Diversity in the workplace

Fort Worth District equal employment office manager, Vidal Gray reviews the results of the BOXi and prepares the report for the Fort Worth District commander, Col. Calvin C. Hudson, II.

Fort Worth District equal employment office manager, Vidal Gray reviews the results of the BOXi and prepares the report for the Fort Worth District commander, Col. Calvin C. Hudson, II. (USACE photo by Randy Cephus)

An increase in interactions among people from various cultures and backgrounds is a direct result of the global market. Therefore private businesses and organizations are becoming more diversified in their hiring actions to remain competitive.

This attitude, or paradigm shift is valid for federal organizations as well. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with offices throughout the continental U.S. and abroad in support of world-wide contingency operations is no exception.

Diversity can be defined as acknowledging, understanding, accepting, and valuing differences among people with respect to age, class, race, ethnicity, gender and disabilities. The federal government is required to “endeavor to achieve a workforce from all segments of society,” according to its recruitment policies.

The district’s Equal Employment Opportunity office uses data from Business Objects Reporting and Administrative Tools, or BOXi, to create a Management Directive 715, Self-Assessment Checklist. The checklist forms the groundwork for a model EEO program focusing on six essential elements and helps the commander manage diversity and other components within his EEO program.

These elements include demonstrated commitment from agency leadership, integration of EEO into the agency’s strategic mission, management and program accountability, proactive prevention of unlawful discrimination, efficiency and responsiveness to legal compliance.

“Managing diversity is a significant organizational challenge. Leaders and supervisors must recognize the ways in which the workplace is changing and adjust our managerial styles to accommodate a multicultural workforce,” said Fort Worth District commander, Col. Calvin Hudson, II.

Taking full advantage of the benefits of diversity in the workplace is not without its challenges, however. There are always employees who will refuse to accept the fact that the social and cultural makeup of their workplace is changing.

“A lack of diversity in the workplace can lead to complacency, stagnation and decreased productivity,” said Fort Worth District equal employment opportunity manager, Vidal Gray.

There are several key staff organizations that are part of the team to promote diversity at the Fort Worth District. They include the EEO office, the Human Resource Human Capital Committee, the STEM champion and senior leaders within the district.

“By focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics programs in underrepresented areas and leveraging recruiting efforts in places where certain underrepresented populations receive their degrees will help bring more diversity to the workforce in the future,” said Hudson.

Gray encourages leaders to involve all staff members when formulating and executing initiatives in the workplace. His desire is to have senior leaders foster an attitude of inclusion where employees from various backgrounds are encouraged to express their ideas and opinions.

“We must get out of the mindset of only considering people who look, act and think like us,” Gray said.

According to Gray, a lack of diversity can also unintentionally create a hostile environment for those in the age, class, race, ethnicity, gender or disabilities minority. Therefore, leaders must strive to make the workplaces more inclusive.

“Always keep an open mind and understand your own biases when making decisions on things such as hiring actions,” said Gray.

Leaders should implement policies such as mentoring programs to provide staff members access to information and opportunities. They should also promote diversity in leadership positions as this provides visibility to junior staff members of underrepresented groups that there are opportunities for inclusion and upward mobility within the organization.

“The old way of doing things is not always the best way,” concluded Gray. “We need to look at the different perspectives people from diverse backgrounds bring to the table.”

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