Racial diversity in the workplace.

As an employer, your workforce needs to work cohesively to achieve maximum operation. The ever-present effects of racial and ethnic discrimination, however, contribute absolutely nothing to this endeavour. With extensive media coverage surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement and the LGBTQ+ community, the lines of communication are more open than ever. Unfortunately, this hasn’t completely eradicated diversity issues in the workplace.

Kevin Ashley, Founder and CEO of the learning management system, myAko, has published the online course – Let’s Talk About Race in the Workplace – providing insight into how employers can educate their staff and fight back against racism and racial bias. Here, the learner delves into the fundamentals of this important course, ultimately encouraging any reader to consider what their organisation does right and what they could be doing better.

The Benefits of Workplace Diversity

Before diving into the world of how one can educate their workforce, let’s consider the various benefits of diversity in the workplace. Diversity can increase productivity and creativity, improve cultural awareness and even increase market opportunities. A diverse team will bring a rich bank of knowledge and ideas to the table, helping an organisation to branch out and evolve sustainably, rather than stagnate. Not only does fostering an open-minded, global company culture make good business sense, it also makes the workplace a much more interesting and personally enriching environment.

Further to this, the inclusion initiatives increasingly offered in the modern workplace will help to strengthen organizational adaptability, gain a competitive advantage and even reduce legal risks. Introducing training into what racism and racial bias is, how it affects people and the implications of institutional racism, will encourage your employees to, not only think about, but learn how to talk about and address racism in the workplace.

Boost Your Team’s Cultural Competency

Professional interactions with people from different cultural backgrounds are more likely today than ever before, making cross-cultural communication an indispensable skill in the workplace. Regardless of whether you’re interacting with a superior or subordinate; a client or customer, you can be certain that your communication will be improved through the development of a greater understanding of alternative cultures and perspectives.

Whilst you certainly have a responsibility, as an employer, to ensure your team is educated on the topics of cultural diversity and racial awareness, your employees should also be actively encouraged to educate themselves further.  Certain aspects of cultural diversity and racial awareness can be taught. However, the entire workforce should be encouraged to take the time to learn about different cultural traditions and approaches to work themselves, getting to know their colleagues from different countries and backgrounds in the process.

Being open to travel opportunities is also strongly advised – especially if given the opportunity to visit a team or client overseas – as doing so will grant a greater sense of cultural appreciation and sensitivity. Before the inception of myAko, for instance, Kevin enjoyed working amidst a range of different cultures; from Asia to the Caribbean; to South Africa and across Europe. Every new opportunity is unique and allows you to better appreciate what you can achieve from managing, developing, or simply working as a part of a diverse multicultural team. Making new friends for life is not unusual in such circumstances.

Another exciting way you can bolster your team’s awareness is to create a culturally diverse holiday calendar. By encouraging your colleagues to get involved in appropriately celebrating a variety of different traditions, they will not only gain a greater understanding of multiple cultures in a fun way but will also bond as a team. Celebrations of any kind are always an excellent way for colleagues at different levels to connect.

Welcome New Perspectives and Ideas

Being open to fresh perspectives and ideas is always advisable for any organisation, but it’s worth noting that those from different cultures and backgrounds may be able to offer a valuable, yet-unthought-of approach to any business issues. Making room for an approach that’s backed by a wealth of diverse life experiences may reveal a solution you would have never considered on your own.

A successful organisation will embrace and value the perspectives of all its employees. Doing so will go a long way in the effort to foster productive business relationships and a more inclusive company culture. This will, in turn, do much to help your business attract globally-minded job seekers, whilst retaining pre-existing diverse talent.

Treat Others How They Want to be Treated

Most people will be well-acquainted with the adage “treat others how you want to be treated”. This rule doesn’t always apply to a culturally diverse professional environment, however, regardless of the positive sentiment behind the statement. It would be altogether a better practice to follow the rule of treating others how they want to be treated.

In instilling this mindset within your company, it’s important to always be sensitive and considerate to the expectations and boundaries of your colleagues. What you may consider a commonplace interaction could potentially have subtle cultural nuances that are worth taking into account or be racially insensitive. Should you inadvertently cause offense, apologise and learn from the interaction. Both of these scenarios present valuable learning opportunities to improve your own awareness.

The optimal way you can promote racial awareness and cultural diversity in your workplace is through embracing it in order to build a solid understanding amongst your workforce. It’s important to remember that diversity can take many forms. No matter the background, culture, experiences or unique perspective, anyone has the potential to enrich your team’s professional experience, including you.