Managing Diversity

A recurring topic for HR managing diversity in the workplace.  Embracing a diverse workforce does not simply happen.  HR and business leaders take proactive steps to manage a diverse workplace demographics.

Valuing Diversity

Valuing diversity means employing a workforce that reflects the general population of society.  Each year, companies hire new graduates (i.e., Gen Y) and experienced engineers, and at the same time, increasing hiring of female engineers.  Corporations have offices throughout the globe from U.S. to Asia to Europe and from Brazil to Russia to Africa.  Employers are managing to an older workforce as well.

Valuing a diverse workforce helps drive creativity and innovation.  Above all else, it is about recruiting and hiring the best engineering talent.  Smart people enjoy working with other smart people, no matter who they are or where they come from.

Challenges to Managing Diversity

Diversity has been ranked very highly as a value by employees in focus groups and it rates very high in our climate survey.  So the challenge for a company is not about what needs to be overcome, but rather about how to continue to improve, do more, be more effective and more innovative in our approach to diversity and inclusion — and to do this on a global level.

Approaches to Managing Diversity

Companies should fosters a culture where engaged people bring their unique talents and experiences, all focused toward innovation, execution and partnership.  These are the values under which the organization operates and it is the lens in how organizations view diversity as well, as an integral part of a global business.  Companies should also recognize that it is important to enable a diverse group of people and provide the necessary training so each employee is equipped with the skills to work across cultures.

Specific examples of training include workshops on diversity and working across cultures. These are available for all employees.  For Gen Y, new grad employees, transition training such as “Backpack to Briefcase” training to help them transition from campus life to the workplace.  Classes also include global training on fostering an inclusive workforce.

In addition, companies can have employee groups such as Women in Engineering.  The group focuses on the professional development of women engineers.  Members coordinate mentoring programs and monthly learning opportunities.  We also have employee special interest groups where employees come together on their own.  One example could be a theme on cooking or food social club, where employees gather for potluck lunches.  This is one of the more popular groups, as different culture groups share different native cuisines.

HR’s Role in Managing Diversity

Look to the company’s history and founding partners for guidance on roots of the diversity message.  For example, technology companies are founded to be innovative and to create technologies that make a difference in people’s lives.  That company builds upon a belief that employees’ diversity, cultures and ideas are essential to this innovation.

Both senior management and HR play an integrated leadership role in driving a thriving diverse workforce.  Creating a culture and environment where employees are open to the ideas and perspectives of others, who are like them or not, is critical to how we operate as a business. By embracing individual and collective creativity companies deliver technologies that are used by more than a billion people across the globe to access information and opportunities.

For all companies, I think that diversity happens.  The real value comes from leveraging it and creating an inclusive culture.

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