Many people have approached the United States' increased focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in different ways over the past few years. Reading books about lesser-known histories of cultures in the United States has been eye-opening for some. For others, it's more relational, talking to friends, family, and coworkers to see if their experiences can help inform more equitable and positive experiences and relationships in the future.
Regardless of how you've personally responded, taking a course in workplace expectations and communication can be a great way to dig deep on how to have good conversations. To be clear, a great conversation about diversity at work:
- It isn't a one-time talk that never has a result.
- Shouldn't force people in the minority to do all the heavy work of choosing topics and framing the challenges.
- At the same time, these individuals should be allowed to participate and lead in whatever respect they wish since the outcomes of the conversations disproportionately impact them.
- Involve substantial revisions of policy.
- Be informed by best practices from workplaces that have had successful diversity communication experiences in the past.
These conversations are rarely simple, and they require a radical kind of respect and listening that many of us don't put into practice. However, being willing to learn and have substantial conversations can dramatically improve a workplace.
How Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Matters at Work
While it can seem invisible to those who are part of it, every person in your company brings their expectations and perspectives about the world. When an employee is the only woman, person-of-color, or one living with a visible disability, they will experience your company differently. Their take on your policies, culture, and behaviors won't match those who see themselves as part of a majority.
Whether you see diversity's impact at work, taking this course can help you speak more openly and encourage conversation at work. Some of your employees may feel comfortable speaking up and voicing disagreement to offer a new perspective on your company. Others, however, may prefer to let you do what you're going to do rather than being someone seen as a person who "rocks the boat" and loses access to this job.
Learning more about navigating conflict and misunderstandings makes you better at noticing when there is a critical clarification you need to make. Too often, managers who sense cultural differences in their teams would prefer to smooth it all over without hearing every party out and discovering the root cause of the differences. These skills can be incredibly valuable if you are in the role of a mediator, mainly because getting a reputation for always siding with one person or group of people can reduce your effectiveness as an HR professional.
If you don't think everyone at your company has time to take classes on communicating across differences, consider having your HR staff take a course on it. By educating the people who often serve as mediators, you can rely on their improved expertise to teach your staff. They can implement these communication skills on a case-by-case basis or during events like lunch and learn lectures at work.
How Diverse Teams Promote Productivity and Relevance Long-Term
One of the big reasons companies should work to help people navigate the workplace as minority voices and promote the importance of workplace diversity, in general, is that it makes teams better. Too many people bringing the same perspective to work means that everyone also has the same blind spots, areas where they wouldn't think of the most creative solution, and the same skills. You want a team with overlapping perspectives, skills, and methods so that every project or experience gets a few different eyes on it.
Study after study has shown that diverse teams perform better, but you cannot afford to alienate people across particular demographics, especially during hiring shortages. You want to appeal to the broadest possible range of candidates so that you can offer jobs to outstanding, effective new employees. If your company gets a reputation for mistreating or simply silencing people along a particular diversity line - from gender to sexuality to race to culture - you may lose out on great candidates who choose to apply elsewhere.
In the end, communication courses give you a toolkit for ways to address conflict and tension at work, both along diversity lines and in other contexts. There's no downside to building your capacity for creative communication that crosses barriers and helps everyone emerge with greater understanding. Sign up for professional development courses with PCC today.