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Supporting workplace diversity

emerging roles for employment
Roberta A. Neault
Suneet Mondair
Employment counselors generally understand the benefits of viiorkplace diversity;
most are actively engaged in supporting diverse clients to attach to the workforce.
However, they are less likely to be involved in supporting organizations to create
workplaces where diverse workers are welcomed, appreciated, and fully engaged.
In this article, results from a Canadian project to develop the Supporting Employers
Embracing Diversity (S.E.E.D.) tool kit are presented and 10 emerging roles that
employment counselors can play are introduced.

Employment counselors have traditionally assisted individuals who are unemployed
to find work. Although that is still a key role, employment counselors now also work
with others, including those who are underemployed or unhappily employed (i.e.,
people who are disengaged, underutilized, or at high risk of leaving their organizations). In an economy that is affected concurrently by high unemployment rates
(i.e., countless people looking for work) and skill shortages (i.e., many employers
searching for the right people), there is an abundance of opportunity for employment
counselors to assume new responsibilities and to expand their roles. One potential
new role is to support employers in creating workplaces where diverse workers are
welcomed, appreciated, and encouraged to contribute.
In the following sections of this article, the challenge in defining diversity, an
everyday term that has a multitude of meanings, is discussed. Next, specific issues
related to workplace diversity (or in many cases an absence of diversity, which can
also be problematic) are examined. Strategies for supporting workplace diversity
are then introduced, including free access to a comprehensive, web-based tool kit.
Einally, using research that underpins the diversity tool kit, the article concludes
with an overview of 10 roles that employment counselors can play as they support
employers and human resource professionals to create workplaces that welcome and
fully include diverse employees.

Roberta A. Neault, Life Strategies Ltd., Aldergrove, British Columbia, Canada: Suneet Mondair, Sociology Department, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Funding for the S.E.E.D.
tool kit described in this article was provided through the Canada-British Columbia Labour Market
Development Agreement. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Roberta
A. Neault, Life Strategies Ltd., 2690726th Avenue, Aldergrove, British Columbia, Canada V4W4A4
(e-mail: roberta

© 2011 by the American Counseling Association. All rights reserved.

journal of employment counseling • June 2011 • Volume 48

nonshared life experiences. sexual orientation. as well as the tendency for organizations to hire individuals who match the profile of successful incumbents. in their tripartite model of personal identity. and lower job satisfaction for some. sexual orientation. Schneider (1987) identified the tendency of similar employees to be attracted to the same organization. However. all individuals can be open about all aspects of their culture and individual characteristics. and attitudes. ethnicity. 2010). geographic location. values. WORKPLACE DIVERSITY In a workplace where diversity is celebrated rather than merely tolerated. employees will not have to attempt to hide their spirituality.DEFINING DIVERSITY Diversity is a term that is used widely. age. 2003) or how to conduct culture-infused counseling (Arthur & Collins. therefore. a model that is foundational to many of the interest assessment tools still used today by career and employment counselors. Previously. acknowledged distinct individual. However. disabilities. and universal levels. group. beliefs. Although Holland's model is specific to occupational personality. and gender. minorities. Sometimes diversity initiatives focus on obvious gender.. or any other characteristic that could potentially lead to discrimination or bullying. or persons with disabilities). but often without a shared understanding. task-related knowledge. skill. it is increasingly common to find a much broader definition of diversity amidst a discussion of what constitutes personal identity (Sue & Sue. ability. and status in the work group's organization. poorer performance. therefore. or physical differences (e. A comprehensive definition of diversity. culture. within the counseling literature. and abilities. which looked at a broader range of characteristics. the notion of hiring for fit and similarity is similar to Schneider's findings. including increased confiict between groups. As Mannix and Neale (2005) noted. At the individual level are such characteristics as genetic endowment and unique.. all people share some biological and physical similarities. when specific subgroups are the targets of diversity initiatives). marital status. at the universal level. They argued that diversity creates social divisions. especially when some groups are singled out and labeled as diverse (i. political affiliations.g. McGrath (as cited in Mannix & Neale. socioeconomic status. To a certain extent. gender. However. this may be more of an aspirational goal than something that is practically achieved in the workplace. and the ability to use symbols. personality. religious preference. is neither universally embraced nor a naturally occurring phenomenon. Sue and Sue (2003). common life experiences. 2005) identified five components of diversity: demographic attributes. cognitive. this fits with Holland's (1985) model of person-environment fit. racial.e. At the group level are similarities and differences in race. Finally. self-awareness. ethnic background. because many workplaces today are struggling to journal of employment counseling • June 2011 • Volume 48 73 . Similarly. employment equity programs that target women. needs to go far beyond some of the legislated equity targets that have been the traditional focus of diversity initiatives. and behavior styles. Workplace diversity. workplace diversity can have negative effects. age. socioeconomic status.

