Most business owners think of themselves as open-minded and welcoming to people from all walks of life.
But are you, really?
What brings this question to mind is the recent announcement of Working Mother magazine's annual Best Companies for Multicultural Women. The list of what winners Cisco, Deloitte, General Mills, IBM and Procter & Gamble do to encourage a welcoming atmosphere is extensive.
Key policies include mentoring programs, job-shadowing opportunities, career counseling and guidance from top executives, diversity groups, charitable donations to diversity-promoting organizations and inclusion goals that are built-in to managers' performance objectives. Obviously, this is big-company stuff.
But there is plenty small companies can do to make sure they're welcoming to all employees, too. Here are five ideas:
- Acknowledge what you don't know. If you have a worker who's from a culture or religion you don't know much about, let them know you're feeling your way here, but you want to make sure they're comfortable and supported.
- Keep communication lines open. Tell minority hires you're serious about growing a diverse workplace. Include them in human-resource discussions about how to make your workplace more welcoming and inclusive. Tell these workers they have a direct line to you any time they have a concern.
- Learn more. If you don't know what you need to do to make a worker comfortable, you can't do it. Find out what prohibited foods, modesty issues, days off needed or other cultural differences might come into play in your workplace so you can avoid any inadvertent gaffes.
- Set policy and educate. Set clear policy that you want to know if anyone is being teased, bullied or in any way feels uncomfortable. And reinforce it with real education for everyone on your staff. Be sure to attend yourself. There are even free basic courses on this topic online, so there's no excuse for not putting a diversity training session together.
- Celebrate it. Consider giving workers an opportunity to share their cultures in a low-key, social way such as with a company potluck.
This really isn't optional stuff. Having a strong diversity program in place can help you avoid being sued under federal discrimination laws.
Plus, a diverse workforce can give your business a competitive advantage. For instance, some car dealerships here in Seattle make sure some of their sales staff are Japanese and Chinese, to speak to Asian customers who aren't comfortable using English. They make a segment of sales other dealers may miss.
How do you create a welcoming, multicultural environment at your business? Leave a comment and let us know.