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The Traits of a Truly Diverse Workplace

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

There is a great deal of focus on diversity in the workplace, but what does that mean? Is it attendance at classes, a "quota" of various people in each meeting, or some other indicator?

The Society for the Advancement of Consulting® (SAC) has examined this issue among its global membership. "We're interested in helping our clients to understand whether their workplace is truly diverse or if their efforts are merely cosmetic," says SAC CEO Alan Weiss, Ph.D. "The literature today shows unequivocally that workplaces, teams, and most groups are far more productive and innovative if they are heterogeneous, so there is a real performance issue inherent in the endeavor."

Here is SAC member Simma Lieberman's observations, based on her client work, about a truly diverse workplace. She is the president of Simma Lieberman Associates in Albany, CA and is known as the "cross-cultural conversationalist."

  1. There is visible diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, and physical abilities at all levels of the organization including the executive suite. It is not only at entry level and in human resources.
  2. People from different cultures and backgrounds are interacting and sharing ideas and resources with each other as opposed to clustering with only people who look and think like them.
  3. The work environment at every location is welcoming and friendly to new hires and visitors. People greet you and each other in the halls.
  4. Diversity is reflected in company literature, website, and any photos or artwork on the walls. Language in printed material is inclusive and speaks to everyone regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, physical ability, or any other diversity dimension.
  5. After you have spent any time there, it is apparent that there is a wide variety of thinking and communication styles, and that each person has an opportunity to be listened to and contribute new ideas.

"We feel this is a good template," says Dr. Weiss, "to test any work environment for true diversity and, consequently, true productivity."

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