The way your human resources department handles policies regarding diversity in the workplace makes a significant impact on how the company is perceived by both customers and employees. When solid diversity policies and training are provided and enforced by human resources management, issues such as racism, ageism, sexual orientation and cultural differences can be reduced, if not eliminated, in the work environment. Fortunately for small-business owners, a few major corporation have set some good examples of human resource diversity.
Elderly and Handicapped
A prime example of a diversified corporation is well-known discount department store, Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart employs more than 2 million associates worldwide, and according to the “New York Times,” in 2005 nearly 220,000 Wal-Mart employees were over the age of 55. Wal-Mart continues to support a diversified working environment for mature workers by targeting churches and senior centers nationwide in nationwide recruitment endeavors. For five consecutive years, Wal-Mart earned a place in “CAREERS and the disABLED” magazine’s annual Top 50 Employers reviews, and in 2008 the National Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities recognized the corporation as an Outstanding Employer for People with Disabilities.
Another example of human resource diversity is a staff composed of a well-balanced combination of race and ethnicity among employees and management. Racism and prejudice is not acceptable behavior anywhere but can especially not be tolerated in the workplace. Hiring employees that range from a broad variety of races and ethnic backgrounds — Native American, Hispanic, Asian, Middle Eastern, Caucasian, African American — and encouraging positive relationships and teamwork helps break stereotypical misconceptions and reduces incidents of harassment.
Sexual Orientation and Gender
Part of human resource diversity is promoting acceptance and tolerance of gay and lesbian employees. Employers who encourage a diversified work environment do not discriminate against individuals based on their sexual orientation. They hire applicants based on their qualifications and enforce firm company policies stating that all co-workers are to be treated with respect regardless of their gender or orientation. In 1995, the Walt Disney Corporation extended health benefit packages to live-in partners of its homosexual employees. Some companies welcome trans-gender and cross-dressing staff members to fully embrace diversity in the workplace.
Many major corporations advocate workplace diversity by sponsoring mentoring programs in association with local community centers and YMCAs. Some programs are geared toward high-school-age students considering careers in various fields. Others employ adult individuals from disadvantaged neighborhoods or participants in re-entry programs, such as former convicts and recovering addicts. The Marriott corporation participates in diversified group-hire programs that work in conjunction with various community centers in low-income areas across the country.