Cultural Diversity Training On The Job

Struggling to understand your non-native co-worker on the job? Here are some tips for developing workplace cultural diversity training.

By the year 2020, it is estimated that non-native Americans will comprise twenty-five percent of the American work force. In other words, one fourth of your co-workers will come from other countries.

It is exciting to meet people from foreign cultures, but working with someone who was born in another country can be frustrating and perhaps even slow the pace of work getting done due to communication problems or cultural misunderstandings. Most foreign-born workers will have some degree of English proficiency, but you may need to supplement their knowledge with a few words of the native vocabulary or even sign language.

In the face of this workplace population shift, it may be a good idea to establish a cultural diversity training program at your job site. If you are not the one to implement such a program, consider passing along these suggestions to the person in charge. Here are a few ideas to consider:

1. The company affirmative action office may be the entity to establish a project leader or committee for cultural diversity training. In smaller organizations, the human resource office can take the initiative to create this program. If none exists, suggest that one be implemented, and volunteer to help with developing a training program to heighten awareness of cultural diversity at your work site.

2. If your company already has non-native employees, determine if one or more are qualified to lead the initiative. People from other cultures often have experienced wide exposure to a variety of people groups or social environments in their travel to America and efforts to take root here. If not, encourage the company's program leader to recruit a speaker or trainer with a certification or wide-ranging experience in this area.

3. Decide which format will be most effective for introducing employees to multicultural issues: a half-day or all-day seminar or workshop, one to three days of training, or week-long activities to celebrate diversity. The choice may depend on your company's size and its percentage of non-native employees. You may even decide to begin with a half-day program this year, and increase it to a full day next year.

4. Create a policy that protects minorities or non-natives from discrimination. Federal laws already exist for this purpose, but distribute a company policy in conjunction with these laws so that potential abusers understand the organization will not tolerate infringements like harassment. Disseminate the policy to all employees via a range of media: handbook, announcement, meeting item, policy posting, etc.

5. Develop a pre- and post-quiz for employees that will help them see their appreciation (or lack of) for diversity. Between the two quizzes, offer handouts, presentations, and teaching modules to promote understanding of and tolerance for cultural differences.

6. Utilize diversity-friendly resources such as training manuals, materials, and clients that demonstrate to employees the value of people and things that are not necessarily American in origin.

Change, while good, takes time. Companies must allow for adjustments as the American work force undergoes this significant evolution. Do your part to promote intercultural understanding by supporting and participating in a cultural diversity training program.

© High Speed Ventures 2011