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Creating and Managing a Diverse Workforce

3.1.09

For several years, employers in various industries ranging from high tech to agriculture have known that they face a potential labor shortage. Not only do employers need to add hundreds of thousands of jobs in the coming years, they also will need to fill existing positions each year due to the retirement of baby boomers and normal attrition. The labor shortage will be particularly acute in the area of skilled labor.

As a result, employers must reach out to persons who have not traditionally pursued careers in the their particular industry. In many cases that means overcoming misperceptions about employment opportunities in the industry. For example, there is a prevailing myth that construction jobs are for white men, that work in the restaurant industry is a lesser alternative to other career options, and that only younger people can excel in computer-oriented high tech industries. To succeed, such employers must embrace the challenge of fostering diversity in the workplace.

Getting The Terms Straight
Encouraging diversity is not affirmative action – it is a recognition that people in your organization will differ in background and experience. A diverse workforce is one which enhances productivity by affording all employees and applicants a positive work environment and the opportunity to advance within an organization. There are a number of things employers can do to foster a workforce which recognizes diversity:

Developing Your Corporate Culture
As your workforce becomes more diverse, you must also effectively train workers to deal with the changing workplace culture. "Buy-in" from all levels is critical for maintaining diversity. While a company may be committed to diversity, if front-line supervisors have not been trained, the company's objective will likely fail. Managers and supervisors must recognize that the way they treat their existing employees has a great deal to do with whether a particular organization is able to attract and retain the employees it needs to be a successful organization.

Unless a company creates a climate that welcomes and is hospitable to those who are in some way different from the existing group, costly turnover can result as new talent leaves. Consider the following in maintaining and managing a diverse workforce:

The Bottom Line
There are clear benefits associated with a diverse workforce. Diversity brings to an organization the varied experiences and thoughts of persons of dissimilar backgrounds. It increases creativity and promotes the growth of the workforce that is absolutely critical to today's employers. Employing a diverse workforce, particularly one that reflects the community in which you provide your services, opens up business opportunities and allows you to maintain a competitive edge.


For more information, contact the authors at GBallew@fisherphillips.com or JHolland@fisherphillips.com.

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