Writing speeches and speaking notes is one of my favourite things to do in the PR industry. In addition to the speeches I’ve written and presented during my PR coursework, I have drafted speaking notes for a provincial minister and a federal government executive.
Below is a speech I drafted about the importance of diversity in the workplace. Designed as part of a professional development workshop, the objective of this presentation is to raise awareness of the benefits of and promote a diverse workforce. Read on for the full presentation, accompanied by this PowerPoint.
I’m going to speak to you today about the benefits of a diverse workforce in your organization. This is extremely valuable in today’s global economy. By employing a wide range of people, from different genders, backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities, you will improve the relationships with your clients. This is especially important in international business as, for example, Chinese people have different business practices compared to Germans and Germans work differently than Americans.
Improving and valuing diversity will lead to financial benefits for your organization. I will demonstrate this in a few ways. First, I will give you an overview of the different cultures present in Nova Scotia and then I will discuss the benefits of a diverse workforce. Finally, I will show you what you can do to improve the diversity and overall quality of the workforce in your organization.
Valuing diversity will also effectively prevent discrimination within the workplace and improve the overall morale of the employees. Your employees affect your organization extensively and if they are happy to come to work every day, you will reap the benefits of this.
Valuing diversity is the task of recognizing differences in people and most importantly: recognizing similarities. Diversity in a workplace can mean anything from people who don’t fit into the ‘white, North American male’ category; so for example, other ethnicities (Asian, Arabic, African, Latin American), religions, women, sexual orientation (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender) and disabled persons (mental illness/physical disabilities).
To give you an idea of what diversity may mean to Nova Scotia, I’m going to elaborate on some minority groups and give you some numbers to show you how diverse a province we really have. For the purpose of this presentation, I mainly focus on Halifax Regional Municipality. All of this information comes from the 2006 Statistics Canada census which can be easily found online.
In Halifax, 27,645 people identified themselves as visible minorities. This is roughly 7.5 per cent of Halifax’s population. These four groups make up the majority of that number: Asian (includes China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, India, Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines and Thailand), African, Arabic and Latin American. Perhaps 7.5 per cent doesn’t seem like a large number to you. To put it in perspective, the Acadians (descendants of French settlers who came here from France in the mid-1600s) account for only 1.4 per cent of Halifax’s population.
In addition to ethnicity, the question of religion is undoubtedly going to pop up in the workplace. The majority of organizations in Nova Scotia observe traditional Christian holidays such as Christmas. It may be difficult for people practicing non-Christian faiths to get time off to observe their faith’s holidays. Christians, such as Catholics, Protestants and Anglicans, dominate the religious population of Nova Scotia; however, other numbers are quickly on the rise. Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam have all seen an increase in numbers in the past 15 years. The number of Muslims alone more than doubled during the late 1990s in Nova Scotia.
Although women may no longer be considered a minority in the workplace, it has not always been so. In 1976, only 42 per cent of women had jobs. Childcare and traditional gender roles have prevented women from continuing on in the workforce. However, as of 2006, women accounted for 47 per cent of the employed workforce.
Now that you have a rough idea of the ethnic and religious groups in Nova Scotia, I’m going to move on to the benefits of a diverse workforce. At this point, it’s important to note that diversity includes much more than ethnicity and religion but to describe every aspect would keep us here for much longer. I encourage you to look into the other aspects of diversity yourself to see how it can improve your workplace.
The benefits of a diverse workforce are vast. Essentially, creating a sense of diversity will lead to financial benefits for your organization. As our world quickly expands and organizations become more global, there is a growing need for knowledge of multiple languages and a cultural understanding. Having employees with these skills will greatly improve your working relationships with international clients. If your clients are able to identify with and feel respected by your employees, they will keep giving you their business.
A study by Robert Eisenberger explores the relationship between an organization and its’ employees. He found that employees who feel valued and appreciated by their employers are less likely to call in sick and will ultimately produce better work, maybe even going above and beyond the call of duty. Valuing diversity will lead to your organization saving money by reducing absenteeism, creating loyalty among employees and improving the overall quality of work.
Employees with different life and work experiences will always bring different viewpoints to the table. Your organization will benefit from their innovative ideas and their skills. Employees may be able to recognize potential threats within the organization. For example, an advertisement that may not be offensive to a man may be extremely offensive to a woman. It’s key to have employees on board who are able to catch this before it goes out to the public.
For those of you in managerial positions, it’s important to keep an open line of communication among employees. This will make employees feel more comfortable to come and speak with you about discrimination or issues they may be experiencing. Also, respect the employee’s beliefs. Don’t judge someone simply because they wear a hijab (a traditional Muslim headscarf) or be rude to an employee who asks for the day off to celebrate the Passover Seder (a Jewish holiday feast).
To create a diverse workforce, break out of the norm when advertising for new opportunities within your organization. Try using other ways of communicating with the public through non-traditional (i.e. newspaper ads) methods such as newspapers or newsletters directed towards certain minorities. Many larger Canadian cities, such as Toronto and Montréal, have specialty newspapers such as the Canadian Jewish News or the Korea Times. In Halifax, you can advertise through the Coast to reach the younger student demographic.
Sponsoring events or organizations in the community that attract a wider range of audiences will also get you more awareness. For example, participating as a business group in the Run for the Cure (a breast cancer fundraiser) will result in more knowledge of your organization among women. Sponsoring or donating your time to Special Olympics Nova Scotia will increase awareness among people with intellectual disabilities and their families. Donating your time or money to PFLAG Canada (support organization for LGBT) will increase awareness among gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirit, intersex, queer and questioning persons and their families and friends.
It may be fairly easy to attract a diverse workforce, but retaining these employees is another matter. General appreciation of your employees is a way to create loyalty towards your organization. Give them constructive feedback on their work. Showing them that you are aware of their efforts will encourage them to produce better results.
If you’re not in a managerial position, try to get your managers involved. Managers typically act as leaders and good leaders should set an example for the rest of the team.
To wrap up my presentation, I hope you leave here today with an increased understanding of how important a diverse workforce really is. I’ve explained to you what diversity actually is and demonstrated the diversity in Nova Scotia.
After hearing about the benefits of diversity, I hope you think about making your workplace one that values it. Through the methods I listed today, I’ve shown you that it’s easier than you think to establish a diverse workplace. I encourage you to speak to your manager about this, or if you are a manager, think about implementing it in yourself. Starting out small will produce results.
Be the change that you want to see.