By Debra Clayton
Human Resources Manager, Verizon

As a Human Resources manager, I work closely with my clients to identify and develop solutions for issues impacting the workforce. Increasingly, it has become a challenge to effectively respond to constantly changing economic, customer, and workplace requirements. To identify areas of opportunity, my team conducted field visits to identify common issues impacting the workforce. Several themes surfaced, and after discussions with the senior executive team, we agreed to address these holistically, using diversity management as the anchor, leveraging both the functional and professional diversity of the team.

In partnership with our Diversity Management team, we designed a one-day development workshop, including extended learning application sessions that address common themes—diversity and inclusion, effective communication, feedback, managing conflict, and engaging yourself and your team—while expanding the conversation about diversity, its impact on performance, and delivering results.

The success of the workshops was enhanced because of several aspects of diversity. First, in developing the workshop we relied on people with backgrounds in organizational development, industrial/organizational psychology, HR generalist roles, and field operations. This blended approach helped ensure that workshop content included best practices from research and was applicable in the real world. Second, during the workshops, participants of varying backgrounds—professional, cultural, and personal—interacted and worked together to identify issues they were trying to solve in the workplace, and learned how to apply the tools from the workshop in their particular work environment.

Expanding the perception of diversity was a key learning component. While many embraced the importance of the value of diversity and inclusion, some still held the view that diversity primarily addressed issues of race, ethnicity, and gender. In expanding the conversation, participants learned that diversity also includes age, personality, language, sexual orientation, cultural background, education, disability, religious belief, cognitive style, organizational function, and much more. More importantly, participants came to understand that this means diversity is about each and every individual on our teams, and that as we become more aware of the diversity mix of the organization, we increase our ability to effectively manage relationships with our co-workers, while creating opportunities for creativity, learning, and enhancing business results.

The initial participant response was very favorable. The learning lab was an opportunity to discuss in depth how diversity impacts each of us, and provided tangible tools and techniques that were easy to use back on the job. Many participants reflected that after completing the workshop, they felt they were better equipped to understand and interact with their co-workers, facilitate greater engagement and inclusion, and deliver on the team’s performance objectives.

Key measures that we are tracking to determine the longerterm impact include:

  • Turnover and absenteeism
  • Improved productivity metrics
  • Inclusion index
  • Safety metrics

Driving inclusion and engagement allows us to fully tap into and leverage the power inherent in the diversity of our workforce; a factor we view as critical to successfully compete in today’s business environment.