Management & Operations

Transit officials address complexity of trying to create diverse workforce

Posted on January 1, 2003

Transit officials are seeking ways to include a broader range of employees in their organizations that more accurately reflects the makeup of the surrounding communities and their customer base. Creating a more diverse workforce within an accepting, respectful business environment was discussed during a Webinar in June. The Internet presentation, “Diversity: A Way of Doing Business,” was hosted by the American Public Transportation Association. Kenneth A. Neal, the director of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Office of Civil Rights, presented a strategy for assessing diversity within an organization. The concept of diversity has changed considerably since its beginnings as a race and gender issue, Neal said. The many spokes of diversity include educational status, religion, sexual orientation, age, disabilities and immigrant status. The changing climate of the workforce requires management to implement programs that encourage tolerance of individuals with different interests and backgrounds, Neal said. U.S. census data in 2000 reported that 46% of women of working age were in the workforce, compared to only 33% in 1950. The data also projects that by 2010, the Hispanic labor force will comprise the largest percentage of all workers. These shifts are important to recognize in the transit industry because they affect employee interaction, attitudes and loyalty, said Stephanie Pinson, president and chief operating officer of Gilbert Tweed Associates Inc., a New York recruiting firm. “Diversity, which once meant simply affirmative action, now is a complex and highly strategic topic,” Pinson said. “Diversity recruitment requires special care. With limited pools you need to capture every possible candidate.” Neal suggested conducting employee interviews to identify people’s concerns and fears toward changing demographics in a company. Knowing what the rank and file is thinking is critical for customer relations and productivity. “Our ability to adapt affects our riders, our workforce and our customers,” Neal said. “Achieving diversity with acceptance requires long-range, strategic planning and a strong commitment.” A high level of awareness of the diversity in an organization is key to the successful integration of many different people, said Mary Davis, president and CEO of McGlothin Davis Inc., a human resource management firm. “Employees need the opportunity to have their voices heard,” Davis said. “Communication, both internally and externally, should reflect an awareness of and sensitivity to diverse audiences.”

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