p. 2008. Although such programs may help to win a court case or to minimize the financial award in a lawsuit settlement. Workers at all levels (i. supporting workplace diversity has the potential to have a positive impact on recruitment.. 7). Radisson Hotels. Canada) sociologist. as both Barrile (2003) and Takeuchi Cullen (2007) have pointed out. festive music.successfully fill key positions. that company has used Latino/Hispanic resource groups for product testing. or altogether unemployed. 2007). or ableist attitudes and beliefs. 74 journal of employment counseling • June 2011 • Volume 48 . 2009). Having a diverse team provides access to a multitude of perspectives. underutilized. homophobic. As in all change initiatives. The same holds true today. as described in Egodigwe. celebrates multicultural events with "educational displays. There are many reasons underlying diversity initiatives or programs. retention. 2008). Whether for projects or problem solving. tackling hard diversity. and support from both family and community. We Should Consider How Much. Quebec. a program that does not have acceptance from individuals at all levels of the organization is unlikely to have any significant. self-confidence. Kleemann (1994) identified several factors that contribute to the success of diversity plans: a recognition ofthe need for change. not the least of which is to avoid discrimination lawsuits (Takeuchi CuUen. and in many cases. reaching out to underrepresented groups of potential employees. focusing primarily on food and art. Diversity in the workplace is beneficial to everyone involved: employees. not just the human resource [HR] managers or members ofthe executive team) need to understand the impact of not embracing diversity. and retaining them once they are hired. employers. clients/customers. long-lasting effect. and employee engagement. or targeted diversity programs really work (Johnstone & Kanitsaki. for example. distinguished between hard and soft diversity." 2008). it would seem. often with a specific sales or marketing target in mind (e. Studies have demonstrated that investing in diversity management also reduces absenteeism and creates an environment in which employees are more likely to enjoy their work (Barrile.. Morton Weinfeld ("While Embracing Diversity.e. more recently. awareness is the first step. short-term diversity awareness initiatives. 2003). Hard diversity. has the potential to make more wide-sweeping systemic differences within organizations and communities. in turn enhancing performance and productivity. However. challenges some of the deeply embedded racist. financial commitment to the project. on the other hand.g. there is a paucity of conclusive evidence that single diversity workshops. McGill University (Montreal. and authentic cuisine" (McBeath. and many highly skilled workers are marginalized. SUPPORTING WORKPLACE DIVERSITY More than 15 years ago. Pepsi Corporation's diversification in the late 1940s as reflected in their hiring of an exclusively African American marketing team to increase sales to that community. sexist. is taking on increasing importance. education (academic skills). Employment counselors are in a position to assist both of these groups. Another challenge with many diversity initiatives is their narrow focus on one aspect of diversity. a diverse team can provide opportunities to share knowledge and creativity. Soft diversity is the approach commonly taken in the workplace.

