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Coaching New Canadians in Soft Skills: How do you do it?


Evelina Silveira, President, Diversity at Work in London Inc.

I am pleased to announce an upcoming workshop that I will be doing in London, Ontario on May 29th. It combines what I have learned over the years in: international education, coaching and mentoring New Canadians in the workplace and working directly with employers regarding their integration. If you are interested in learning how to optimize and retain immigrant talent, this workshop is for you. If you cannot make the workshop in London, we are happy to deliver it to your workplace or community. We travel anywhere, just ask.   For full details, visit our website at http://www.yourdiversityatwork.com/workshops/.

coaching

Diversity Trainers Need To Be Real


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Evelina Silveira, President, Diversity at Work in London, Publisher the Inclusion Quarterly

Diversity trainers are just like any other people: they have biases. If we are true to the work, we recognize that we need to be constantly evolving as individuals and as trainers. The process involves examining our own biases and trying to understand and reduce/eliminate them; a process which can be very humbling and worthy of sharing with our trainees. Although it makes us vulnerable, we become genuine facilitators.

Preachy diversity trainers are a turn-off for me. In my 20 years in the field of race relations, and diversity I think the worst sessions I have ever attended by trainers were ones in which they tried to make their trainees feel bad about the attitudes that they had, as if that is supposed to help them change! With cries of “Don’t be racist” or “Don’t be sexist”, these types of trainers do a lot of talking, but rarely about themselves and about their own journey when it comes to diversity and inclusion. These scripted trainers don’t appear genuine to me, having created an environment where trainees feel vulnerable if they have dissenting views.

A dynamic diversity trainer will put themselves in the trainee’s shoes, recognizing that trainees might be scared and uncomfortable with working with or serving a group of people they never had to before. There is a lot on the line. Here is an opportunity to share your story and to be authentic. They want to hear from you that it wasn’t always so easy for you either, but that it can be done. And sometimes you may even come to enjoy working in a diverse environment.

Growing up in London, Ontario which has always been considered very WASPY, my experience with diversity was primarily living and going to school with different children of European decent. I attended a Catholic school and I was never exposed to religious debates.

As kids, when we wanted to see exotic looking (non-Whites), we would dash to the school library and take a peak at the National Geographic magazines and marvel and giggle at the differences we saw.

While this may seem insensitive, this was the reality of growing up in a city where most of the people look pretty much like me. My elementary school had one black family and there were no Asians or aboriginal people. In a sea of predominately Italian kids, I was the minority. Later on, when I went to university, I met a Jew for the first time and he did not have a beard or a black hat! I also met a brilliant woman from the Chippewa reserve. That was a different experience hearing her perspective on the First Contact which was diametrically opposite to what I had learned in school.

It was a different kind of experience in which all of my beliefs were challenged for the first time and not always in the most polite way either. Sometimes it was uncomfortable, I soon came to value the ideas of others and gain friends that I would have never have made if I had not branched out into a secular school with students who had different backgrounds.

I reflect on these moments and share them with my trainees.

If we consider that many of our participants may feel uncomfortable asking certain questions that are integral to their work, then it is incumbent upon us to put them on the table and take chances. Anticipate the questions and address the elephant in the room. Again this means that you need to take risks as a trainer by presenting topics that your participants deal with on a daily basis but are afraid that they will be labelled by other trainees if they put those questions forward. Otherwise they may never ask them, and they leave the training feeling dissatisfied and maybe even cheated.

It means putting yourself out there and bringing in genuine examples and abandoning the political correctness. Your trainees will thank you for it and will be surprised that you took the chance – something many other trainers are not willing to do.

By sharing true stories of your experiences confronting bias and engaging trainees with real-life challenging and relevant examples, you will be on your way to creating a memorable, engaging and educational learning experience.

 

Signs the Political Correctness Police Has Taken Over Your Workplace


Evelina Silveira, President, Diversity At Work in London Inc.,  Author of Diversity and Inclusion on a Budget:  How to have a more engaged and innovative workforce with little or no dollars.

 

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“When I grow up, I’m gonna marry a tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief, doctor, lawyer or Indian chief”.

In the 70’s, this was the skipping song we chanted as little girls. The goal was to land on the “rich man” or the “doctor”. Any other kind of a husband signaled a doomsday marriage. Fortunately, a lot has changed for the better and our evolving language has captured the humanness, equality and the need for all people to be included.

In this effort to restore equity to groups which have been on the margins forever, have we in the process gone too far with creating other inequities in the workplace? I think that we have. We are a long way from having a balanced workforce. Let’s take a look at some typical examples you find in the workplace. Is your workplace guilty of any of these?

