Old-School Workplace Diversity is No Longer Effective

Julie Shenkman
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Workplace diversity is not a new concept, but with the changing nature of society, workforces and employees, the old-school diversity tactics companies use may not be in line with a progressive vision. How employers and employees act, think and speak when discussing the topic of diversity is important when establishing a workplace that encourages equality and a safe work environment.

Why Old-School Diversity Doesn't Work

In the past, companies have focused their workplace diversity efforts on what's known as the "Skittles Approach," according to diversity expert Susana Rinderle. This approach prompts employers to hire individuals from underrepresented groups to create a rainbow effect in offices and corporations. While diversifying the workforce is important, this approach does not necessarily take into account outcomes or goals associated with adding underrepresented groups to the payroll. This outdated approach to workplace diversity also typically follows specific requirements set forth by state or federal laws and regulations instead focusing on bringing varying viewpoints into the office. In essence, some companies have adopted a superficial approach to diversity that's based on the "look" of the company to justify social justice efforts.

As a result, many individuals see this old-school style as a form of charity for groups of people who have been marginalized. Hiring based primarily on representing specific groups might also make it seem as if the company is sacrificing quality for diversity. The outdated methods do not hold employers accountable when attempting to make meaningful changes that are vital to the company's culture and intercultural dynamics.

Why New-School Diversity Works

Employers willing to toss out the old and embrace the new find that new-school approaches to workplace diversity are driven by measurable outcomes. The focus is more about how underrepresented groups bring quality to the workforce and how their strengths are utilized. This approach also makes education a top priority for all employees. Activities bring awareness to unintended effects of biases in the workplace while creating a culture that's open to new ideas and cultural differences. When recognizing how cultural differences benefit employees and clients, the industry and the company itself have the potential to meet goals, train effective leaders and take accountability for the progressive nature of employees.

New-school tactics for workplace diversity also put the reality of unequal power into the limelight. Companies who recognize that biases and cultural differences have impeded growth for employees can look critically at their practices and operations to create fair playing fields for people of all backgrounds and ethnicities.

Fostering a safe and productive work environment is often a challenge. However, employers who seek out innovative approaches to workplace diversity to eliminate biases and discrimination are ultimately changing the face of their businesses and their industries.

Photo Courtesy of posterize at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Doris P thanks for your comment. Companies really do need to look at diversity - including former military members as well as making sure that all groups are represented, if possible. Military veterans certainly do offer more bang for the buck as most do come highly trained and skilled. They can hit the ground running with minimal fuss or training. As a veteran, I thank you. The best company to work for is one who has a representation from across the board including different age groups also. Glad that the article got the creative juices flowing.

  • Doris P.
    Doris P.

    I love this article. It sounds like educating employees including leadership, is one component of new school diversity. And it sounds like the other component is an analysis of the company's goals values and a look at which diversity groups are underrepresented within the employee population, targeting the underrepresented group to build a recruiting campaign for and utilizing Talent Acquisition to conduct the searches for vetting the candidates. One sourcing group which is my goto as a recruiter are military veterans. They are a diverse group that come highly trained, skilled in leadership and posses attributes such as team oriented, strong work ethic and loyalty. Putting the right veteran Iin the right job is also the right thing to do. Thank you for the article, it got some great thoughts going.

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