All Together Now: Diversity at Work

There was one black governor inaugurated this year–Deval Patrick in Massachusetts, only the second in U.S. history. Women are governors in nine states.

“As Massachusetts is becoming more diverse, its government lags behind, resembling the population of three or four decades ago,” a Boston Globe editorial observed. “A new study from UMass-Boston of 163 top positions in state government shows that minorities are underrepresented, and the numbers of Latinos and Asian-Americans in particular are shamefully low,”

The editorial continues: “The government, and especially its leadership, will not reflect the state’s full diversity without a concentrated effort to recruit talented people from all segments of the population, and to assure them that their contributions are needed and welcome.”

Of the top 100 US cities, the minorities have become the majority. They have enormous purchasing power. They’re your customers.

Are they your employees?

Diversity At Work

I read in the New Yorker recently that “in the ‘whitest’ state in the nation, L.L Bean hires many Somali refugees living 20 miles away in Lewiston, Maine, to work at their giant packing facility in Freeport, during peak holiday rush.” Martha Kidd Cyr, L.L. Bean’s, VP Human of Resources, told me that many of these seasonal hourly workers become full time, permanent employees.

“As companies do more and more business around the world, diversity isn’t simply a matter of doing what is fair or good public relations. It’s a business imperative,” writes Carol Hymowitz in The Wall Street Journal.

“Diversity isn’t easy to get right,” she adds. “But when a company strives to create a workforce that mirrors the population of a community, one that is as varied as its customer base, the benefits to all are broad and deep. Diverse employees offer an extraordinarily wide range of proficiencies for doing business (or doing good) in any marketplace.”

Who Makes Up The Diversity Population?

It is clearly African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics, Disabled, Forty Plus, Gay and Lesbian, Native American, Veterans–and yes, Women. Look more closely, and you’ll see:

●Asian Americans are the fastest-growing ethnic group in the U.S., increasing at rates eight times as fast as the general population.

●In the US, Hispanic/Latinos are the largest ethnic minority group.

●African-American purchasing power is approaching $646 billion and Asian-American
buying power is nearly $100 billion.

●The population of Hispanics/Latinos is growing five times as fast as the general population.

●The minority population is projected to surpass the non-minority or non-Hispanic
white population between 2055 and 2060.

●Immigrants account for almost half of Ph.D.-level scientists and engineers in the U.S. and are strong contributors to American technology development.

More Similar Than Different

Last year, Watson Wyatt Worldwide’s. WorkUSA research asked 7500 workers at all job levels across diverse industries to respond to 130 statements about their workplaces. Watson Wyatt broke down the responses to look for diversity patterns across demographics including whites versus minorities, men versus women, and people over and under 30 years old.

The research found more similarities than differences, especially in the categories respondents rated as most important to them. People agreed about what inspires their commitment to a particular employer. The following factors were cited as important:

●They supported their company’s business plan.

●They had a chance to use their skills on the job.

●Their reward package was competitive.

●The company acted on employee suggestions.

There was also agreement on what specific areas organizations needed to improve. Research clearly showed these areas to be: employee input; promoting the best performers; helping the worst performers get better.

Additionally, the employees want to know how their job affects internal and external customers. They want to understand how their job contributes to the accomplishment of company business goals. They want a safe work environment and highly rated products and services.

Recommendations for Diverse Workplace Success

To help insure success, Watson Wyatt recommends that organizations concentrate on four areas with their employees:

●Keep your company effective, winning, and on the right track.

●Help people, supplied with needed resources, use their talents and skills to contribute to the overall accomplishment of organization objectives.

●Respect and value people and recognize and act on their contributions.

●Create an environment in which people have interesting work and enjoy their coworkers.

Best Practices Checklist

The Society for Human Resource Management Diversity Initiative, set up in 1993, has compiled a best practices checklist from observing and participating in the successful implementation of hundreds of inclusivity initiatives.

●Have you made the business case for all of your diversity initiatives?

●Have you done your research internal and external customer data?

●Do you have a workplace inclusivity/diversity advisory or steering committee (ad-hoc employee group?)

●Do you conduct structured group interviews for open management positions?

●Do you have a formal, fully inclusive mentoring program?

●Are you attempting to diversify your recruiting pool while maintaining high standards?

●Are you conducting diversity training for managers, supervisors, and employees?

●Have you completed sexual harassment prevention training for all of your employees?

As workplace diversity continues to gain ground as an organizational strategy, it becomes increasingly more important to collect information that shows the true benefits and impact of your existing or planned diversity initiatives. It may lead you to think more strategically, more futuristically, and more globally about diversity both as a business strategy and a competitive advantage.