By Jessica Miller-Merrell

When it comes to diversity, the EEOC or Equal Opportunity Employment Commission along with our government has an opinion and expectation on who and what is considered diversity.

Those individuals are workers who fall into what we refer to as a protected class as part of the hiring process under Title VII, ADA, GINA and ADEA.

  1. Age (over 40),
  2. Disability
  3. Genetic Information
  4. National Origin
  5. Pregnancy
  6. Race/Color
  7. Religion
  8. Sex

…and when it comes to hiring and recruitment there is a 9th, Veterans.

Government bodies like the EEOC, OFCCP and DOL exist to help organizations stay in compliance with the United States employment laws when effectively recruiting candidates specifically those who are minorities or members of diverse groups or communities. These nine faces of workplace diversity make up the entire ecosystem backing how your workplace operates, but what about those who don’t necessarily fit into one of these groups? For instance, just because someone is white doesn’t mean they’re not Native American which makes them a protected class.

In the next five to ten years everyone in the workplace will be a protected class. In order to create an environment where everyone belongs, no matter what class of people they belong in, companies need to start eradicating workplace stereotypes. The smaller your company is the easier it’ll be to implement a system and grow off the system as your company starts to grow.

In doing so, companies will be able to not only comply with federal regulations, but implementing these measures will strengthen their employer brand.

Assessing the need: It’s important that before you start creating any type of diversity program you assess the specific needs of your company. Most companies know they have diversity issues but cannot pinpoint the exact location of the error of their ways.

Make the business case: Your key leaders are going to want to understand the business case for having a diversity program. Come up with a game plan and tell them how it’s going to affect the bottom line. Letting them know that by creating a diversity program their profits and competitiveness will increase.

Set clear expectations: It’s important to have a clear expectation when introducing a diversity program in your workforce. What do you want to gain? What is the overall goal of the program? How will you measure the progress of the program? How will negative behavior be dealt with?

Behavior that is clearly out of line with the expectations of the program should be addressed immediately. Regardless of items included in a performance document employee patterns of disrespectful behavior should be notated and dealt with. Send a clear message about what this program entails and why it’s important that exclusion should not be practiced at work.

Taking this initial step will allow you to start a conversation with your employees and eventually build your employment brand on a foundation of acceptance and understanding no matter what class someone belongs to.

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR is a workplace and technology strategist specializing in social media. She’s is the Chief Blogger & Founder of Blogging4Jobs. You can follow her on Twitter @jmillermerrell

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