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Major Detroit employer finds success in new approach to diversity

A major employer in Detroit saw the ethnicity of its customer base move significantly so action had to be taken.
A major employer in Detroit saw the ethnicity of its customer base move significantly so action had to be taken.
Used by license from

A major employer located in downtown Detroit was experiencing a changing clientele for the second time in its stellar history. It already successfully adjusted itself from a predominantly white clientele to one that was almost 90% African-American but now he found the need to adjust its model to one servicing almost equal parts of African-American, Hispanic and Middle Eastern cultures with a small minority of whites.

The employer want to make sure that all staff members understood how members of the new cultures would react to the current policies and procedures. It was important to them to change the way they do business without running afoul of any laws in their highly regulated business sector.

They felt they needed an expert so they called in Max Impact, an experienced diversity consultant from nearby Rochester Hills. Soon a doctor-like approach was begun to find the underlying causes that emphasize the need to address situation, diagnose the root causes behind those symptoms and then prescribe a solution for a long lasting impact.

Here is what that medical approach to the business situation discovered:

The symptoms.
The symptoms. Used by license from

The symptoms.

Employees were beginning to feel awkward in dealing with specific cultural issues unique to the new ethnicities. Human resources was dealing with employees felt an adequate to properly address the way new customers are reacting to establish policies. At the same time there was a rising complaints from customers who felt mistreated using the same tactics that have been in practice for many years.

While senior staff members had experienced the first shift in ethnicity many had forgotten the experience of working with new cultures. Furthermore many had never looked at diversity as anything other than a black-and-white issue. To them diversity was only a matter of skin color.

Stereotypical views of the new minorities were common and had been shaped by the media instead of personal experience.

The diagnosis.
The diagnosis. Used by license from

The diagnosis.

The entire staff needed to address the situation with a shared understanding and blended approach so as not to disturb the relationships of current African-American clientele while reaching out to the new customer base that was developing.

The racial approach that had worked the first time would not work again as ethnic and religious components were important this time.

Diversity training alone, if properly presented, would provide the staff with what they needed to effectively manage the business shift to the new patrons. However traditional diversity training, which is designed to get people to tolerate each other, would not have the long-term effects that management needed.

The prescription
The prescription Used by license from

The prescription

A training program was developed to first approach the complexity of the elements of everyone’s character. Over 20 separate elements were identified that could easily be related to every individual that would undergo training. The simply training on these differences that every human being shares would not have been effective.

“People need to understand who they are before they can understand why others have developed different beliefs and traditions,” says Max Impact. “Understanding others is very difficult until you understand yourself.”

Once materials had been developed a nucleus of employees across all departments attended the sessions. They quickly became very popular as a sessions were fun and had application both on and off the job.

Future prognosis
Future prognosis Used by license from

Future prognosis

Once the program was completed customer retention levels increased and employee stress and turnover decreased.

“I really did not think I would learn anything through this program,” said one participant. “I thought I knew who I was but was horribly mistaken. Understanding my background as an African-American baby boomer really made me understand and appreciate the differences of the younger employees with whom I work.”

©2014 Max Impact, used with permission.

Diversity resources:

Employment Diversity in Michigan, a human resources networking group on LinkedIn.

Cultural roadmap, look at the contents of the character within each of us.

Cultural Faux Pas and Culture Quizzes are interesting quizzes to test your diversity knowledge.

Max Impact offers free leadership training and development materials.

Keep your workforce motivated with these motivational quotes.

Diversity books and training materials.