tool kits. it was not recognized as the only priority. the tool kit to be developed must support employers with all types of diversity represented within their organizations.D. and provide guidance to support employers in creating and maintaining a diverse workforce. However. As the project progressed..E.E. it is tempting to believe that once diverse employees feel included.D. and quarterly events. another piece of the tool kit was developed—the "Diversity Champion's Backgrounder and and being an advocate for change as needs emerged. ROI within the S." A third significant component of the tool kit was the "Cultural Diversity Yearbook. 2009).DeMaria (2009) refiected on a tendency for employers to become complacent about diversity issues.. tool kit. As a result of the scan. increasing diversity awareness within the organization. SUPPORTING EMPLOYERS EMBRACING DIVERSITY (S. The first step in developing the tool kit was to conduct an environmental scan (i.E. there will always be more to do. the S.E.embracingdiversity.C. to review existing tools and identify local and global practices supporting employers to embrace workplace diversity). to make a significant difference in the workplace. as employees enter and leave project teams and as awareness and understanding of the impact of culture and diversity increase. and websites were organized into these three topical areas so that employers who needed support at each of these distinct stages could easily find the specific help they needed.C.. The purpose of the project was to compile and organize existing relevant resources. to make the tools identified through the environmental scan more useful to employers). and a subsequent focus group with an employer advisory committee supporting the project. it became clear that diversity needed a champion within organizations committed to embracing diversity—someone who would be tasked with being familiar with diversity resources (e. however. make them accessible to employers and human resource management professionals. a community service provider partnered with a private consulting firm to develop the S. rather than the more narrow focus of supporting immigrants within the workplace (which had been the original intent of the project).D.D.E. it is now freely available to the public at www.E. Diversity is not static.S.E. monthly discussions.E. and Inclusion.E. guides.S.D. partly because of its traditional meaning within the business community: Return on Investment.E. diversity will no longer be an issue.e. The acronym ROI was chosen for the tool kit. Orientation. One component of the S." The Yearbook provides diversityrelated suggestions for weekly quotes. The research team and the employer advisory committee unanimously agreed that.g. a decision was made to embrace the broad definition of diversity as previously introduced in this article. tool kit (S. tool kit). Although facilitating immigrant employment was one important priority. stands for Recruitment..E. Diversity-related articles.e. project was to develop a virtual tool kit of resources (i.) TOOL KIT With funding from the Canada-British Columbia Labour Market Development Agreement in 2009.U. To support this champion. journal of employment counseling • June 2011 • Volume 48 75 . a commitment to continuous learning and challenging previously unexamined beliefs and biases remains important.

However. however. or consultants.. HR management professionals. Supporting Inclusive Employee Selection Practices Supporting employee selection is more typically the realm of recruiters. Employment counselors may play an instrumental role in making a compelling business case for culturally diverse workplaces.E. Following is a description of 10 possible roles that employment counselors can play in this endeavor. there has been an increasing recognition that support for career development is a lifelong necessity (Watts. However.e. funding for a facilitator did not continue after the end of the pilot well as resources for creating diversity posters.. an immigrant population. Preparing Clients for Interviews or Work Placements Although this is a fairly traditional role for many employment counselors. Regardless of approach. 76 journal of employment counseling • June 2011 • Volume 48 . During the pilot stages of the project. coaching.g. a web-based network was established as a place for diversity champions to meet and encourage each other.and long-term interventions to support workplace diversity. Employment counselors can directly serve as diversity champions or. EMERGING ROLES FOR EMPLOYMENT COUNSELORS Employment counselors typically support unemployed job seekers. 2010). However. can support in-house champions within a variety of organizations. The following section identifies 10 specific roles that employment counselors can play. or self-confidence issues may need extensive coaching.E. Unfortunately. or consulting. Employment counselors are increasingly expected to support clients with a variety of employment barriers. through counseling. there are many specific ways for them to influence and support workplace diversity. Employment counselors may support HR professionals or hiring managers through prescreened referrals of suitable candidates. tool kit is just one of many tools available to support workplace diversity. tools alone will not stimulate change. consulting. communication challenges. as employment counselors expand their roles to include workplace initiatives (i. persons with disabilities. clients with limited work experience.D. it is taking on a new complexity as political and societal views shift about who should be working. employment counselors can be instrumental in a variety of short. older workers. Definitions of "employment ready" vary between service providers. The S. supporting employees and their employers). or increasing their awareness of an untapped source of workers currently underrepresented in the workplace (e. and advocacy. recommendations of culture-fair assessment tools. it takes a champion to move things forward. many employment counselors play a role as community partners in addressing the shortage of skilled workers that local employers are experiencing. a calendar within the Yearbook identifies diversity-related dates and special events. Therefore. or youth).

