Healthcare organizations are beginning to make a commitment to embracing and fostering workforce diversity. This cultural change means adopting new values in terms of being inclusive and attracting a diverse workforce. The business case for diversity is unique for each organization as circumstances, the environment, and community demographics of one organization vary from those of another.
Diversity can be described in three key dimensions:
Human diversity. Includes the attributes that make a human being who he or she is, such as race, ethnicity, age, gender, family status, physical abilities and so on.
Cultural diversity. Encompasses a person’s beliefs, values, family structure practice, and mindset as a result of his or her cultural, community, and environmental experiences.
Systems diversity. Relates to the differences among organizations in work structure and pursuits. This dimension includes teamwork re-engineering, strategic alliances, employee empowerment, quality focus, educational development, corporate acquisitions, and innovations.
Managing diversity is not an easy task, as a number of barriers often get in the way of achieving a harmonious working environment. Some of these barriers which revolve around the diversity dimensions can be a great source of tension and conflict. For instance, a person’s culture can be a great barrier to a work team when other members of the group are not respectful of or misunderstand the person’s values, beliefs, or even clothing, which that person gained through his or her cultural background.
According to the Institute for Diversity in Health Management (2007), managing a diverse workforce involves the following elements:
Employee Perspective. An environment where every employee feels valued, appreciated and respected.
Patient focus. An environment where because all patients feel valued, they are highly satisfied and loyal.
Inclusion. Sending a message to minorities that there are leaders within the organization to champion their medical needs.
Community perspective. Bringing the community into the organization, especially at the governance level.
Effective Diversity Program components
Healthcare leaders can take toward establishing a diversity program that will lead to a more diverse and inclusive organization:
Ensure that senior management is committed to a diversity program.
Broaden the definition of diversity to include factors beyond race and ethnicity.
Recognize the business case for bringing in diversity at the leadership level.
Tie diversity goal to business objectives.
Hold recruiting events that target racial and ethnic groups.
Encourage senior executives to mentor minorities.
Develop employee programs that emphasize and celebrate diversity and inclusivity.