Brian’s daughter, Carrie, teaches fourth grade in an inner city school in St. Paul. In her class, twelve different languages and dialects are spoken. (There are 125 different languages and dialects spoken in the St. Paul school system!) Her students represent different races,
religions and vastly different socio-economic backgrounds. There are translators available and several students attend ESL (English as a Second Language) class each day.
Dealing with so much diversity can be challenging; there are misunderstandings, fights and hurt feelings, but Carrie is enjoying her class. The most important trait Carrie tries to instill in each of her students is respect – respect for other students and respect for their differences. She knows each student has a story to tell.
As I listened to Brian talk about his daughter, I realized that in a few years many of those fourth graders will join the workforce. Those fresh employees will be so much more comfortable with diversity than many of us are.
Our challenge will be to successfully incorporate diversity into our workforce.
There are reasons and advantages to embracing these changes:
Employers can offer more solutions to customers because of new ideas and processes brought into the organization. Workplace diversity increases employee morale which allows employees to work together more effectively and efficiently. Diversity in leadership within a firm allows managers to bring in new skills and methods for achieving unity and productivity within their teams.
Employees from different backgrounds bring in a variety of solutions on how to achieve a common goal. As more diverse ideas are suggested, the chances of finding a workable answer improve.
Companies that expand into global markets benefit from language diversity in the workplace. Many bilingual workers experience an advantage when applying for jobs because employees understand the benefits of language diversity.
Job seekers are drawn to companies with diverse workforces because it is evident that the companies do not discriminate in hiring. Potential employees want to know that employers treat their staff fairly regardless of race, ethnicity or gender. Firms are able to attract new talent and they retain talent because of high employee morale.
Start thinking today about how to shape your company for tomorrow.
Listen to John Lundgren, CEO of Stanley Black & Decker as he talks about diversity:
Read what the State Demographer predicts for Minnesota: