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I went to a fantastic conference last week sponsored by the Human Resources Association of Greater Detroit and this very topic was addressed by the keynote speaker, Dr. Shirley Davis. Dr Davis is the Chief Diversity Officer of SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management), headquartered in Washington DC. To say she’s passionate about creating inclusive environments is an understatement. And she’s passionate about going about it in the most logical way possible: to present the business case. Here are some facts that she shared with us:

  • As our baby-boomers are leaving the workforce, we’ll see a disproportionate number of positions that require highly educated, talented professionals. Many of these workers will be from culturally diverse backgrounds.
  • When workers feel marginalized or under-appreciated, rates of attrition rise. The cost of providing professional development training to a current employee far outweighs the cost of a new hire.
  • Members of our new-immigrant workforce bring to industry unique vantage points. Their innovations and perspectives leads to product development that better reflect the wants and needs of diverse populations…populations with rising purchasing power. According to recent data, as of 2007 the Asian American Market had $400 billion of spendable income; the Hispanic Market had $982 billion.

What does any of this have to do with accent neutralization or accent comprehension training? My thinking goes as follows…

Diversity refers to numbers-increasing the number of personnel from diverse backgrounds. Inclusion refers to getting each constituent of a diverse workforce to work together effectively, productively, and in ways that benefit both the organization and its employees. Communication is a two way street (it takes both a speaker and a listener) and it’s a key determinant of job performance. When we provide accent reduction on one side of the yellow line and accent comprehension on the other, the junctions become ‘roadblock free’. Performance goes up as does an organizations’ bottom line.

So, from an ethical standpoint, is it essential to provide professional development training in order to help every member of our diverse workforce advance? Of course it is. It’s also sound business strategy.