In the last decade, changing demographics in the United States have led to changing demographics in the workplace. To address this shift, many companies introduced diversity training programs that taught management how to embrace individuals' differences, and use them to increase productivity and innovation. What many businesses are now realizing is that diversity training is not just for large companies and multi-national corporations, but for businesses of all sizes that want to stay ahead in this global economy.
Men and women both have unique perspectives and assets to offer their organizations. It’s imperative for team leaders to understand that these assets and talents must be supported and treated equally. Every voice needs to be heard and every individual, regardless of gender, must be allowed to participate in the business culture.
In a recent study it was discovered that women are leaving corporate America at twice the rate of men. When asked why they were leaving, the majority of women cited “unhappiness with the work environment” and an ever-present “glass ceiling” as the two major reasons. Women felt their contributions were not recognized and often felt they simply were not taken seriously.
And it’s not just in corporate America where gender differences and inequality are seen on a daily basis. In areas of law enforcement, as well as in construction and other historically ‘male’ industries, women are still not seen as equal and are usually forced to acclimate or quit. Diversity training within these environments would benefit not only women, but the entire organization.
Although once focused on race and nationality, diversity is now recognized as involving more than these differences. Americans as a whole have widely varying religious beliefs and affiliations. These differences among employees may not come up on a daily basis, but there are times when an individual’s religious beliefs will arise, and when that happens, diversity training can advise employers and coworkers how to handle them.
For example, it may not always be feasible, but to the largest extent possible, employers should allow time off for religious holidays that aren’t recognized by the company as public holidays.
Also, in a diverse workplace, although well-intentioned, it is an assumption to wish someone a “Merry Christmas” as that person might be a different religion such as Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist. An important lesson of diversity training is that assumptions can be offensive regardless of the intent.
The average age of America’s workforce has increased significantly over the last 30 years. Nowadays the traditional generation (who cannot afford to retire) as well as the baby boomer generation are working side by side with generation X and Y.
Differences in work ethics can pose challenges within an organization. For example, generation X may value singular or more individual recognition whereas baby boomers grew up in an environment where the individual effort is more judged by the success of the overall effort and instigates a sense of obligation to work more regardless of the individual recognition
Different ages also require different motivational incentives and management techniques. For instance, older team members may value more time off for very individual reasons, whereas younger team members tend to be more attracted to positive feedback and cash incentives.
Cross-cultural communication can be a company’s key asset in countering challenges in today's workforce integration, especially those companies with unidentified issues holding their business back. Diversity training teaches participants how to create a safe and cooperative working environment, one with higher employee retention rates, better performance and morale, where innovation and growth can thrive.