Starting a Crucial Conversation On Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Posted on Jun. 24, 2020  /  President's Messsage  /   0

We have witnessed within the last month the exceptional global response to the shockingly tragic death of Mr. George Floyd.  Our nation has voiced a durable message for the need to build an America with a fully functioning system of equality and fairness, a desire that has long been sought but infrequently achieved.   Citizens of Hawaii have also joined this robust expression through marches and rallies.   For so many the question is how did we get to this point?  Experts from all levels of intellects have postulated their thoughts on this subject   Certainly many of us pondered the answer to that same question.  More than any other unit or department of an organization, cultural diversity and equality falls squarely on the shoulders of the HR department and professionals to care for and protect cultural diversity and inclusion. 


Study after study has proven that organizations that embrace and practice Cultural Diversity gained the benefits of increased productivity, increased profits, improved employee engagement, reduced turnover, increased creativity and improved company reputation.   These benefits have long been harvested by the large organizations with abundant resources.  In Hawaii the majority of our organizations fall into the small to mid-size category with very limited resources to engage their employees in cultural diversity awareness.  This often leads diversity training initiatives to be left in the” not now but when we have the resources” category of action items.  All too often the subject itself seems to be too heavy to undertake and so it is moved to the “nice to do, one day” category.  Then there is the well accepted assumption of “this is Hawaii, we don’t need cultural diversity training”, in so many ways this assumption is incorrect.   These are just three reasonable reasons that stops small and mid-size companies from moving forward on cultural diversity awareness in their organizations.   As our society rapidly becomes more culturally diverse, our awareness of how important it is to understand and act with inclusion for all looms larger than ever requiring a high priority on the “must do” action list of organizations of all sizes.  Certainly, we address this issue through the legal compliance side of HR, being sure all national and state laws are meticulously monitored and practiced to prevent discrimination. This is just one side of diversity practice the other side is the human side.  The laws tell us what we can or cannot do, the human side should tell us why we engage in certain behaviors that may lead inadvertently to discrimination.  Understanding the human side is the starting point by which an organization can build a vibrant diverse and inclusionary organizational culture.  

One cause for hesitation in starting this crucial conversation of diversity and inclusion is the simple question “How do we start?” Certainly, this is a central question to answer.  I believe to start such an important conversation with your team, the first session should be (1) informative, if not enlightening.  (2) Provides a “line of sight” connectivity from employee’s job responsibilities to how it impacts the company and its customers.  Finally, (3) it must be a “Fun” experience.   

If you are thinking of starting such a crucial conversation with your team but have reservations.  I would like to invite you to join me in a “SHRM Hawaii Sharing” webinar where we will actively explore the “Human Behavioral Roots of Unconscious Biases” and seven simple fun interactive exercises that can be conducted to build awareness and support overcoming these biases in an informative and fun atmosphere.  This session hopefully will provide a foundation towards starting your team to understanding the challenges to cultural diversity in the work place.  


The webinar is on July 1 starting at 12:00 pm until 1:00 pm with an optional 30-minute hands on interactive session following the main presentation.  This webinar was announced earlier and if you have not registered please go to 

In closing, I have provided the links to five SHRM National articles on Unconscious Bias which I hope you will help further your understanding of this most important area of HR.  


Take Care, Stay Safe 

Faustino Dagdag 

President SHRM Hawaii 

3 Steps for Addressing Unconscious Bias at Work 

Tips for Rooting Out Hidden Bias 

Viewpoint: Building a Business Case for Diversity and Inclusion 

6 Steps for Building an Inclusive Workplace 

Study on Bias Reveals Several Types of Discrimination 



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