. biases. tool kit. however. marginalized.Facilitating New Employee Orientation Many employers overlook the importance of orienting new employees. if the newcomers are isolated. and stereotypes as they take a culture-infused (Arthur & Collins. emphasizing and enhancing cultural competence at all levels of the organization). To do this well.. Johnstone and Kanitsaki (2008) addressed the importance of a systemic approach (i. rather than marginalizing subgroup members or underestimating potential contributions. quotes. research has demonstrated that one-off initiatives (e. It is not uncotnmon for employment counselors to find that their carefully crafted placements do not work. employees who do not feel welcomed by managers and coworkers or supported in getting started in their new job are more likely to quit. and strong interdependent relationships journal of etnployment counseling • June 2011 • Volume 48 77 . as previously discussed. However. As coworkers learn to respect and appreciate each other as unique people. if a diversity-embracing culture is to be established. This is especially true if several new employees are similar to each other but different from the dominant populations in the workplace as is the case when employers choose to recruit internationally or bring in a younger cohort directly from an educational institution. conflict is likely to decrease. diversity training workshops) may not be effective in eliminating deeply rooted stereotypes or beliefs about others (Johnstone & Kanitsaki.E. facilitating workshops or "lunch-and-learn" sessions. rather than on specific subgroups or cultures.E. focusing on project or departmental teams as a whole.D. Strengthening Teams Employment counselors may be able to provide additional support through facilitating teambuilding/team strengthening activities. 2004). Takeuchi Cullen. bullied. and individually coaching employees or managers who are struggling to embrace diversity. Preparing Incumbent Employees to Welcome Newcomers Typically the focus of orientation sessions is on assimilating new employees to an existing workplace culture. Employment counselors have an intimate understanding of the issues that their diverse clients face as they enter the workforce. The S. 2008. 2010) approach to their work. and cultural events throughout the year.e. 2007). others simply do not do it well. employment counselors need to examine their own beliefs. However. productivity is likely to increase. Employment counselors may be able to play an ongoing role in supporting diversity awareness. Sadly. or mobbed by coworkers with unexamined biases. equips diversity champions with strategies for keeping the benefits of diversity at the top of an organization's agenda mind through posters. and employee turnover is a costly problem for many organizations (Hacker. facilitated discussions.g. despite the best intentions of senior managers. work may be needed to prepare the incumbent workforce for the diverse colleagues who are about to begin work.

Doyle and George (2008) demonstrated how diversity initiatives can be measured. identifying several areas of potential focus: access and success (e. Resolving Conflict As employment counselors build relationships with employers in the community.g. organizational cli- 78 journal of employment counseling • June 2011 • Volume 48 . or bulletin boards. psychoeducational resources. or stereotypes before the conflict can be resolved. or Books Many employment counselors have significant experience in developing workshop presentations. If a conflict is rooted in deep-seated prejudice.e.personalitydimensions. Employment counselors frequently hear about how bad the last supervisor. Writing: Blogs.appx) to more experiential activities such as ropes courses or kayaking. from workshops based on personality assessments such as Personality Dimensions ( or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (http://www. or courses. Perhaps employment counselors could be contracted by organizations to use very similar skills to conduct exit interviews with employees who were fired or quit. or groups of employees and their supervisors find themselves in unproductive conflict.. they may be called upon to contribute their counseling or coaching skills when individual employees. it may be necessary to address underlying beliefs. and curricula. Tracking and Measuring Outcomes As in all areas of counseling and human resource management. How can we prove that an initiative or intervention has had the expected impact?). performance and promotions).. fears. be used to support organizations to more effectively embrace diversity. There are many approaches to team strengthening. there is an increasing focus on evidence-based practice (i. Articles. employees do leave organizations. Curricula. Newsletters. Local employers may welcome diversity-related contributions to employee newsletters. sometimes under challenging circumstances. Conducting and Debriefing Exit Interviews Inevitably. project teams. team. Human resource professionals and training managers may be interested in partnering with community-based service providers or subcontracting to independent consultants to develop customized diversity-related workshops. this information is shared in confidence and there is no mechanism to use it to facilitate organizational change.will be established throughout the organization. blogs. or facilitated mediation processes such as healing circles or restorative justice interventions.cpp. or organization was. in turn. Interventions may include psychoeducational workshops. programs. some are also published authors. Systematic data collection and analysis might surface patterns and themes that could. Resources. individual counseling or coaching.

