On a previous job, I had a supervisor with a very cultured childhood and a passion for food. Once a week the office would go to a new restaurant to try a new cuisine. We ate Thai, Indian, Mediterranean, Egyptian, Australian, Chinese, Russian, American, Mexican and everything in between. Our supervisor encouraged us to order something that we’d never tried before. Our weekly lunch out was a real adventure! After gaining a few pounds and establishing a lunch savings account, the biggest revelation was the fact that we found all of those restaurants within a 5 mile radius of our workplace. That was astonishing to me! All of these flavors and exciting cuisines were at my fingertips and I never knew they were there. So many spices, unique atmospheres, cultures, and diversity everywhere, and I never knew they existed so close to me.
This got me thinking about my own experience in the workforce and the diversity within the companies that employed me. Of course it is good to have diverse talent in the facilities department: engineers, project managers, skilled laborers, architects, interior designers, real estate brokers, accountants, the list of necessary roles goes on and on. But, do we sometimes miss diversity from a cultural standpoint? America is a melting pot of ethnic backgrounds with different perspectives, values, and beliefs that shape not only who we are, but how we problem solve and analyze issues. Diversity can add much value to a company. So what should diversity look like in the workforce? I can’t answer that, but here’s a few facts about diversity in the U.S. courtesy of the 2014 Census and 2010 Workforce Census:
Yes, on paper, the correlation of the population to the workforce looks very even, but how does it look in your company, department or personal friendships? I’m a musician, and music is one of my deepest passions. From the piano to drums or xylophone to oboe, it takes all instruments to make the band or orchestra. Musicians are now and have been for centuries embracing cultural diversity in music, which has advanced early melodious rhythms to make new and exciting music, and entire music genres. The same can be said about diversity in the work place. A woman’s or millennial’s perspective on things can turn a great idea into a homerun. Hearing from a different race or nationality may cause a leader to give consideration to a new policy or expand the scope of a project. In my experience I’ve seen numerous instances such as adding a prayer or mediation room at the university to respect different faiths or adding a maternity room to the women’s restroom for nursing mothers. All of these ideas were born from someone feeling comfortable raising their voice and expressing a diverse viewpoint.
Of course we are faced with limitations when hiring an employee. Qualifications, talents, education and work history must meet the requirements of the position and hiring supervisor. However, with an open mind, as we had when trying international cuisine, you may not have to look that far to find the diversity that would benefit your department. It very well could be right under your nose!