• You don’t have a Christmas celebration in the workplace even though over half of Canadians identify themselves as Christian and even those who don’t still celebrate some aspects of Christmas.
• You appease the demands of one group in the workplace at the expense of the other, because you don’t want to be labelled as a _______.
• You withhold information that could advance social change or contribute to the betterment of the community because your findings shed a negative light on a group or groups of people.
• You allow behaviours from certain groups of people who you would never allow from others.
• You ignore performance issues from people of designated groups because you don’t want to ruffle any feathers.
• Diversity of thought and politics are not permitted.

In these cases, we are talking about “Fear” which seems to be the norm in organizations that have swung too far on the left of the pendulum when it comes to political correctness. Legislation for sure makes people scared; there is more of it now than ever before. Many organizations let too many behaviours slide because of the fear of law suits and complaints. It is better to take proactive steps at creating workplaces that everyone can work in, instead of trying to police everyone’s thoughts, words and actions.

 

D&I: “They Just Don’t Get It”


By: Evelina Silveira, President Diversity at Work in London Inc. Author of Diversity and Inclusion on a Budget.

A common phrase we hear as diversity practitioners is: “they just don’t get it”, referring to the leadership team. With the right conditions, “they do get it”. Before you dismiss your leadership as old, patriarchal, stagnating entities read this. A change in approach could make a big difference.

If you feel like you are speaking to a brick wall, perhaps it is time to rethink how you are communicating your message. You may be pleasantly surprised to find out that your leadership team is actually on your side, but you just haven’t given them any compelling reasons to change.

Getting buy-in from the top involves the: “who”, “what”, “when”, “why” and “how”. If one of those pieces is missing, they might “just not get it”!

Who – Who is/are the designated spokesperson(s) to represent diversity and inclusion in your workplace? Are they well respected by their colleagues and the leadership team? Are they known to be balanced, fair and pragmatic? Do they have an “agenda”? Outspoken about selective issues while silent about other inequities? Does this person have a history of bringing people together or pulling them apart? Do they have a good understanding of the competencies in the organization and know how to use them? The person(s) in this role can have a huge impact on the success of your diversity and inclusion strategy.

If you are the spokesperson and reaching an impasse, it may be that you are not the right person for the position, and let someone else take over. (Note: When you are selecting a D&I officer for your organization, you should ask yourself the questions noted above before you make your final selection).

What – What is the message you are presenting to the leadership team? For example, if you live in a relatively homogenous location, focusing on visible minority recruitment might not be the most effective strategy especially if there are none where you live. However, looking at retention strategies, or addressing the issues facing women leaders might be more relevant. The subjects you approach the leadership must match their strategic priorities. Concentrate on what is on their agenda by showing them how diversity and inclusion strategies can help them attain their mission. Approach them in a positive light rather than a negative one. For example, telling the leadership that the organization is racist, sexist and homophobic might not be the best lead in. However, if you have conducted a staff engagement survey and your findings support your assertions, share that information with them along with ideas on how to create greater workplace inclusion. Instead of making diversity and inclusion a separate part of the organization, show the leadership that it is part of everything that you do. Examine ways that D&I can be integrated into existing training as well as policies and procedures.

Any initiatives that you take on must incorporate:
• The mission and values of your organization;
• Create more workplace harmony leading to improved performance;
• Be very practical in nature. (Many organizations have dropped “awareness and empathy-generating” types of training because they do not encourage practical skill building).

When – “Time is money”. Training dollars have been scaled back and that is why you have to make the most out of bringing people together. The activities and the training you choose to take on do not always have to be labelled as “diversity training”. It may be better if they are not; especially if your organization’s last experience wasn’t so good. Try to incorporate D&I into the existing compulsory training. Enhance and infuse existing training such as presentation skills, customer service, health and safety with D&I. It can be done without a lot of effort, and you have an automatic captive audience. Leaders can be overwhelmed with a lot of new ideas. Starting small could be a better strategy if you are dealing with risk averse leaders.

Why – Frequently the “why’s” have not been presented in a convincing enough manner. You can refer to the results of your employee engagement survey (if that has occurred) or tie  it into policies and legislation guiding your workplace. Refer to studies on diversity and innovation. Google “the business case for diversity” and show them the facts that support a more inclusive workplace.

How – Remember that diversity and inclusion is about everyone. Choose research that focuses on all aspects of our changing workplace demographics. When you take this approach, a statistic or statistics will stand out with your leadership. If your organization embarks on strategic planning this is a good opportunity to provide staff survey results and relevant information you would like to collect and measure. Embedding it into existing work can be a little more palatable for those who may be reticent to come on board.

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