One of the most heartening employment trends in recent years has been many employers’ movement growing towards giving lip service toward the complementary goals of diversity and inclusion in the workplace — whether led there by values of social justice or by the practical need to find qualified workers. After all, an increasingly competitive global market no longer leaves US employers with the luxury of excluding significant parts of the talent pool from their search.
As employers become more attuned to the need to select their workforces based on talent, even if it means looking in areas that may previously been overlooked, it is more important for employers to communicate the value of diversity and inclusion throughout their organizations. That means clearly conveying the message – not just in boilerplate statements in the annual report, but also as part of the day-to-day communications with managers, supervisors and human relations staff on how implementing these values brings practical benefits to the entire organization.
I want to suggest one way to show this. In any workplace, you will find bulletin boards displaying an array of government-required notices and posters. It may be some while since you’ve looked at them, but if you examine them carefully, you’d find they did more than merely serve notice of various state and federal labor law posters that employers must comply. In fact, in many of them, you’ll find the nation’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Admittedly, these notices of legal requirements don’t have the same classical or poetic resonance as phrases like “e pluribus unum” (Latin for “from out of many, one”) or the Declaration of Independence’s far ahead of its time and still-striking proclamation that we are all “created equal,” but the posters on their own prosaic way express the same values.
If you look beyond the bureaucratic-sounding boilerplate, perhaps you’ll see expressions that our nation is committed to fighting the injustice of unfair treatment on the basis of race, gender, nationality, religion, age, disability and other diversity and inclusion factors. You will find commitments to safety, health, equal pay and other factors that help create a decent workplace.
You may even find a surprise, as I recently did. As news accounts were breathlessly reporting and analyzing a recent Supreme Court’s decision allowing police to take DNA samples from those they arrest, I happened to notice an EEOC poster’s description of a 2009 law likely known to a few people, the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act. It bars employers from requiring workers to provide genetic data, treating them unequally based on such data, or disclosing such data to others.
The lesson I draw from the bulletin board posters is fairly basic: the values of diversity and inclusion in the workplace are not only issues of compliance with government mandates (although smart employers surely understand they need to pay attention to them on those grounds), but also ways to build better, more efficient and humane workplaces. Properly understood and carried out, these values will build mutual respect and understanding among co-workers, and make our nation a better, strong place.