The Importance of Creating and Supporting a Diverse Workforce
A diverse workforce is critical for a number of reasons, as outlined by Department of Health and Human Services in their CLAS Blueprint:
- To create an environment in which culturally diverse individuals feel welcomed and valued
- To promote trust and engagement with the communities and populations served
- To infuse multicultural perspectives into planning, design, and implementation of CLAS
- To ensure diverse viewpoints are represented in governance decisions
- To increase knowledge and experience related to culture and language among staff
Creating and supporting a diverse workforce can pose several challenges. There are several steps you can take to help mitigate barriers and ensure a supportive process.
Assessing Your Organization: Where are You Now?
It is important to perform an organizational assessment to identify current needs, gaps, and opportunities to increase your capacity and effectiveness. Organizational assessments can provide important insights into the following areas:
- The impact of policies and procedures on providing culturally competent services
- Employee satisfaction, to aid in employee retention efforts
- Client satisfaction with services
- Targeted recruitment needs and opportunities, for both employees and program participants
Several tools have been included here to provide worksheets and processes to guide your organization through a structured assessment process.
Recruiting a Diverse Workforce
The first part of an assessment effort should include data collection regarding the current demographic makeup of your organization. This data is then compared to the demographic makeup of your community. It is important for organizations to try to be as representative as possible of their communities, in order to promote trust and enhance engagement with the communities served. For many organizations, recruiting a diverse workforce requires a targeted effort. To make these efforts as efficient as possible you may want to consider the following recruitment sources in your communities:
- Minority colleges and universities; multicultural student groups; minority student professional associations
- National minority organizations, i.e. Urban League, NAACP, National Association of Hispanic Nurses, etc.
- Local minority publications such as the Columbus Post, Outlook Columbus, Spanish-speaking newspapers, etc.
You may also want to consider incorporating new or additional interview questions to your normal screening process. This is not only to ensure your interview process is more inclusive, it will also serve to gauge the cultural competency of your candidates. It is recommended that some form of cultural and linguistic competency assessment is included in candidate screening and orientation, to ensure a strong commitment by the organization is communicated and emphasized early on.
Creating a Welcoming Environment
Your physical environment is an important indicator to candidates, staff, and clients about your organization’s commitment to meeting multicultural needs. Some aspects of your physical environment you may wish to consider include:
- Signage offered in multiple languages
- Pictures/posters representing different ethnicities, abilities, and backgrounds
- Accessibility of parking, seating, restrooms, etc. to accommodate persons with physical disabilities
- A reception area that is open, welcoming, and accessible
When evaluating your physical space, ask:
- Are people comfortable?
- Do they feel safe?
- Do they feel represented in this space?
Retention is key for effective programs and more cost-effective than employee turnover. It is imperative that organizations create the necessary supports that communicate a value towards diversity of all kinds. Some strategies organizations may wish to implement include:
- Evaluating time off policies to be more accommodating of individuals with families in other countries. Travelling abroad usually requires longer time off work than the typical two weeks that most organizations allow. Additionally, these trips are likely to be taken less often but for longer periods of time to be cost effective. Consider adapting your HR policies to be more accommodating of this need. This might include time sharing among employees, special request with management approval, or a more liberal flex time policy.
- Holiday celebrations. Christmas, Easter, and other Christian holidays are generally celebrated in offices through decorations and staff events. Consider making your holiday celebrations more inclusive with other religions and ethnic traditions. This may also be a great way to learn more about a culture, through food and other traditions used to celebrate these events.
- Scheduling meetings and work hours. Consider a variety of multicultural needs when scheduling important meetings or structuring work schedules. This may include ensuring that important meetings do not fall on important holidays such as Rosh Hashanah, Good Friday, or making accommodations for prayer and fasting during Ramadan.