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Monday, September 24, 2007

Diving into Diversity

By Beverly Smith

is a strange little word. When people start looking at it, and add the word "training," things start to get interesting. Now there is not only variety, but also training to go with that variety. How do you train a person in variety? People start getting a little worried. "Did I hear you correctly?" they ask. "You're saying both my company and our employees will benefit? Who says so? And, why pick on me? I do my job, and get along with my coworkers."

Here's why: It wasn't always like this, and in some workplaces, it still isn't.

When our grandparents were growing up, people chose to assimilate rather than tout their diversity. They feared if they didn't fit in, they wouldn't be accepted—and if they weren't accepted, they wouldn't be able to find a job. They had blacklists in those days, and if you were on someone's "black" list, you weren't hirable.

People fear what they don't know or understand, which is where formal, corporate learning programs about diversity can be helpful. Why do we need diversity in the workplace? The answer is simple: because it is the right thing to do. But more than that, businesses make more money when they support a diverse workforce. More companies are doing business internationally, which means their customer bases also are changing. To serve these new customer bases, companies need employees who respect the differences of others, and, in turn, provide more revenue for stakeholders.

Companies are using diversity training to educate everyone from the CEO to frontline workers. When it starts at the top, and cascades down to the rest of the organization, frontline employees know their company considers diversity a key strategy.

There's a reason you're now hearing so much about diverse workforces. Interest in diversity has gone global. Initiatives to make organizations more diverse in the UK have launched, with nearly 70 percent of British firms reporting the presence of diversity policies. But some critics say these UK companies have no intention of doing anything about their diversity initiatives—they just want credit for having them. The latest UK population statistics show it is worthwhile for these organizations to follow through. Forty percent of students in UK public schools are ethnic minorities. Companies that want to continue doing business, and attracting customers, realize they need to understand diversity from the inside to prosper long term.

Diversity gained a foothold in the United States in the 1980s. Anti-discrimination laws were passed, and more women entered the workforce, along with other minorities. Companies were required to make appropriate accommodations for the new hires, and not all of them resisted doing the right thing. Many wanted to provide a safe, healthy, and friendly work environment, regardless of their legal obligations.

As in the UK, the U.S. companies that launch diversity initiatives are reflecting growing changes in their country’s population. The U.S. minority population is 98 million, representing one-third of the country's people. Hispanics are the largest minority with 42.7 million, according to the Spokesman Review.

Despite the gains made in accommodating employee diversity, Workplace Safety reports there are numerous Hispanic fatalities each year because too many Spanish-speaking workers didn't understand the training material provided. Tests should be administered so the trainer has proof all employees understand the learning content. This is especially critical in a dangerous work environment.

The National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI) recommends diversity be approached from the perspective of "training the trainers." They believe people are less resistant to being a team trainer than taking a class that presumes to teach them how to respect others.

Diversity issues sometimes arise in surprising places—such as the medical profession. Diversity training was never mentioned once during my 10 years as an employee at The Methodist Hospital in Houston, TX. Hospital policy stated that sexual harassment would not be tolerated; four safety classes had to be attended each year; immunizations had to be updated, but not a word about diversity. Maybe it was assumed that since there is every type of person on Earth in a hospital (at one time or another), diversity awareness wasn't a problem.

But in actuality, that awareness often is only achieved following legal action. Lawsuits—or the fear of them—are a huge contributing factor in many companies' push to institute diversity training. The problem is, organizations frequently spend millions of dollars on diversity training without scrutinizing the instructors or learning material.

R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co. did just that. It hired a company to deliver training designed to "make white employees confront their alleged racism." The training was court ordered after previous lawsuits. They had questionnaires asking if black people had a distinctly different body odor, and if Puerto Ricans were more sexually loose than other nationalities. Every employee had to sit through movies that showed the Ku Klux Klan during lynchings. One worker had to sit through the movie four times. The company eventually was sued for racial discrimination, according to Forbes. The suit was settled in 2004 with an additional $15 million against the now-closed plant.

