If you've ever applied for any kind of job in your life, you've probably heard the phrase "workplace diversity" more than a few times. We live in a colorful world and just like most companies, the YMCA prides itself on celebrating the things that make us all different. But what does workplace diversity actually mean? How does it work and how might you feel it?
It's a big question and so we did what we always do when we have big questions... we asked our Executive Director, Tony Yee. Click "Read more" to here what he has to say, how he's felt his own uniqueness was appreciated, and what he really looks for in candidates.
If the Y strives for diversity, do you think the Y can be a workplace for anyone?
The Y is an organization that strives to serve all in the community, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, as a workplace, the Y isn’t and shouldn’t be necessarily for anyone.
There’s a certain level of intrinsic commitment and altruism needed, no matter what position you hold in the Y. That being said, there are probably many people out there who might not realize that the Y would be a challenging and rewarding place to work.
There are many kinds of minds and perspectives that are absolutely necessary to our success. Many might not notice that each day it takes a diverse array of professionals to help our community. We need everyone from the nurturing educator to the shrewd strategist, from the motivational trainer to the analytical accountant, and from the rooted stalwart to the hopeful newcomer.
Looking at the bigger picture what does "workplace diversity" really mean at the Kaimuki YMCA?
That’s a big question. I like the fact that at the Y we have the opportunity to continually challenge ourselves to think about diversity on many planes. While race, age, and gender identity tend to be top of mind these days, we also try to reflect upon our preset notions of educational background, communication styles, and economic backgrounds.
We all have biases around these areas and it is actually quite rewarding to uncover ways around the traps our brains sometimes set for us. While this can sometimes seem like a daunting task, many times progress takes form in small steps. There are little tweaks to our everyday routine that can make a difference. For example: Can we always have at least two person’s perspectives, when we assess a candidate? Have I talked to someone today who I normally wouldn’t approach? What if we remove indications of gender and age when we review job applications?
Workplace diversity to me is definitely more of a journey than a destination. I don’t think we should ever come to a point where we look around one day and say, “Ok, we’re diverse enough now.”
What are some of the qualities you truly look for in candidates for the Kaimuki YMCA?
This may come off as a little dry and analytical, but I look for something in the candidate's past that shows overall excellence and more specifically aptitude for the job that they are applying for. Also as I mentioned earlier, that intrinsic drive to serve others is a quality we seek across the board.
I always push to have a second person’s opinion whenever we assess potential employees. I feel really fortunate that the people I work with at the Y feel comfortable to voice their own perspectives objectively, even if they disagree. It’s proven to make a difference when we consider job candidates. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been proven wrong before, both ways. I’ve seen my share of seemingly ideal candidates turn out to be duds, and also initially questionable hires become all-stars.
Can you give any other examples of staff who are celebrated for their uniqueness?
We just held a recognition luncheon for our front line staff who exhibited excellent customer service while being secretly shopped. While it was a sizeable group from many different branches, I appreciated that time was taken to mention something specific about each individual in celebration of what they individually contribute to our community.
How to recognize staff in ways that are authentic and that serve a greater purpose makes a big difference in any workplace. It’s sometimes a fine line between creating a motivational workplace culture around genuine achievement and the easy pitfall of overemphasizing awards to where the accolade overshadows the accomplishment.
That luncheon I mentioned has been held six times now and thankfully it is a good example of the former. After talking story with some of the awardees, it was evident that they are motivated by service to the community and that the recognition was a byproduct. I guess having that intrinsic motivation loops back to the earlier question around what kind of employees we look for at the Y.
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