Diversity and Cultural Awareness (Rapid Skill Builder Series)

Diversity and inclusiveness
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Remember that organizations can be intergenerational. A group that worked with an ineffective, culturally incompetent organization 15 years ago, may not know that the group has the same name but is in a "second life" -- a new staff, a new board, and a new approach to working with the community. This means the organization has some work to do, and must be aware of this dynamic in order to be newly effective. Being proactive rather than reactive about change produces a synergistic organization.

What Makes Us Different

Anticipating change is a basic dynamic in the development of synergy. Synergy is more than just teamwork. It's the magic that happens when people are truly working together, understanding one another deeply, and in total agreement about their beliefs and goals, at least as far as their work goes. Synergy happens only if people treat each other with respect and effectively communicate with each other. Cultural knowledge should be integrated into every facet of an organization.

Staff must be trained and be able to effectively utilize knowledge gained. Policies should be responsive to cultural diversity. Program materials should reflect positive images of all cultures. Values, behaviors, attitudes, practices, policies, and structures that make it possible for cross-cultural communication guide a culturally competent organization.

When you recognize, respect, and value all cultures and integrate those values into the system, culturally competent organizations can meet the needs of diverse groups. There are all types of diversity in an organization. However, some types of diversity have a larger impact on organizations than others because they have historical significance. These types of diversity are associated with a history of inequity and injustice where not every person or group has been treated equally because of them.

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These types of diversity include:. Diversity is reality.

We are all connected through the increasing globalization of communications, trade, and labor practices. Changes in one part of the world affect people everywhere. Considering our increasing diversity and interconnected problems, working together seems to be the best strategy for accomplishing our goals. Because social and economic change is coming faster and faster, organizations are understanding the need for cultural competence.

We're realizing that if we don't improve our skills we're asking for organizational and cultural gridlock. Studies show that new entrants to the workforce and communities increasingly will be people of color, immigrants, and white women because of differential birth rates and immigration patterns.

There are many benefits to diversity, such as the rich resource of alternative ideas for how to do things, the opportunity for contact with people from all cultures and nationalities that are living in your community, the aid in strategizing quick response to environmental change, and a source for hope and success in managing our work and survival. An organization needs to become culturally competent when there is a problem or crisis, a shared vision, and a desired outcome.

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An organization is ready to become culturally competent when groups and potential leaders that will be collaborating have been identified, the needs of the cultural groups are identified, the organization knows what was done before and how it affected the groups involved, and the organization is open to learning and adapting to better fit current needs. Cultural differences can either help or hurt the way an organization functions.

Creating multicultural organizations makes us deal with differences and use them to strengthen our efforts. To reach these goals you need a plan for action. How do you start this process? If achieving cultural competence is a top-down organizational mandate, some would say it's less likely to happen.

Understanding Cultural Diversity in Customer Service

But support from the top should be part of it. Getting everyone to "buy in" can be aided with a committee representing all levels in an organization. Such a committee can establish and facilitate the following action steps. If people at all organizational levels are involved more people are likely to be influenced to become more culturally competent.

But, the process can be complicated by the fact that some people don't want to be more culturally sensitive or don't understand why the issue is important; be mindful of these realities as the process ensues. This Cultural Competence Committee CCC within your organization should have representation from policy making, administration, service delivery, and community levels.

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The committee can serve as the primary governing body for planning, implementing, and evaluating organizational cultural competence. Be sure that the mission statement commits to cultural competence as an integral part of all of the organization's activities. The CCC should be involved in developing this statement.

Find out what similar organizations have done and develop partnerships. Don't reinvent the wheel if you don't have to. Other organizations may have already begun the journey toward developing and implementing culturally competent systems. Meet with these organizations, pick their brains, and see if they will continue to work with you to develop your cultural competence. Then adapt the processes and information that are consistent with your needs to your organization. Aggressively pursue and use information available from federally funded technical assistance centers that catalog information on cultural competence.

Do a comprehensive cultural competence assessment of your organization. Determine which instruments best match the needs and interests of your organization.

Use the assessment results to develop a long-term plan with measurable goals and objectives to incorporate culturally competent principles, policies, structures, and practices into all aspects of your organization. Among others, this may include changes in your mission statement, policies, procedures, administration, staffing patterns, service delivery practices, outreach, telecommunications and information dissemination systems, and professional development activities. Find out which cultural groups exist in your community and if they access community services.

What are the cultural, language, racial, and ethnic groups within the area served by your organization? Then find out if these groups access services and if they are satisfied with what they get. Have a brown bag lunch to get your staff involved in discussion and activities about cultural competence. The object of this get-together is to get your staff members to think about their attitudes, beliefs, and values related to cultural diversity and cultural competence.

Cultural Intelligence

Invite a guest speaker. Find out what your organization's staff members perceive as their staff development needs with regard to interacting with cultural groups in your area. Assign part of your budget to staff development programming in cultural competence. Analyze your budget to see where there are opportunities for staff development through participation in conferences, workshops, and seminars on cultural competence. Then commit to provide ongoing staff training and support for developing cultural competence. Keep in mind: When you are asking the staff to come together to discuss their attitudes, beliefs, and values related to cultural diversity and competence, consider an outside expert facilitator.

The staff members' comments will typically reflect their exposure to other cultures and their prejudices. Someone might get offended. If hurt feelings, disagreements, or conflicts are unresolved when the meeting is over, the staff members' job performance could be affected. Cultural competency requirements should be apparent from the beginning of the hiring process.

Discuss the importance of cultural awareness and competency with potential employees. Be sure your facility's location is accessible and respectful of difference.

An organization should be certain that the facility's location, hours, and staffing are accessible to disabled people and that the physical appearance of the facility is respectful of different cultural groups. Be sensitive to the fact that certain seating arrangements or decor might be appropriate or inappropriate depending upon the cultural group. Be aware of communication differences between cultures. For example, in many racial and ethnic groups, elders are highly respected, so it is important to know how to show respect.

There are many free online resources, as well as printed materials. Visit the library and talk with people at similar organizations to learn about resources. Build a network of natural helpers, community "informants," and other "experts. They have valuable knowledge of the cultural, linguistic, racial, and ethnic groups served by your organization. Effective organizations must do strategic outreach and membership development.