This brings up the type of trainer companies need. You want a person who's passionate about making employees aware of diversity, but not one disposed to raging at the podium. NCBI recommends asking questions about how they would handle hypothetical racially/ethnically charged situations, so you can evaluate their competence. In addition, ask how they plan to put the program together. The more questions you come up with, and the better their answers, the better your program will run.

As you would before launching any training program, conduct a needs-assessment of your company to isolate knowledge gaps in diversity awareness. Meanwhile, top executives in your company must support the training. A statement should be made indicating the value of diversity training to the company. Don't state it is required because people will start thinking negatively before they even arrive. Whenever possible, have someone within the firm deliver your instruction, since training that comes from within is accepted more easily than training delivered by outsiders.

Pfizer is one company that has made great strides in diversity. Jeff Kindler, previously president, partner brands at McDonald's, joined the Pfizer legal team in 2001. His top priority upon arrival was diversity. Kindler, who says he enjoys a diverse culture, values the different perspectives diversity adds to a discussion. "We don't have the luxury of overlooking the most talented people," Carol Casazza Herman, assistant general counsel, Pfizer Inc., told the Corporate Legal Times. "If we don't create a culture where different types of people can thrive, we’re going to lose out." Pfizer's legal department developed diversity programs for five different areas, including recruiting and hiring, development, retention, supplier diversity and communications. The company also created scholarships for minorities, as well as a summer internship program specifically for minority law students.

A diverse workplace does not happen by accident. OK, so maybe it might happen in a very small company, but not in a large one. Someone must make a conscious decision the workplace will become diverse. Not only do they need to make the decision; they also have to make sure everyone plays nicely with each other. If they don't learn to play together, then someone will take all their diversity marbles, and those of their friends, and go home. Bottom line: Companies need to teach workers to respect and communicate effectively with one another. Without proper respect and communication, you are not working with a strong foundation, and your diverse house will come tumbling down.

About the Author

Beverly Smith lived in nine countries on five continents for 18 years. She was exposed to a wide variety of cultures, and currently is an MBA student at Sam Houston State University.

Source : ManageSmarter

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Job-Seeking Strategy for Differently-abled Candidates: Address Employers' Fears Head-On

by Maureen Crawford Hentz

The single biggest barrier to full employment for the differently abled is the "fear of the unknown" of hiring/working with someone different. Employers know and generally comply with the law, but little is being done to educate co-workers in effective strategies for coping with their apprehension. I believe that hiring committees composed of co-workers/superiors/subordinates may often be the derailing factor in a differently-abled person's job search process. Peer committees may simply not know how working with a differently-abled individual will work. I've often heard comments from potential co-workers that range from "well, how can she talk to us if she's deaf?" to "well, there's not enough room in here for a wheelchair.”

As differently-abled job searchers go through the process of interviewing, a good strategy may be to address potential concerns directly. This strategy is not required on the searcher's part, but in my professional opinion, it is a technique to counterbalance the prejudice that people may feel -- whether or not they express it. Remember, technically, employers are limited by law to asking if the candidate can accomplish the job (and in some cases, ask the candidate for an illustration of how). What I would argue, however, is that the real questions are the ones that a coworker would be afraid to ask. I think that the best defense, if you will, is an effective offense -- putting people at ease.

For example, I recently had a deaf person as a client. She was concerned that the company where she was interviewing would be afraid she could not communicate with co-workers. As an excellent lip reader who also is verbally articulate, this client brought this issue up at the interview in the following way: "I want to let you know that I'm able to read lips, so understanding what is being said should not be a problem as long as I can see everyone's face. If you need to get my attention, just wave or give me a tap on the arm. Likewise, if you don't understand something I say, please ask me to repeat myself -- no need to be embarrassed -- communication is the key."

An additional strategy for this client was to ask her references to specifically address the communication issue when giving the reference. She asked her former supervisors to bring up the communication issue with the reference-checker. This strategy also proved extremely effective, as the former employer was able to verify the ease of communication.

For this client, these strategies worked exceptionally well. She was subsequently hired for the job. With her coworkers, she has continued to work out day-to-day details, such as telephone calls and messages.

