer or canister filled with a diverse blend of candy or trail mix.

Remember, by creating a work environment that is welcoming and inclusive to all no matter what their age, gender, race, religion, and background, or even communication style or role in the company, you promote an environment where employees feel valued and respected. This in turn leads to greater productivity, enhanced problem-solving and in the end, a more successful business.

“Level Playing Field Institute.” Diversity in Non-Profit Organizations Research Study. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2012.

Schwartz, Robert. “Nonprofits Can Do More to Promote Diversity.The Huffington Post. 12 Apr. 2011. Web. 13 Dec. 2012.

Propopeak, Mike. “Diversity in the Workplace – Leading Association for Diversity Conferences and Collaboration.” Diversity in the Workplace – Leading Association for Diversity Conferences and Collaboration. Workforce Diversity Network, n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2012.

Kenyon, Alicia. “The Importance of Diversity in the Workplace – Part 1.” N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2012.

Kerby, Sophia, and Crosby Burns. “The Top 10 Economic Facts of Diversity in the Workplace.” Center for American Progress, 12 July 2012. Web. 16 Nov. 2012.

Bregman, Peter. “HBR Blog Network.” Diversity Training Doesn’t Work – Peter Bregman – Harvard Business Review. Harvard Business Review, 12 Mar. 2012. Web. 16 Nov. 2012.

Ingram, David. “Promotion & Awareness of Cultural Diversity in the Workplace.” Promotion & Awareness of Cultural Diversity in the Workplace | Chron.com. Chron.com, n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2012.

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