Diversity in the Workplace
What do a Vampire, Burlesque Performer, Professional Hugger, a Temporary Showgirl, and a Civil War Union Soldier that fights faithfully in the battle at Gettysburg every year all have in common? They could all have day jobs in your organization.
The New Face of Diversity
As a Benefits Manager, I have had the pleasure of working with each of these people in some capacity. Be it managing an accommodation for a not so nefarious self-proclaimed vampire to work from home on sunny days, due to his abnormal photosensitivity, and explaining why fang implants in particular were not covered under the company dental plan; to helping an employee who danced burlesque part-time to manage through an identity crisis when she suddenly only to be referred to in all communication as Betty, (as in Betty Page) when her legal name was Jill. My professional hugger – a determined gentleman that insisted that the company tuition reimbursement policy applied to his professional hugging course using the argument that what he was learnings from his hugging courses could be applied to his current role as a Financial Analyst. Then there was the Union soldier that blew me away with a request for personal leave to go fight for freedom during re-enactment season, during which time he also lived out his Union soldier persona, who we all came to know as Caeleb. Not to forget my Graphic Artist with dreams of being a showgirl who wrote a passionate appeal to me explaining why our self-funded benefits plan should pay for augmentation surgery because to not do so could cause her emotional distress which would lead to significant mental health claims for the company that might cost more than the surgery.
I have also had the pleasure of serving an East Indian Hindu employee who was a converted Southern Baptist; A Jewish Black woman from Detroit who spoke Hebrew fluently, A Buddhist Monk, Kung Fu expert and corporate Attorney with aspirations of being a R&B singer; a reformed White Supremacist, who was among the first of my employees to the altar once same-sex marriage became legalized in California. They made a lovely bi-racial couple. Then there is my colleague, work bro and favorite coffee buddy now named Keith who was born Katherine. I could go on but I think you get it.
These employees worked in a variety of roles. To the general population each they were colleagues, cube mates, members of the same coffee klatch but to me they represented a larger group of employees with a diversity of interest and perspectives. They were all stellar employees that excelled remarkably in their respective disciplines and they all brought a delightful interest to the environment in which we worked and served.
Diversity in the workplace, and what does it look like?
Diversity goes far deeper than the color of an employee’s skin, ethnicity, hair color, or race. It has also to do with an environment consisting of employees with a variety of characteristics including but not limited to religion, sexual orientation, and ethnicity. Diversity encompasses interest, personality, age, hobbies, ideals, values, talents, and even cognitive styles. Is it something to be recognized, promoted as a valued asset, something to the capitalized on. Diversity is not a chore, it’s a goal.
An organization that represents a variety of cultures, perspectives, ideas and skill sets is an organization with a strategic advantage. Diversity gives brings to any organization a multi-dimensional edge in a constantly evolving global marketplace. Some organizations still view diversity as a requirement to be begrudged, as something risky, or challenging in the workplace. As you lead the charge within your organization. you may find that diversity provides an opportunity for employees to enjoy and learn from one another’s differences which promotes a mutual respect and tolerance; and that a diversity of perspectives and ideas gives rise to creative solutions and innovative ways to execute and deliver to both your internal and external stakeholders. Consider it as an investment in your employees and the future of your organization. Successful organizations have made diversity a critical business imperative making.
Make diversity a part of overall talent management strategy. aside from a positive impact on your bottom life, your employees’ work experience will be enriched because of it.