Each job-seeker needs to evaluate his/her feelings about this issue. Many job-seekers don't want to have to educate everyone with whom they come in contact. That's okay. Many job-seekers don't want to directly address their disability. That's okay. Many job-seekers feel that it is incumbent upon coworkers to initiate their own learning process. All of these feelings and beliefs are valid. Ultimately, each job-seeker must decide if, when and in what manner similar strategies should be employed.

Is it ok to say "Did you hear that...." to a deaf co-worker? Should I offer to push my supervisor's wheelchair? Should I open a door for a person with leg braces? Do I offer to spell check my dyslexic co-worker's memo before it goes out? Is it appropriate to ask how my HIV positive coworker is feeling? How do I shake hands with a visually impaired client?

Coworkers and others in the workplace have questions like these, but don't know if, where and how they should be asked. In the millennial workplace, all members of a team must be sensitized to working with diverse people. Too often, however, diversity training is limited in sphere to racial/ethnic and gender issues. There are many diversity educators available who present workshops on issues specifically related to disability in the workplace. In my professional opinion, every company should include these kinds of programs routinely. By hosting diversity training sessions focusing on the issue of people with disabilities, co-workers can become not only sensitized to certain issues, but also more adept in using appropriate behaviors.

Similarly, a personnel/human-resources office should initiate educating potential coworkers about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the practicalities of reasonable accommodation. In this way, what I call the "Hidden Trap for Differently-Abled Job Seekers" can be effectively counterbalanced.

About the Author

QuintZine regular contributor Maureen Crawford Hentz, an independent career and HR consultant, has been working with career seekers for nine years, and has master’s degree in college student personnel from Bowling Green State University. A popular conference lecturer, she specializes in large and small specially designed workshops for professional organizations, students and environmental groups. Her most popular career workshops address topics including: Non-Verbal Techniques To Use During An Interview; Powerful Resumes; and Interviewing Etiquette You've Never Even Thought About. She has a particular interest in job searching techniques for differently-abled candidates, new grads and career changers. Proving that you never have to settle for just one career, in addition to her consulting work, Maureen is also the director of volunteer programs and Internships at the New England Aquarium, Boston and an instructor of American culture at Showa Boston Institute for Language and Culture.

Source : Quintessential Careers

Researching a Company's Diversity Policies

By Therese Droste

The interview's set. Now you want to know if the potential employer does more than talk about diversity. Follow these tips to find out if the company has a proven commitment to hiring a wide range of people.

Making the Grade

Many business and special interest publications compile regular lists of employers that back up their diversity efforts with proven results. Forbes magazine publishes an annual list of businesses noted for their diversity policies. Niche publications such as Working Mother and The Advocate do the same for their communities. "Such publicity gives you some clue into the company," says diversity expert Joyce Moy, director of the Center for Workforce Strategies in Long Island City, New York.

What's the Buzz?

"Listen to what your community is saying about an employer," advises Moy. Don't underestimate the power of these grapevines. They are valuable tools to learn about potential employers from people with unique perspectives.

Look the Company in the Face

"The biggest and best indication is a company's public face," says Luke Visconti, president of Allegiant Media of New Brunswick, New Jersey, which publishes DiversityInc.com. "Look at its Web site and closely evaluate the diversity areas on it," he says. "Also view the company's advertising to see if it reflects the values you'd want to represent."

Kim Mills, education director at the Human Rights Campaign, the largest national lesbian and gay political organization, advises job seekers to "look at how a company gives back to the community." One way to do this is to check out diversity-related events sponsored by the company you're interested in working for.

Internal Affinity Groups

Does the company foster an environment that encourages employee groups to form around certain issues of common interest, such as ethnicity? "If a company has an affinity group, it's a good sign," says Moy. Call a company or check its Web site for such groups. Better yet, ask your potential employer for a person to contact within the affinity organization and ask questions about the company's atmosphere and policies.

On Campus?

