Not a Member? Get access to HR news and resources that you can trust.
Here is how HR can help prevent the missteps that could cost your company big in court.
Is your employee handbook ready for the changing world of work? With SHRM’s Employee Handbook Builder get peace of mind that your handbook is up-to-date.
60+ new SHRM Seminar dates in 10 U.S. cities and virtually.
Expand your influence and learn how to become an effective leader -- Join us in Phoenix, AZ, October 2-4, 2017.
Proficiency in Global & Cultural Effectiveness reduces controversy, promotes communication and understanding
"Hey, Mariam, how was your Kwanzaa?" a co-worker at a previous employer once asked me.
"I don't celebrate Kwanzaa," I answered, smiling.
"Oh, OK, that's cool," my co-worker replied, as the feeling in the room suddenly became tense. I turned to my computer screen and pretended that this uncomfortable interaction never occurred.
Unfortunately, such situations are not an anomaly for me and other people of diverse origins. We as HR professionals have been trained to shy away from informally discussing "hot topics" in the workplace. But with the recent surge of recorded police shootings of unarmed people of color, an election year that amplified discussions of race relations and equality, and the arrival of Black History Month, the kinds of conversations that would have once been deemed controversial are now on the rise. These can be valuable and important discussions, but we need to know how to hold these conversations without offending anyone.
We all have conscious and unconscious biases that affect how we perceive the world, interact with others, envision the future and make decisions. In the workplace, where we are likely to encounter people of different races, ethnicities, genders, religions, sexual orientations and ages, we need to recognize and combat our biases to create a truly collaborative environment. Although biases are not easily erased, we can take steps to recognize them and their impact on those around us.
This is where Global & Cultural Effectiveness, one of the SHRM-defined HR competencies, comes into play. It is defined as the ability to value and consider the perspectives and backgrounds of all people. Some of the behaviors indicating proficiency in Global & Cultural Effectiveness are: demonstrating nonjudgmental respect for others' perspectives; possessing self-awareness and humility in order to learn from others; and appreciating the commonalities, values and individual unique attributes of all human beings. All of these behaviors are needed to effectively collaborate with others on the job.
According to a SHRM Online article on diversity councils, "Leading organizations increasingly see business value—and results—from their efforts to link diversity and inclusion to their business strategy." True diversity is achieved not just by ensuring that candidates from various backgrounds are selected for employment but by creating a culture of inclusion in which all employees feel that they are equally contributing and accepted members of the organization. Diversity-driven incentive programs and diversity networking groups are a great start but can reach their full potential only in an environment that supports open communication and understanding. Opening up a dialogue on a personal level supports inclusion efforts and can also translate into new ideas and thought processes that can help solve workplace challenges and enhance the organization as a whole.
So what should we as HR professionals do? Life coach and author Allison Manswell provides some great tips in her book Listen In: Critical Conversations on Race in the Workplace (JRM Publishing, 2015) on how to have productive workplace conversations about diversity:
Stepping out of your comfort zone to speak on issues surrounding diversity is a daunting task. But deciding to engage in a productive manner will have a greater impact on workplace relationships than neglecting to do so. Taking that leap is a great opportunity to set the tone for inclusion throughout your organization—and a learning experience to take with you throughout life.
Mariam Ganiyu, MA, is an HR competencies intern at SHRM.
You have successfully saved this page as a bookmark.
Please confirm that you want to proceed with deleting bookmark.
You have successfully removed bookmark.
Please log in as a SHRM member before saving bookmarks.
Your session has expired. Please log in again before saving bookmarks.
Please purchase a SHRM membership before saving bookmarks.
An error has occurred
Recommended for you
Don’t Lose Sight! What Does Poor Preventive Care Cost Your Business?
Choose from dozens of free webcasts on the most timely HR topics.
SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 3,200 companies