There are practices that an employer can put into play at the outset of the hiring process to ensure that they are reaching out to a diverse talent pool. This could extend to posting job advertisements more broadly in community papers or through special affiliation groups. In hiring, best practice is to use the same merit-based questions for all candidates. Otherwise, there is a tendency to hire based on “fit,” which often means that people hire those who are like them – who enjoy the same hobbies and run in the same circles. This doesn’t mean that a workplace cannot seek out values such as integrity or ambition, but it’s helpful to be mindful of the factors that are contributing toward hiring decisions.
Naturally, during the employment relationship, an employer must be receptive to accommodating religious or cultural beliefs, without holding that against an employee. This may mean allowing a Muslim employee time to attend Friday prayers or creating a prayer space at work. It may mean considering employee food-related religious beliefs at work lunches and dinners, such as a Jewish employee who eats kosher, a Hindu employee who does not eat beef, a Muslim employee who does not eat pork. These steps can allow an employee to feel included in the work environment. An employer should also be conscious of the barriers that it is unknowingly creating. If an employee is Mormon, for instance, and does not drink, this may make after-work drinks uncomfortable for him or her. Or the employee who leaves to attend Friday prayers may miss out on after-work functions. This sometimes translates into lost promotional opportunities as important networking can happen at these events. It may also be seen unfairly as a lack of commitment to a business or a failure to be a team player.
Discrimination in these forums is often indirect or systemic, so it requires changes to practices and policies to correct. Larger organizations are encouraged to conduct a diversity inventory to assess whether they have representation from different cultural/racial/religious groups within and in management-level roles. While not required, implementing cultural competency training for management and staff can also help to promote diversity and assist with integration and retention. It is not enough to simply onboard those with different religious and cultural beliefs. Rather, it is critical that they feel welcome, integrated, and respected. This, in turn, may better position them for promotion.
This blog post, an adaptation of a Question and Answer with Dr. Helen Ofosu of I/O Advisory Services, was written by Alayna Miller, a member of the Employment team. She can be reached at 613-369-0374 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.