Over the course of many years, the notion of “Workplace Diversity” was a concept, a fad, one of many organizational ‘flavor of the month’ programs; and to some, another name for Affirmative Action. Workplace Diversity was viewed as code words referring to race, ethnicity and gender. There were expectations and even pressure imposed to consider diversity attributes as a major factor in staffing decisions. The term ‘quota’ comes to mind in these cases.
It is refreshing to say that we have come a long way since those days. Oh yes, major corporations and large organizations tend to demonstrate their commitment through the appointment of executives to lead their diversity programs. They create large scale programs, including training, hold corporate sponsored events, and contribute financial and manpower support to the programs of special interest groups.
The world of small business is totally different when it comes to workplace diversity. It’s not a program. It’s a reality; a key factor in survival and the challenges to achieving success. Small businesses, by virtue of size, the demographics of their customer base, the products and services they offer, realize that true diversity is reflected in the characteristics and attributes of the customers they serve. More importantly, they understand the value of the diversity of their employees and consider their differences an asset to the business and essential in serving its customers.
Small businesses have long understood that diversity encompasses race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, personality, education, and much more. These factors are generally second nature in the staffing process. The focus is on hiring the most qualified candidate for the job. By doing so, they manage to create a diverse staff on the basis of the skills they need to provide quality service to their customers.
Commitment to diversity in the workplace is important. It creates an environment where differences are respected and taken seriously, and where there is openness and the sharing of ideas. The diversity of experience, thoughts, and various perspectives set the stage for a workforce of dedicated employees whose overall mission is to do the best job they can to satisfy their customers.
By Marijan Pavisic MS SPHR