The changing face of the American worker has manufacturers considering the importance of diversity. Today, California is the most diverse state within the contiguous United States (only Hawaii has more diversity). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Hispanics and Latinos take the top spot in the Golden State at 38.9%. Caucasians are right behind them, at 37.7%. Then there are Asians (14.8%), African Americans (6.5%), Mixed Race (3.8%), American Indians (1.7%) and Pacific Islanders (0.5%). Looking at the figures, it’s clear that employers need to embrace people’s differences to drive innovation, recruit top talent, and gain competitive advantage.
New Generations Bring New Opportunities
Millennials are the largest and most diverse generation in American history (44% belong to a minority group) while Generation Z, those born between 1995 and 2005, are the first minority-majority generation. With the oldest members of Gen Z now beginning to enter the workforce, diversity needs to become a priority in order to recruit this new generation of talent. That’s not all—science has proven that diversity can actually make your company more successful.
According to Scientific American, decades of research by scientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists, and demographers shows that socially diverse groups (that is, those with a diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation) are more innovative than homogeneous groups. People with different backgrounds may bring unique ideas and perspectives to the table, fostering creativity and problem-solving. In addition, working with others who are different forces team members to prepare better, anticipate alternative viewpoints, and know that reaching a group consensus may take more effort.
We’ve determined five ways you can bring more diversity to your factory floor (and the management offices).
1. Hold Diversity Training Classes
There are many reputable Diversity Training Programs available to the small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMM). For example, the California-based Compliance Training Group offers a course in Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace for Supervisors and Employees. Courses can be held on-site at your facility, or through webinars and e-learning courses.
2. Observe Traditions from Other Cultures
When you look at a calendar, you’ll see some Christian and Jewish holidays, maybe Saint Patrick’s Day, but that’s about it. Where’s the Mexican Day of the Dead celebration? German Oktoberfest? The Spanish La Tomatina? (that one involves throwing tomatoes—talk about a fun team building event!). Encourage employees to get involved in the creation of an “inclusive calendar” that highlights unique cultural celebrations. Then, find appropriate ways to celebrate different traditions through food, music, dress, and more. Sometimes celebrating isn’t always practical, but at least make it a point to acknowledge a holiday or celebration through an email or sign in the cafeteria. Small gestures like these can make a big difference to employees.
3. Learn About Unconscious Biases
Sometimes we’re not even aware of our own biases. An unconscious bias is a prejudice in favor of or against a person or group compared with another, often in a way that’s considered unfair. Biases based upon race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, and religion can change how we react toward someone, how friendly we are with them, how much we actively listen to them, and how much trust we’ll put in them. Project Implicit, a study comprised of scientists and university professors, created an online test that can identify whether you have an unconscious bias toward one type of person over another. Warning: you may not like the results, but it’s good to face the truth in order to better yourself.
4. Practice Blind Recruitment
When you’re filling a position, remove the applicant’s name and any other race, ethnic, or gender identifiers from the resume or application. This helps avoid those unconscious biases we just discussed. A series of studies showed that people with ethnic names needed to send out 50% more resumes before they got a callback versus peers with traditional “white”-sounding names. To promote workplace diversity, blind recruitment is gaining momentum, with powerful companies like Deloitte, HSBC, the BBC, and others adopting the practice. There’s no reason manufacturing firms can’t follow suit; diversifying creates a more well-balanced workplace (for example, while there are some powerful women in manufacturing, just 29 percent of employees are female).
5. Stand up to Discrimination
Encourage everyone to speak up if they witness or experience discrimination. Sure, some people may laugh at a sexist or racist joke, but that doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for the workplace; it’s a form of harassment, and ignoring it gives the impression that that sort of behavior is acceptable. The temporary awkwardness the employee may feel when speaking up is worth it in order to improve workplace atmosphere. Of course, some people won’t speak up but prefer to go directly to a supervisor or Human Resources. Encourage that as well, and be sure to listen to and address every complaint. Even if you think someone is being a bit hypersensitive, it’s not up to you to decide what goes beyond a person’s comfort level.
Stirring the Pot
With each generation becoming more and more diverse, the U.S. melting pot is getting a good stirring—and it’s important that your company reflect the changing face of the country. Not only will promoting diversity reflect this shift in demographics, it sparks innovation and creativity by bringing together people with unique backgrounds, experiences, and ideas; it helps attract and retain top talent within younger generations that highly value diversity; and it can grow your understanding of other cultures to effectively compete outside the U.S. in today’s increasingly global marketplace.