Previous Article / Next Article


Managing Diversity Within Human Services

By Richard Oni

Cultural diversity has been around a long time, though we have perhaps not realized it. The old idea of the United States as a “melting pot” of different cultures all combining to form one has given way to a new idea of a cultural “salad” or “quilt,” one where cultures still maintain their unique qualities and combine to form a large richer world. America is now, and has been since its inception, the destination of choice for immigrants. Two-thirds of all global immigration is into the United States, and most of these immigrants are from contrasting cultures that do not blend readily into American life.

Many human service providers must interact with staff and with people receiving their services who are culturally different from themselves. To foster an environment that positively supports diversity, administrators of provider organizations must address a number of areas. Managing diversity is to create and sustain an organizational environment in which all workers of all kinds can perform well, have opportunities to develop their full potential to contribute to the organization, and are equipped to provide culturally appropriate services to individuals with disabilities and families. The starting point for agencies seeking to effectively manage diversity is in hiring practices.

Agency administrators must make a concerted effort to institute equal employment opportunities and affirmative action in the hiring process. The following suggestions should be considered:

Diversity in hiring must be coupled with training and a long-term commitment to managing diversity. Managing diversity should include the following:

Top management commitment is mandatory for successfully managing diversity in human services. The explicit and implicit signals sent by top management through its support of diversity in leadership, attendance at training programs, promotion of high-visibility diversity projects, and swift and forceful responses to people and practices that stand in the path of accomplishing true multiculturalism in the workplace will determine whether agencies and their staff are successful in providing services for individuals with disabilities in an increasingly multicultural country.

Richard Oni is Director of Progressive Individual Resources, Inc., an agency providing culturally appropriate social services to recent African immigrant families, located in St. Paul, Minnesota. He may be reached at 651/222-6567 or



Previous Article / Next Article

Retrieved from the Web site of the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota ( Citation: Larson, S.A., Hewitt, A., McCulloh, N., LaLiberte, T. & Gaylord, V. (Eds.). (Fall/Winter 2007/08). Impact: Feature Issue on Direct Support Workforce Development, 20(2). [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration].

The PDF version of this Impact, with photos and graphics, is also online at

College logo

The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.