The United States is a melting pot and mixture of cultures with few other countries matching our diversity. This, in many ways, has made us strong and resilient, but it has also led to conflicts and pain. Workplaces, in the not-too-distant past, often perpetuated cultural divides and treated people differently based on their color, gender, religion, sexuality, and economic status. Such divides still do exist though employers have made great changes in becoming better places for all people to work.
Was government regulation and oversight responsible for the changes in work culture? In many ways, federally mandated initiatives were the catalyst for change; they moved us off center and helped protect people from discrimination. Regulation, though, by itself is never enough. As an example, we still have many communities in our country that are divided by color, religion, and socioeconomic status despite regulations against discrimination in housing.
So what is working in the workplace, beyond regulation, to bring people of different beliefs and world views safely together? Simply stated… economics; it just makes darn good sense to have the largest and most diverse pool of potential workers available to make a company successful. If the best engineer for the job is Hindu and most of your other engineers are of another religion, do you make being Hindu a factor in hiring? No, of course not. Smart and profitable employers make the work culture about the work and hire the best.
How do they do it? Well… fully answering this question would take much more than a couple of paragraphs, though a basic principle does stand out. The principle is this; “All processes, procedures, and policies are founded on the ideal of openness, honesty, and respectful behavior.” Companies who put this principle in action tend to be at the top of the list of best and most profitable places to work. Why don’t all companies practice this principle? Good question—it seems bigotry and prejudices are sometimes stronger than good sense and compassion.
Regulations have also gotten in the way of companies being cohesive work environments. As our country’s population has gotten more diverse, federal mandates have become increasingly seen as hiring quotas based on old demographics. Whether this perception is right or wrong, it exists and can lead to questions about whether an employee was hired just because of their gender, color, or other protected status. The worst case scenario is, those kinds of perceptions can cause a work culture of divisiveness and segregation.
Employers with cohesive work environments make it clear at all levels of the company that their practices in hiring and retaining employees need to be about the whole person — what can they contribute and the question of whether or not they the best person for the job. It takes dedicated time and attention to deal with the very human tendency to want to be with and select people who are like us. This is where solid human resources practices become vital in assuring workplaces make decisions without undue bias and are fair in hiring and promoting employees. Without fairness, it is nearly impossible to develop or maintain a cohesive work culture.
If you want to talk more about work cultures and being the kind of place that hires and retains the best; give us a call at The Village Business Institute – 800-627-8220. We will be delighted to talk with you.
About the blogger
Darrin Tonsfeldt has a background of program administration, employee supervision, and clinical experience, as well as 20 years of experience in organization consulting and planning. He provides oversight of The Village Business Institute, Regional Counseling Services, and Financial Resource Center programs. He also provides consulting services that include strategic planning; career, leadership, management, and executive coaching; corporate training and group facilitation; crisis response in the workplace; and organizational consulting.