Does the employer have a presence on college campuses where minority groups are well represented? If so, it's a good indication they're serious about recruiting minorities.

Check the Bottom Line

Investigate whether a company ties diversity to its bottom line. "If they don't, it doesn't necessarily indicate they are a bad company, but one that perhaps isn't publicly embracing the concept of diversity as a business issue," advises Visconti.

That concept requires more than just sponsoring events to support social issues. It means a company views serving diverse communities as a comprehensive business advantage. Feel free to ask what a company is doing to contribute to the field of diversity.

"Overall, you want to work for a company that understands the needs of various groups," says Visconti.

Copyright 2002 - TMP Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This article first appeared on Monster, the leading online global network for careers. To see other career-related articles, visit http://content.monster.com.

Source : The Multicultural Advantage

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Seeking Diversity in the Workplace

By Dakotta Alex

Have any of the employees within your company ever asked you why diversity is not a priority? Do you find yourself interviewing the same type of candidate on a regular basis? Do you think you are hiring innovative employees or just those who will only do what is asked of them? If so, you should consider changing your hiring practices to include interviewing and hiring those who come from differing educational, social, religious, cultural, and industrial backgrounds.

Since the mid-1990’s, the business world has become much more global. Companies are opening offices and manufacturing plants in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. Hiring employees who come from these areas that understand the culture can only benefit company profits. But many are still anxious about hiring those who are from other countries or whose background may differ from their own.

While changing your entire hiring process will take time, there are small changes you can make in order to bring in talented people with diverse cultural backgrounds so they may become an integral part of the sales a company will earn from year to year.

Changes in recruitment

How you recruit candidates determines the types you will end up interviewing and hiring. Old stand-bys include college job fairs, ads in newspapers, and receiving referrals from other employees or recruiters. While you should still practice these methods, have you ever considered putting an ad in a foreign newspaper? How about attending a job fair in Turkey? One strategy that may prove fruitful is building your network outside the U.S.

If you employ travelling to another country in search of candidates as a recruitment strategy, research which countries have the best candidates for your company. This will help narrow your search a little. Talk to current management and other employees to see if they can recommend possible candidates. Companies that conduct a lot of international business have many contacts.

Building a recruitment network outside the United States will cost more money, but if you are looking for new talent, those who are ready to work, and those who can reach a different segment of the consumer population, the money you spend today will be returned many times over.

The Internet has provided people with the means to communicate with people all over the world, yet many companies are reluctant to use the Internet as a recruiting tool. Advertise online, review resumes online, and get the candidates your company needs.

Diversity in your own backyard

If your company cannot afford the costs associated with overseas recruitment, relocation packages, and other expenses, there are other ways to drive diversity into your company’s culture. Hiring candidates that have travelled, worked overseas, or who have faced challenges in their lives that are different from other candidates can give companies insight into other cultures and the consumers who live there.

Below are a few examples of the groups you should take a closer look at:

* As more and more people complete their service in the military, they will need jobs. These candidates have travelled, have trained with different types of people, and can learn easily. Military job boards are very good places to advertise and recruit.

* Stay-at-home parents who want to go back to work after taking a few years off are also great candidates because of their role as consumers. Your company will benefit from this perspective. Parents who want to go back to work are eager to prove themselves and have a strong work ethic.

* Hiring internally will not only help you fill positions, it will also boost morale and encourage people that work for the company to stay for a longer period of time. If you have offices in different countries, send a memo or email asking other HR managers if there are any internal candidates that are interested in relocating.

* Hiring consultants to work for your company may help in recruiting those who are older and who have more experience than someone who is fresh out of college. Often, consultants have travelled and are aware of the complexities of other cultures.

Downside of diverse workplaces

Hiring those who come from different social, educational, industrial, and cultural backgrounds may make some employees fearful of their job security. Since outsourcing has become a growing trend in business over the past six years, employees, particularly those who work in IT departments, worry that their jobs might be taken away from them. While you should hire the most qualified candidates, you should ask yourself if your company is ready to accept those from other countries, religious backgrounds, and cultures to help them become members of teams and departments within the company.

