Nine tips for a diverse work environment from Diamond and Diamond Lawyers

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Global Diversity Awareness month is a great opportunity for organizations to respect and celebrate the different ethnicities and cultures in their workspaces. Personal Injury law firm, Diamond and Diamond, has grown from 5 – 160+ employees in the last 7 years. They actively work to ensure that diversity is embedded in their culture. “None of our lawyers want to leave because we have a great, inclusive atmosphere and we treat everyone like family” shares Isaac Zisckind, Senior Partner at Diamond and Diamond. “Everyone can still be themselves here, even though we’ve grown to the scale that we’ve grown.” – Diana Lakossavas, Executive Assistant at Diamond and Diamond.

1. Communicate Effectively to Differences

Feedback isn’t necessarily universal: the most effective tones and delivery methods can vary from individual to individual. Taking the time to stop and examine these differences before offering corrections will improve the behaviour(s) in question as well as the connection between management and employees. Leaders must be ready and willing to flex their feedback delivery depending on the employee they’re speaking to: a conscious shift in words or approach used can make a big difference.

2. Find Your Blind Spots

Never assume that you’re getting everything right. Remember, it’s your employees that ultimately decide if you’re addressing the problem areas you believe that you are, so be sure they’re a part of the conversation on diversity. Use anonymous surveys to help gauge successful diversity initiative implementation and highlight areas in need of improvement.

3. Observe Both Statutory Holidays and “Non-Stat” Holidays

There is no national religion or culture, so while some holidays may be more socially popular than others, they can also be isolating for those that don’t celebrate them. Make sure your employees know – proactively – that they are welcome to take holidays off for their religion, even if those holidays don’t coincide with stat holidays.

4. Diversity Starts with Leadership

If your diversity initiatives are by employees and for employees, chances are your workplace is falling short. Senior leadership shouldn’t be a passive participant in these goals, they should be an enthusiastic voice and role model whenever possible. Remember, these are the individuals representing your business not only to your team, but to those outside your organization as well. “Working with my husband and my brother is really great because we get different perspectives on things – I’m able to bring the female point of view, they bring the male point of view and we can bounce ideas off each other” shares Sandra Zisckind, Senior Partner at Diamond and Diamond who leads the firm alongside her husband, Jeremy Diamond and brother, Isaac.

5. Encourage Multicultural Celebrations in the Workplace

Connection and respect begins with education when it comes to multicultural work spaces. Encourage employees to socialize and learn about different cultural events through celebrations like potlucks. These events aren’t just great for building staff goodwill, they also allow participants to proudly show off aspects of their culture in a safe and supportive environment. “[Our] lawyers & support staff are tremendously supportive in terms of professional goals and personal life” shares Diamond and Diamond lawyer, Derryl Singer.

6. Make Diversity Part of the Hiring Process

Diversity shouldn’t be an afterthought within your work team: it needs to be a crucial part of the hiring and onboarding process as well. One of the best ways to achieve diversity growth in the workplace is, unsurprisingly, to introduce it from the start. Working with an agency or recruitment firm that specializes in diversity hiring is an excellent first step if you’re unsure where to start. Once you begin to take interviews, proactively ask about their needs for accommodation: equipment and access, a flexible schedule for family needs or medical appointments, and so on.

7. Secure Support Services / EAPS

A workplace represents a significant portion of an applicant / employee’s waking hours, so an employer that provides thoughtful accommodations is one that will be viewed in a favourable light. Work with employees in need to procure and provide resources for disability needs, cultural needs, and so on. This may be as simple as connecting them with organizations designed to help or as active as creating your own support systems within the workplace to do so.

8. Embrace an Attitude of Ongoing Education

Again, never believe that you’ve “gotten it” and don’t need to worry about diversity anymore: it should be treated as a verb, not a noun. Hire diversity trainers to deliver sensitivity training within the workplace to make sure your entire staff is on the same page. Schedule “lunch and learn” events to provide employees with the perk of food while delivering important cultural sensitivity messages. It’s a strong move by leadership to demonstrate that the entire office should be on the same page in terms of positive attitudes on diversity.

9. Consider Adding a Gender Neutral Bathroom

Take away anxiety from transgender and gender nonconforming / non-binary employees by adding a gender-neutral bathroom. Listen to, remember, and use the pronouns each employee uses to refer to themselves, and make sure they know that they have the support of leadership and fellow employees in the same vein. This will make their workplace feel inviting and inclusive, with a bonus of giving your company access to incredible talent that many close-minded offices have turned away for bigoted (and illegal) reasons.

Think of these nine ideas as a “jumping off point” for increasing diversity recognition in the workplace. Each employee and member of management should be celebrated and honoured for their differences, even as they come together to work on the same projects. The central theme through all initiatives is simple: listen and observe with respect and admiration of your staff will follow close behind.