Diversity in the workplace

When it comes to diverse workplaces, look no further than EBC Printing. Just look around and you will see quite the mixed staff. Men, women…light skin, dark skin…Muslims, Jews, and Christians…and the list goes on.

That’s because diversity and inclusion is especially important to co-owners of the business, Murtaza and Mustafa Jaffer.

The Jaffers, who are of Indian descent, immigrated from Tanzania in East Africa when they were just fifteen years old. They came to America with their parents to pursue the dream of a better education. The Jaffers’ father stayed back in Tanzania to provide financial support to the family, while their mother resided in the U.S. with the children so they could attend school. 

“Diversity is within us,” Murtaza explained, “So, it was an important value when we launched the business.”

Creating a diverse staff at EBC Printing was important to the Jaffers. They made it their mission to hire employees who are of different races, genders, religions, and cultural backgrounds. 

Like many other businesses in the 21st century, the Jaffers say their company flourishes because their staff is so diverse. Mixed backgrounds help the business stand out and deliver better results to customers. 

“We all have different views and nationalities, but we love working together!” Murtaza said. 

Diversity in the Workplace

According to Director of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Business & Diversity Council Brittany Wiltshire, diversity and inclusion is important for all businesses. 

“A workplace that encourages diversity, equity and inclusion makes employees feel valued and accepted. It allows employees to feel comfortable and safe to be themselves, knowing they are supported by the organization they work for. Diversity in the workplace expands creativity and problem solving, along with better decision making. It brings a wide variety of employees together with different experiences, skills, perspectives, and insight to increase profitability and productivity. It opens opportunities for a more diverse market when your organization is reputable of diversity in the workplace,” said Wiltshire. 

And it is more than just skin color. Diversity in the workplace not only includes race but also sex, gender identity, age, disabilities, mental health, geographical location, language, education, and even income. It not only means accepting everyone for who they are but offering equal opportunities to all employees – from hiring to pay to promotions.

Wiltshire says it is important for business owners to explore their intentions behind their diversity and inclusion efforts before jumping on the bandwagon. “The business owner must believe in inclusion and diversity, prior to implementing [it] into their business,” she noted.

She recommends that business owners have a non-discrimination policy in place, and that they receive the education necessary to successfully implement diversity and inclusion in their place of business.

Diversity Training

It is important that both managers and employees understand how to work with a diverse group of people. Diversity Training can be beneficial to the organization.

“Businesses and organizations want to reflect and support the diversity of America. We want the businesses and services that we give to reflect the way America looks and is,” explains Liz Bradbury, Director of the Bradbury Sullivan Training Institute. 

The Bradbury-Sullivan Training Institute, run by the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown, offers LGBT cultural and equity training. In the last four years, they have trained over 11,000 individuals.

The training offers practical explanations about what a business can and cannot do from a legal aspect, but also examines what they should be doing from a best practice standpoint.

“It’s not about treating everyone the same because not everyone is the same,” said Bradbury. 

It is important that staff members are properly trained, too, because they are often the first face a customer sees when they enter a business. 

“If you do not train your employee and your employee does something wrong, it’s your fault. If you do train your employee and the employee does something wrong, it is their fault,” explained Bradbury.

Because policies change often, it is important that business owners stay on top of current events and renew their training regularly.  

Managers interested in hosting a training session with the Bradbury-Sullivan Training Institute can contact Liz Bradbury by phone at 610-347-9988 x103 or by email at liz@bradburysullivancenter.org. The standard training session is three hours long, but they can be tailored to specific business needs. A training video may also be purchased for an additional fee.

Supporting Diverse Employees

While an employer’s role is to offer support at work, they might provide further support by sharing external resources with employees. Luckily, minorities and diverse populations have much more support available than they did a decade ago. 

With the popularity of social media and the internet, individuals sharing the same beliefs and lifestyles can more easily find each other. Various virtual support groups are available and can be found with a simple internet search. An employer may choose to provide a list of reputable online groups to his or her employees.

Local communities are also promoting diversity and inclusion by offering programs and groups that offer a safe space for members. The Chamber’s Diversity Councils are especially unique in that they offer an inclusionary space for business professionals.  They currently host the African American Business Leaders Council, Hispanic Chamber of the Lehigh Valley, LGBTQ Business Council, Women’s Business Council, and Young Professionals Council. Employers who support their employees’ involvement in these groups and events are likely to have happier employees overall.

Embracing diversity at work is about bringing people together. Celebrating our differences not only leads to a happier workplace, but a happier world.

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