Many employers say they embrace diversity, but few go as far as Aurora Health Care, which requires all employees to attend two diversity educational programs annually, discuss how the training has influenced how they do their jobs and then link their pay to the answers to those questions.
“Our caregivers – which is what we call all of our employees – need to discuss at their annual performance review about how they’ve applied in the workplace what they’ve learned in these modules,” says Paula Stettbacher, manager of human resources for Aurora Health Care.
Aurora Health Care, which has 30,000 employees across Wisconsin, received the 2010 New North People, Possibilities and Progress Diversity Award, sponsored by Kimberly-Clark. About 13 percent of employees are minorities and 35 percent of the organization’s board of directors are either women or minorities.
“Our commitment to diversity is embraced at the top and then cascades throughout the organization,” Stettbacher says. “We are all committed to achieving a diverse workforce by building an inclusive, supportive and discrimination-free environment that engages everyone.”
Aurora’s diversity education program has been in place for more than seven years and modules are added and adapted as time goes on so employees constantly receive new information in different ways so learning is fresh and employees are continually engaged, Stettbacher says.
Stettbacher says it’s important to remember that diversity goes beyond just race, to include differences in religion, sexual orientation and thinking.
“There are differences in thinking style and that’s something we approach in our diversity training,” she says.
The award is an opportunity for other businesses to learn about how to create a more welcoming workplace, says Pamela Lassiter, director of the Office of Equity & Affirmative Action at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and chair of the New North’s Encouraging and Embracing Diverse Talent Committee.
“It’s really about sharing best practices and not only recognizing these organizations, but also making sure that everyone out in the New North can benefit from what they have done and seen what has worked and what hasn’t,” she says of the award.
Diversity plays such an essential role at Aurora because the workplace is a place where people go to receive care, Stettbacher says.
“It’s important to attract and retain the best employees but we also need to be welcoming to all of our patients,” she says.
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