How to Embrace Diversity in the Workforce

by | Sep 28, 2020 | Business Feature

Over the past several decades, the face of the modern business landscape has changed dramatically. Companies are able to find affordable, time-saving solutions to everyday tasks thanks to advances in technology, and many businesses now operate in a much more relaxed, informal setting than the buttoned-up companies of yore. However, one of the biggest and best differences in today’s workforce is the level of diversity we see among our fellow employees. People of all colors, religions, genders, ethnicities, and belief systems now work side-by-side in offices across America.

The substantial rise in diversity within the workplace is representative of how far we’ve come in the past fifty years but there is still much more to be done by employers to create an inclusive, harmonious office setting for all staff members. Here are some real-world examples of both implicit and unconscious bias that continue to exist in the world. These examples illuminate the importance of diversity training to ensure that employees in all areas of the workforce come to a place of true understanding and mutual respect.

Starbucks Coffee

In April 2018, employees of a Starbucks Coffee location in Philadelphia showed how implicit bias training could have benefited them when they confronted two black men for asking to use the restroom prior to making a purchase. The men told the employees that they were waiting for an acquaintance to join them before ordering anything; however, the manager of the Starbucks location called the police and had them escorted off of the premises. The type of unconscious bias that the employees displayed through their actions caused a great deal of outrage both within their community and across the country. In response, the Starbucks corporate team mandated a one-day shutdown of 8,000 Starbucks locations across America on May 29, 2018, in order for all employees to attend racial bias diversity training. Had these principles been in place prior to the incident, the need for such a drastic and affecting shutdown would perhaps not have been necessary, as the employees at the Philadelphia location would have known how to detect and prevent unconscious racial bias. However, the company’s quick response to the incident demonstrated that they are committed to making sure that nothing similar ever happens again.

Papa John’s Pizza

John Schnatter, founder of Papa John’s Pizza, found himself at the helm of a major controversy due to racist comments and slurs he made during a company call. When confronted about these comments, Schnatter asserted that it was “OK” to have made them, as he was quoting someone else. The racist comments made by John Schnatter, as well as his defense of them, are a classic example of unconscious bias. Unlike the CEO of Starbucks, Schnatter made no attempt to undergo diversity training for racial bias and instead resigned his position at the company. Despite severing ties with Schnatter, Papa John’s has yet to recover from the public outrage over his remarks, and are suffering major losses as they work to recover their tarnished reputation.

Uber Technologies LLC

In February 2017, former Uber site reliability engineer Susan Fowler blew the whistle on the sexist treatment and discrimination she and her fellow female employees received at the hands of the rideshare giant by posting on her personal blog about some of her experiences with the company. Her post went viral, causing Uber to hire a law firm to investigate the claims made by Fowler. This investigation led to the termination of 20 employees, as well as the resignation of CEO Travis Kalanich. If diversity training had been mandatory at Uber, Fowler’s male co-workers may have recognized implicit bias and worked to correct it, rather than treat her and her fellow female colleagues inappropriately.

Workplace diversity has come a long way over the past few decades, but there is still much to be done before our workforce attitudes evolve to a point where everyone can truly feel equally respected. As a business owner or manager, it’s up to you to ensure that your culturally-diverse workplace environment is inclusive, welcoming, and safe for your entire staff. By creating a diversity calendar and completing online diversity training sessions that address implicit or unconscious bias, you are helping your organization take the first step toward creating a harmonious place where people of all backgrounds can work together.

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