The ever-changing demographic makeup of America has manufacturers realizing the importance of building diversity and inclusion into their workforces. This diversity encompasses not only gender and race but diversity in age, ability, ethnicity and sexual orientation.
The United States is becoming more diverse every day. According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2019), non-white Americans make up about 40% of the population. Among Millennials – the largest and most diverse generation in American history – 44% belong to a minority group, according to a report by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. Generation Z, those born between 1995 and 2005, is the first minority-majority generation.
With these generations representing a significant percentage of the available workforce, manufacturers must embrace the diversity of these younger workers bring to drive innovation and gain competitive advantage.
Plumbing Manufacturers International (PMI) believes increasing diversity within its member engagement and volunteer leadership pipeline is essential to the future of the association. PMI is not seeking to diversify the volunteer leadership ranks as a matter of filling a quota. Rather, PMI supports a diversity and inclusion lens that identifies eligible applicants who have the range of experiences and interests (business, marketing, manufacturing, etc.) that may best fit PMI's needs.
PMI member UL, for example, provides many different resources to its employees in the name of diversity. Initiated and led by employees, the company’s Business Resource Groups and Global D&I (Diversity and Inclusion) Ambassadors foster inclusivity for various workplace communities across the globe. These groups within UL help advance their diversity objectives and are a catalyst for business growth. In addition, UL has Diversity + Inclusion Executive and Leadership Councils, which take a top-down bottom-up approach to diversity within the company.
There are several ways that you can welcome diversity to your offices and to your production lines on your factory floors. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Allow Diversity to Do Its Magic
According to an article published in Scientific American, decades of research show that socially diverse groups – groups with a diversity of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation -- are more innovative than homogeneous groups. People with different backgrounds may bring unique ideas and perspectives to the table, fostering creativity and problem-solving. In addition, working within a diverse group encourages team members to prepare better, anticipate alternative viewpoints, and reach a group consensus that represents a broader constituency.
- Become an Advocate
For too long, the burden of improving diversity and inclusion has fallen on the disenfranchised. It’s important for all employees, especially those in leadership positions, to advocate for providing opportunities for all, as explored in this Forbes article. Instead of leaving it up to those who may feel personally affected by a lack of opportunity in the workplace, better educating ourselves and others about oppression, discrimination, privilege, and other social justice issues can take matters much further. Combating this issue on a personal level can more greatly benefit those around us. Providing a safe and confidential environment for employees from underrepresented populations to express issues and concerns in an atmosphere of support and acceptance is of utmost importance.
- Try Not to Pigeon-Hole Candidates or Employees
When considering applicants or evaluating present employees, remember that flexibility and open-mindedness can be your friend. This concept, as explained in this HR Magazine UK article, encourages you to think of ways you might create win-win situations for both the worker and the company; for example, if a mother of two looks like the perfect fit for the job on paper, but needs to be home to care for her children, consider how much of the job could be completed via telecommuting or working from home. You don’t have to pass up on five-star candidates because they also have personal obligations.
- Diversity Only Exists if You Measure it
Remember when your answers to math tests only counted as correct if you were able to show your work? Well, as stated by diversity and inclusion consultancy Include-Empower, the same concept applies to diversity. “What get measured gets done.” If you’re able to focus on diversity as a team, you can measure the consequential difference in your performance in your quarterly reports, in your hiring logs and more. By putting focus on the actions that are required to improve diversity, you and everyone around you will notice the positive change resulting from your efforts.
- Don’t Forget Employee Wellness, Including Mental Health
In the HR space, employee wellness is a huge issue, but mental health is often left out of the conversation when it comes to diversity. As explained by Human Resources Today, people come from all sorts of backgrounds and experiences, and they have varying capacities and abilities to handle certain work environments. Without the support and resources employees may need, companies may see an increase in work-family conflict, increased mental health problems, and thus, higher turnover rates. Mental health is an issue of diversity as much as it is an issue of wellness, as companies may shy away from supporting employees who are struggling in certain aspects of their daily professional lives. Supporting good mental health may mean offering services ranging from employee assistance programs to counseling to yoga, meditation and mindfulness training.
We have seen diversity and inclusion within every aspect of our world explode in the recent months; diversity has become increasingly important now more than ever before. The United States has always been nicknamed the world’s melting pot – and for good reason – as companies and factories are putting diversity at the top of their list when it comes to hiring. It is important that your company reflects the changing face of the nation and doesn’t fall behind with the times. Diversity fosters innovation and brings people together through exciting new opinions, world views and ideas. Growing your understanding of other cultures will only help you rise above the competition in today’s global marketplace.