Don’t Overlook the Value of Interpersonal Skills

Diversity executives play an instrumental role in helping employees fully utilize their interpersonal skills to the organization’s advantage. Without strong interpersonal skills, employees are unable to properly interact with colleagues and effectively contribute to their employer. Employees who positively exhibit such skills will ensure their organizations are recognized by others as promoters of diversity and supporters of engagement.

Here are five critical interpersonal skills diversity leaders must leverage within their workforce to achieve organizational success:

Respect. Diversity executives need to teach their employees the importance of respecting co-workers from various backgrounds who exhibit diverse thoughts, ideas and opinions. For example, when an employee proposes an idea during a companywide meeting for her employer to offer one floating holiday for religious purposes per year, co-workers should respect the idea instead of ridicule it. Employees will be more engaged when their recommendation is not only heard, but also respected by their peers.

Active listening. Listening is one thing; actively listening is another. During conversations, active listeners demonstrate a keen attentiveness and deep interest in people’s comments, questions and suggestions.

For instance, if a diversity practitioner is making eye contact and asking pointed questions to an employee who would like to use company property for a monthly Bible study, other employees will see how propositions are valued and worthy of serious consideration. As a result, employees will be more inclined to replicate the positive listening skills exhibited by their diversity leader. By actively comprehending, retaining and responding to conversations, diversity leaders will ensure their employees feel heard, appreciated and engaged.

Effective communication. From decades of talent management research and analyses of millions of employee survey responses, HR Solutions International’s Research Institute found open, effective communication to be a key driver of employee engagement.

Diversity executives who encourage their employees to regularly and honestly communicate with each other about diversity-related issues can reap the benefits of an engaged, loyal workforce. As an example, if an organization is considering encouraging the formation of employee resource groups, diversity executives should talk with staff about what ERGs are, why they are valuable and how they empower employees. Such groups have been found to increase engagement and promote diversity. In addition, the groups can help facilitate an open and regular dialogue between employees.

Sensitivity. Diversity executives need to be aware of and sensitive to the needs and emotions of their employees. The same can be said for employees and their fellow workers. Since employees often bring some of the troubles and challenges they face in their personal lives into the workplace, diversity executives must be adept at educating their staff to understand and appropriately respond to their co-workers’ emotional and mental state.

Sensitivity training brings employees together in a casual setting and gives them an opportunity to freely discuss their biases toward colleagues while learning how to be more aware of other people’s feelings. Diversity executives should view such training as an effective tool for employees to better comprehend their own prejudices and stereotypes.

Conflict resolution. Since organizations employ people with different ethnic, religious and political backgrounds, conflicts within the workplace could be a common occurrence. However, the way in which diversity executives teach employees to resolve such confrontations will determine whether they can be prevented in the future. To improve their employees’ conflict resolution skills and reduce the number of potential disagreements, diversity executives should hold training sessions for their staff where workers can role play a confrontational situation with each other and then discuss how the conflict could have been resolved easier and quicker.

Throughout their career, employees are challenged to utilize their interpersonal skills to effectively perform their jobs and fully embrace the diverse workforce surrounding them. Diversity executives who are capable of engaging and motivating their employees to get along with each other will not only thrive in maintaining a diverse, driven workforce, but also succeed in creating positive business outcomes.

Michael P. Savitt is PR/communications marketing manager at Avatar HR Solutions, a company in the quality improvement services industry. He can be reached at