Building One Workforce from a Diversity of Workers: Sensitivity Training in the Workplace

Dr. Purushothaman
December 5, 2013


Today's work force is more culturally diverse than ever. Cultural diversity training helps your business to get the most from this diversity.

There are numerous reasons why your company should be employing some kind of cultural diversity training. There's the fact that encouraging our workforce to interact respectfully with people of different cultures, beliefs, and lifestyles is simply right, of course. Right and wrong aside, however, most businesses should give serious consideration to conducting sensitivity training in the workplace because failing to do so could affect the bottom line.

Today, the lofty concept of a melting pot has given way to the reality of a global marketplace, and a workforce which encompasses a variety of cultures, genders, ages, and any number of religious and personal beliefs. Any of these factors can potentially be divisive and could even lead to harassment in the workplace.

Unfortunately, it's becoming easier for employees who have been harassed at work to file a formal complaint or sue their employers if hostile work conditions are not dealt with quickly and appropriately. More and more employers are finding it in their best interests to implement cultural diversity training before they are faced with governmental intervention or costly legal entanglements.

There is no changing the fact that people have opinions and that sometimes those opinions are going to put them into conflict with others. By clarifying the expectations regarding how everyone is to treat coworkers, customers and others who come from or embrace different cultures, lifestyles, and beliefs, businesses can create a healthy and productive work environment.

Most employers find that, with appropriate sensitivity training in the workplace, having a diverse work force actually benefits their company or organization. Building the kind of culture of respect where these benefits can be realized doesn't happen by accident, however.

An important first step is to develop a cultural diversity training program within your organization. The goals of this program should include:

Identifying areas to improve. Many employers are shocked to discover that harassment is even occurring within their workforce. However, harassment occurs on some level in most workplaces, often because no standards have been set to prevent it or because employers are unaware of how hurtful (and often illegal) their actions are.

Teaching empathy. People tend to put aside their differences more readily when they realize that, beneath it all, we are all very much alike. For all of our differences, we have more in common than most people realize. By learning to put themselves in the other person's shoes, workers develop understanding. Ultimately, this leads to better harmony in the workplace and often more production.

Setting expectations. It is important that everyone in your organization knows what is and isn't acceptable. In today's diverse business culture, there must be clear expectations regarding how we interact with one another, especially as it pertains to working with people from different cultural backgrounds and lifestyles.

While sensitivity training in the workplace is not a guarantee that harassment will never take place on the job, it can make sure that the company's stands are clear. This provides a framework for dealing with problems of cultural insensitivity while at the same time promoting harmony and productivity from your diverse work force.

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