In many major cities throughout North America, we have been seeing increasing diversity in populations throughout the last twenty years. This increase has been largely fueled by greater levels of immigration. Workplaces are getting more diverse as a result of both immigration as well as first and second-generation ethnics graduating from schools to start their working careers.
Although a more ‘colorful’ diverse workplace has many benefits, this type of development can result in complications and potential problems with friction between different groups of people. This is particularly true for organizations that previously had very homogeneous demographics. An influx of workers of different backgrounds can result in culture shocks for both new and old company staff.
These culture shocks can result in less cooperation and trust between people from different backgrounds.
Management of course should be aware that such circumstances could result in less productivity in the company with negative results on the bottom line.
One of the most revealing observations one can make is seeing who is sitting with whom in the lunchtime cafeterias. If people from different cultures for example are sitting with their own kind at separate tables all the time with little or no interactions between them, then this may be a sign that some organizations may not be embracing diversity as much as they think they are.
Some human resources managers have admitted that there are challenges in managing new levels of multiculturalism at their companies. As a result, many companies have initiated diversity training programs for their staff.
Another development in training is at industry and association conferences. Many conferences now have some type of educational session in the area of diversity in the workplace. One of the surprising things is that conference types can range from all sorts of industries and professions from management to health professions to government employee meetings.
In essence, these training programs are a direct result of the complications of increased diversity in workplaces. We are all playing ‘catch up ball’ to try and educate workforces on how to work in diverse environments.
The increase of educational training activities in industry should be considered definite proof that diversity skills is something that people need to have in order to be successful in careers. This also suggests that if students at the college or high school levels are exposed to these types of skills well before they graduate, the more effective they will be when they are ready to start their careers.
Indeed, many college and university campuses are experiencing similar complications from increased multiculturalism as seen in industry. Many campuses have set up diversity offices to deal with diverse student bodies. Programs are being run on campuses to help students deal with these developments. Such training will not only help students in their future careers, but will enable them to have more enriching campus life experiences.
Having graduates well versed in these types of life and career skills will help future workplaces manage diversity better. This will in turn ease the stress of having to play ‘catch up ball.’