Understanding diversity

Diversity does not have to be a quota of people you hire, it does not have to be extreme, and it should not interfere with hiring the very best candidates. As your company grows, you will start receiving more resumes from those who have different backgrounds, education levels, and talents. Using the tips mentioned above are ways for you to see what is out there and how you can help create a diverse working environment from which everyone benefits.

Source : Recruiting Trends

Why Diversity Could Be Your Job-Search Edge

By Luke Visconti

If you've clicked on this article, you have an interest in diversity -- and building on that interest may be a great way for you to stand out from the crowd, regardless of your race or ethnicity.

Strong relationships are based on a concurrence of ideals, interests and ethics. Employers are looking for employees who will fit in with their interests and direction. You're most likely to get a job in a company that mirrors your style and how you think.

When executives catch on to an effective new management trend, they become passionate about it. There's a good reason -- significant new disciplines can become competitive factors that make or break a company. Within the past five years, diversity has generated the same type of enthusiasm companies had when supply-chain management and total-quality management were first introduced. Employers who have recognized the bottom-line results have made diversity a top-down imperative with aggressive measurement and goals.

Why? For people of color, household income, education and their share of the total population have increased dramatically in the past 10 years. The growth rate of multiethnic households also is increasing. Instead of being easy to ignore, these markets are becoming key consumer segments, driving growth and sales in many industries.

As with any new strategic direction, not all companies are going to catch on. There always will be those that come late to changes in the marketplace -- that's why less than half of the companies that were included in the Fortune 500 in 1980 exist today.

So how does this help you? If you're seeking a job in a company that values diversity, you can become a diversity champion. Regardless of your race or ethnicity, it will show that you are on board with the strategic direction the company has taken.

First, you'll need to know whether diversity is a priority for the employer. It's easy to learn about a company's values through its Web site. Questions to ask include:

1. Is there a link to diversity or diversity-related information on the home page (or at least within one click of the home page)?
2. Does a simple search for the keyword "diversity" yield relevant results?
3. Is the diversity information up-to-date?
4. Does the site use multicultural images?
5. Does the site offer diversity information in its career area?
6. Does the site offer information for diverse suppliers?
7. Does the site highlight company activities that assist diverse communities?

If your research yields no diversity interest, you may want to consider walking away -- especially if you're a diversity enthusiast. Diversity is like a canary in a coal-mine -- if a company is oblivious to the substantial and dramatic changes in the U.S. marketplace, what else is it ignoring? This isn't a good sign.

When you're job hunting, your cover letter, resume or interview responses should emphasize factors that correspond to the employer's diversity interests and involvement. For instance, you might:

* Reveal association membership, committee or charity work that identifies you as a diversity champion.
* Share diversity experiences, such as training sessions or workshops you attended for previous employers.
* Discuss volunteer work that demonstrates community involvement or good citizenship.
* Link these to your profession and help the company understand that in addition to being, for example, a great accountant, you also are a team player, an asset to cross-company projects and a positive role model.
* Help your interviewers understand how your "cultural competence" will help you play a role in connecting with today's consumers, co-workers, suppliers and investors.

If you like the concept of diversity, but don't have any experience in the area, get involved by reading books, volunteering or taking a course. Remember that most companies and people also are at the beginning of their journey to understanding and using diversity as a business opportunity.

Please note that I'm stressing experience and insights, regardless of your race. All races and ethnicities have members who are culturally incompetent. Employers know that they have to continue to hire and promote white employees. If you put yourself in an employer's shoes, however, you can see that it's more efficient to hire people who already "get it." As an analogy, would you hire someone who wasn't using e-mail?

Keep in mind that diversity will be a competitive edge for you -- but it won't win the battle on its own. Even companies known for promoting diversity value competency over everything else. But if you bring up the subject at the appropriate moment, at the right company, championing diversity can give you a competitive edge.

About the Author

Mr. Visconti is a partner and co-founder of DiversityInc Media LLC, a publishing company based in New Brunswick, N.J.

Source : CareerJournal.com