e. intergroup relations. DeMaria. (200. (2009). S. 1—4.). This role for employment counselors is especially relevant in relation to advocacy for local.g. (Eds. addressing the uniqueness of all individuals). 2009). raising awareness of workplace inequities and the benefits to individuals and the global economy of supporting employers embracing diversity (Mor Barak. Alberta. CONCLUSION To be effective. not just the privileged.g. and organizational vitality and viability (e. Culture-infused counseling: Celebrating the Canadian mosaic (2n(l ed. culturally competent instructors). national.. they do not neatly fit into separate categories (e. respectful workplaces for all people. 5-7. All people have countless cultural influences. education (e. N. communicating results). diverse case examples.mate. gender. or the larger institutional systems that have an impact on policies and standards. their employers.. Stimulating Change Through Advocacy Neault (2008) wrote about the ethics of advocacy. through working with individuals.g.S.E. retain. citing the National Career Development Association's (2007) Code of Ethics. analyzing data.. Canada: Counselling Concepts. Calgary. Employment counselors can make a significant difference in supporting workplace diversity..C. Workplaces that embrace diversity have the potential to recruit. Targeted initiatives also tend to minimize the complexity of diversity. Workplaces that embrace diversity create environments in which employees do not need to hide or disguise aspects of who they are in order to be respected and appreciated by their colleagues and managers. Employment counselors could contribute to focus groups. speak to employer or sector associations. equity. or appropriate tools. S. (2010).. be overlooked for a promotion). the focus for workplace diversity initiatives and interventions needs to be inclusive (i. The 10 biggest mistakes in diversity management: Why best practices in diversity aren't enough! Diversity Factor. Businessdate. and international policies that facilitate access to meaningful work and safe. & Collins. .g. choosing a topic.C. diversity-related courses. S. but a target of mobbing as a gay male or.3).S. Initiatives that focus exclusively on one or two aspects of diversity (e. Barrile. managing diversity. diversity of staff. as an older worker.. 17.U. race) risk reinforcing stereotypes and ignoring the challenges experienced by members of other nondominant groups. setting up a survey. Documenting evidence does not have to be onerous. and consult to politicians and policy makers. 2000. Neault and Glendinning (2008) wrote a brief guide for career practitioners with tips for conducting research through activities that each take less than 30 minutes (e. public perceptions). . Managing successfully .). method. 11. journal of employment counseling • June 2011 • Volume 48 79 .. and fully engage individuals who have much to contribute. one employee may concurrently be in a position of privilege as a manager. REFERENCES Arthur. R..g.

While embrasing diversity. 38. NCDA.travelinkpublishing. Career Convergence. 31. 31^4. September 22).1111/j. Code of ethics.1615183. (2010). Schneider.). R.. D. Ethnicity & Education. Embracing diversity. Canada: ENET Society. (1987). Achieving academic success with ethnically diverse students: Implications for student layout_details/false Neault.x McBeath. The people make the place. B.html#ixzzl3LzELw42 Watts. 0. (2003). (2008). L. The inclusive workplace: An ecosystems approach to diversity management.E.00022. Employment Services.pdf pdf/code_of_ethicsmay-2007. Holland.eml:)racingdiversity. (2008. New York. (2008). British Columbia.. E.pdf Mor Barak.D) toolkit. (2004). NY: Wiley. Vancouver Sun. Achieving and measuring diversity: An organizational change approach.E. Retrieved from http://associationdatahase. (2009). NASPA. Social Work Education. Personnel Psychology. R. 39. National all-age career guidance services. Retrieved from http://www.time. A. (2000).ncda. So you want to conduct effective research? 30 minute research tasks. Englewood Cliffs. (2008). Supporting employers embracing diversity ( (2008. What differences make a difference? Psychological Science in the Public ¡merest. (2008). 31-55. NJ: Prentice Hall. April 26). 11. Retrieved from http://www. & Sue.C. (2007). doi:10. L. Making vocational choices: A theory of careers (2nd ed. D..html?id=faab6ce-8c05419r-a848-5863fa373d3c 80 journal of employment counseling • June 2011 • Volume 48 . M. Time Magazine. 45. S.E. 6-9. 97-110. G. & George. British Journal of Guidance and Counsel- ling.9I71. L. 40. Retrieved from http://www. Takeuchi Cullen. Coquitlani.. 89-92.U.Doyle. Mannix. 339-352.l529-1006. 43-44. W. Egodigwe. (2009). 137-149. Retrieved from http://www. Hacker. 6.C. M. (1985).S. Retrieved from http://www. Employee diversity training doesn't work. Kleemann. we should consider how much. Staying focused on best practices. C. (1994). Black Enterprise. 437-454. & Sue. (2005). R. E. & Glendinning. New employee orientation: Make it pay dividends for years to come. U. Counseling the culturally diverse: Theory and practice (4th ed. Race. The politics of resistance to workplace cultural diversity education for health service providers: An Australian study.S. 133-154. F. C. & Kanitsaki. A.2005. 21. Johnstone. Information Systems Management. (2007. Social Work. National Career Development Association. Summer). The ethics of advocacy: Channeling outrage to champion change. A. J. 27.00.). doi:10. M. L.

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