Diversity and Inclusion in the 21st Century: Guidelines for Managers

December 1, 2014

[ikon images/corbis]
[ikon images/corbis]

I’m certain that if you looked around the office, down the hall or in the next department, you would notice that the demographics of the American workforce have changed.

Today’s workforce is a much more accurate reflection of the current population and illustrates a significant melding of genders, race, religions, sexual orientations, age and ethnic makeup.

Being able to derive value from individual differences is an essential proficiency for a 21st-century manager. Deciphering cultural nuances requires balance and understanding. With such a distinguished work environment and marketplace, today’s PR practitioners need diversity competencies in order to truly be effective.

So what are these diversity competencies that managers should offer their employees? Organizations with the most effective diversity programs take an all-inclusive approach by following these common guidelines:

Say what you mean and mean what you say

Managers need to truly embrace a diverse workplace. If the C-suite advocates for a diverse workforce, then make diversity evident at every level of the organization. If you don’t, then some employees, especially those representing Generation Y, will quickly realize that there is no future for them at your company.

Show respect for diversity issues and promote clear and positive responses. The definition of diversity has moved beyond merely race, gender and age, and now includes factors such as lifestyle choices. Programs that address work and family issues, including alternative work schedules, work-from-home options, and child and elder care resources should be part of your diversity initiatives.

Nike created a diversity and inclusion team that focuses its efforts on the importance of diversity through opinions, backgrounds and multiple perspectives. The purpose is to harness diversity and inclusion, which inspire ideas and ignite innovation. When starting your company’s diversity program, be sure to:

• Encourage collaboration among colleagues from different groups.
• Display sensitivity when managing across cultural boundaries.
• Lead groups made up of different types of colleagues.
• Learn about the business practices of other cultures.

Foster mutual support and understanding

Provide training so that every employee can understand how to communicate with a variety of cultures, genders and personalities. Employees need to learn how to resolve conflicts and value diverse opinions. Minimum training should include:

• Cross-cultural communication that focuses on verbal and nonverbal communications with different groups
• Teamwork that concentrates on working with diverse groups toward a common goal
• Conflict resolution that contemplates the outcomes when resolving cultural conflicts.

Create mentoring programs

Many diversity initiatives do a good job of educating people on the challenges and obstacles faced by women, minorities and even seniors in the workplace. However, they tend to stop there and fail to provide deeper substance within the program.

Successful companies have developed cross-mentoring programs that allow employees with different backgrounds to learn from one another. Deloitte, IBM and WellPoint utilize cutting-edge strategies to ensure that their workforce develops equally. Kraft Foods offers an onboarding training program for all new employees that addresses feelings of inclusion, career objectives, business impact and the workplace culture. Over the last decade, the program has had noticeable improvement in retention of new hires as a result of this onboarding initiative.

Ultimately, the goal of any diversity and inclusion mentoring program is to pair talented, experienced employees to serve as mentors for promising, less experienced employees. Over time, both the mentor and mentee will learn from one another and gain a new perspective that builds awareness and understanding.

Although companies have taken steps to move forward regarding diversity within the workplace, more needs to be done to encourage further diversity and inclusion in the profession.

An organization’s long-term success is dependent on talent that has fresh ideas and perspectives. Embrace the diversity in your work environment, support diversity initiatives and be the example that every organization should be. Leaders should value and leverage human differences, including gender, ethnicity, age, nationality, beliefs and work styles.

Regina Luttrell, Ph.D.
Regina Luttrell, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of public relations and social media at Eastern Michigan University and author of “Social Media: How to Engage, Share and Connect.” She has held leadership positions in corporate communications throughout her career. Follow her on Twitter: @ginaluttrell.


trucee brown says:

Corporations fail to hire blacks in leadership positions, no Hispanics, no older workers.

Dec. 28, 2014

Post a Comment

Editor’s Note: Please limit your comments to the specific post. We reserve the right to omit any response that is not related to the article or that may be considered objectionable.


To help us ensure that you are a real human, please type the total number of circles that appear in the following images in the box below.

(image of three circles) + (image of five circles) + (image of five circles) =



Digital Edition