Safety 2011: Embracing Diversity to Achieve Organizational Goals

In Britain, employees don’t take lunch breaks – instead, they bring food to their desks and continue working. The French go out to lunch; the Dutch eat at their desks but don’t answer the phone. In lieu of a lunch hour, Spaniards leave for an afternoon siesta. Richard Cooper, MSc, CMIOSH, told ASSE Safety 2011 attendees that these varying routines demonstrate a national, cultural identity that can bring strengths into the workplace.

Cooper, a senior manager of safety, health, environment and quality assurance – Europe for Global Crossing, opened his lively session at Safety 2011 by asking, “First of all, can everyone understand my accent?” It was an appropriate icebreaker for the Englishman to pose to the audience in a diversity session.

Global Crossing, Cooper explained, operates in countries around the world and embraces bringing different perspective to the table. “Everyone knows variety is the spice of life,” he said. “If you had a steak meal every day of your life, you’d be bored of it.”

Cooper pointed out that every safety professional would agree that safety should be integral to the workplace. So why, he wondered, did we think of diversity in a different way?

“Diversity is integral to the workplace,” he explained. “The person who sits next to you has a different life, different feelings, different views on life. If you celebrate that, you can stop groupthink.”

Cooper stressed that Global Crossing’s leadership sees diversity not as an obstacle or an issue of legal compliance, but as an element that can enhance a business. By embracing diversity, Global Crossing is better able to achieve organizational goals – and it’s a strategy Cooper thinks other companies can benefit from, too.

“We acknowledge that we have a diverse work force – from South America to Europe to Asia, [and] we bring those perspectives together,” Cooper said. “We strive to see that diversity and ethical issues are embedded in business itself.”

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