The American workforce is becoming ever more diverse, with 38 percent of the population in 2015 identified by the Census Bureau as non-white. Nearly 59 percent of the workforce is now made up of women, even though they only represent about 51% of the population. And these are just national averages based on current data. In any given community or industry these percentages may be much larger, and it is safe to assume that most of them will continue to grow nationally.
In the manufacturing industry especially, these numbers mean that embracing diversity is more important than ever. Given the broad range of skill sets they draw on, from high-tech development and planning, to assembly and production, manufacturing companies need to be able to hire the very best regardless of perceived dissimilarities in order to survive in the intensely competitive world in which they exist. Aside from the fact that any discrimination based on these differences is illegal and can introduce serious regulatory and legal difficulties into your life, it simply makes good business sense to be proactive and open minded on the subject.
Which isn’t to say that diversity in the manufacturing workplace can be accomplished without some adjustment and effort. To be successful, human resource professionals and diversity advocates suggest the following:
- Start by making diversity a stated part of both your hiring practices and your corporate culture.
- Plan to cast a wider net by opening up new channels of recruitment. Reach out to community groups and cultural associations to let them know you are hiring. Ask current employees to refer acquaintances.
- Be prepared to make accommodations for language barriers or cultural traditions which may be outside the experience of the existing workforce.
- Underscore the fact that all employees are being evaluated, paid and promoted strictly on the basis of their skills and contributions.
- Avoid making and discourage employees from making broad assumptions about any particular ethnic or social group. Treat each individual as an individual.
- Keep in mind that diversity builds diversity. A multi-cultural, non-discriminatory workplace will attract a wider array of good candidates and as a bonus reduce employee turn-over, itself a drag on productivity and profits.
In all of these endeavors it is important for any employer to avoid ever communicating in any way that their actions are based on regulatory pressure or fear of retribution. Good workers never want to feel that they are where they are for any reason other than that they are good. Any less and you can soon expect to have fewer good workers.
Dave Sinclair, CEO The WorkPlace Solution