Managing Generational Diversity – 7 New Rules That Can Help!

I am a Baby Boomer – born between 1945 and 1964. When I was growing up, there were lots and lots of us. This did not seem at all problematic. The sandbox (and swing-sets and teeter-totters and merry-go-rounds) were crowded with kids. We learned to wait our turn, and we learned that we sometimes needed to compete for the things we wanted. We learned that drive, ambition, and hard work were necessary to succeed. We learned to value lifelong learning and to expect a few “hard lessons” along the way.

In the workplace, Baby Boomers developed a love for structured systems, consistency, prescribed procedures, and measurable outcomes. Baby Boomer leaders were instrumental in the creation of job descriptions, quality assurance programs, business plans, multi-layered organizational charts, detailed policy manuals, finely tuned financial systems, management-by-objectives, performance appraisals, and strategic plans. Skipping any of these essential components of organizational life was like inviting deliberate failure. Even management guru Peter Drucker was on Boomers’ side, saying, “That which gets measured gets done.”

Many Generation Xs (born between 1965 and 1980, a generation younger than Baby Boomers) think it’s about time that things begin to change. Some of the old rules no longer seem to be a good fit. Some hope that Boomers’ days of “ruling the world” are numbered!

Traditionalists (born between 1920 and 1945 – a generation older than Boomers) have learned tolerance. They laugh because they are happy to let Boomers do as they please. Traditionalists know that if they don’t like Boomers’ rules, they can find a different employer.

And Generation Ys (born between 1981 and 2000) have just entered onto the employment scene and are looking for mentoring and effective role models. Some see Boomers as over-worked, over-controlling, and structure- obsessed – not the role models they are looking for!

Emerging New Ways of Work

In the not too distant future, the long-held “chain of command” will give way to a “change of command.” As of this writing, the youngest Boomers are in their mid-forties. Twenty years from now, few Boomers will still be working. There is evidence that this generation is increasingly valuing work-life balance. Retirement, semi-retirement, or major career changes are highly likely for many Boomers over the next few years.

Who, then, will lead our organizations in the decades ahead? What values will they bring to the workplace? What will change and what will remain the same? What will the “new rules” be? What adjustments will we need to make as the new rules take hold and reshape our workplaces?

New Rule #1: Create flexibility.

Although Gen X and Gen Y are leading the flexibility movement, Baby Boomers and Traditionalists tell us that they need flexibility too, but for different reasons. A Gen X mother of two who is employed full-time needs flexible scheduling, some give and take about starting time in her work day, and flexible personal leave to accommodate children’s illnesses, school events, and volunteer commitments. A 60-year-old Baby Boomer employee may need flexible scheduling to allow for winter travel and time with grandchildren! Gen Ys want flexibility to pursue educational, personal, and recreational interests. Traditionalists and Gen Ys, who (generationally speaking) share a grandparent-grandchild relationship, often have surprisingly similar needs and interests.

New Rule #2: Support work-life balance.

Fifty (50) percent of Gen Xs were raised in single-parent families. Not surprisingly, Gen Xs say they place a high value on family life and personal balance. Gen Ys want work-life balance, too. They love to play, and play costs money. For this generation, work brings money to buy stuff and go places! Most Boomers have had a lifetime of commitment to hard work and long hours. In increasing numbers they are asking “Is that all there is?” Sabbaticals, reduced hours on the job, partial retirement and major career change are all examples of Boomers’ life-balancing strategies. Employers must not only say they value employees’ work-life balance, they must also walk their talk with policies and practices offering a range of options to encourage balance for all employees.

New Rule #3: Improve employee retention.

Well-lead organizations embrace practices that encourage employees to stay with the organization. Retention has a positive impact on customer service, morale, product quality and on the bottom line. It costs far less to retain a current employee than it does to hire and train a new one.

Conducting annual staff satisfaction surveys and analyzing the data by generational cohorts will help your organization understand and deliver what employees need to stay. The factors that influence retention are complex. Rewards and recognition programs are part of the picture, however, effective management practices are generally more effective for influencing retention than are rewards.

New Rule #4: Create cross-generational recruitment strategies.

Each generation is attracted to different qualities in an employer. Recruitment practices must reflect these preferences. Advertisements run in the local paper are not likely to attract Gen Xs or Ys, who are much more likely to search the Internet, use social networking sites or consult their friends for job leads. Asking younger generations to send resumes by mail communicates that you are an “old school” employer. Phrases in advertisements such as “Only successful applicants will be contacted” and “No telephone inquiries please” are depersonalizing and likely to drive candidates to other employers. A long list of applicant “musts” without any employer “give back” tells potential applicants that the employer doesn’t understand younger employees’ expectations of partnership between the employer and employees.

New Rule #5: Provide coaching, mentoring, and career planning.

Learning and career growth are especially important for Gen Ys and Gen Xs. However, many Boomers and Traditionalists value lifelong learning too. Career change is increasingly common among older employees who, at age 55+, want jobs that are rewarding in ways that are not just monetary. There are substantial generational differences regarding the importance of promotions and upward career paths. Traditionalists and Boomers generally value promotions and advancement less than Gen Ys and Gen Xs. Gen Ys and some Gen Xs are as keen as Boomers used to be regarding career advancement. Organizations that hope to attract and keep these generations must make systematic coaching, mentoring, and career planning programs available to any employee of any generation.

New Rule #6: Invest in supervisors and insist on supervision.

Anyone who supervises others must be skilled in managing both things (tasks, projects, problems) and people. Most people in supervisory or managerial roles were first trained in another skill. For example, all school principals were teachers first. Supervising people often requires skills that differ significantly from a supervisor’s first area of expertise. Employers cannot parachute a loyal, hard-working employee from the line into a management position and expect him or her to instantly know how to supervise effectively. Employers must invest in training and coaching supervisors and give them the support they need to do their jobs.

New Rule #7: Manage change effectively.

Change is ubiquitous within organizations. Effective change management is essential for employee recruitment and retention. Change management includes enabling people affected by change (including clients or customers and employees at all levels) to make the transition from what was to what will be. Each generation (and each individual within them) will have different reactions to change that must be anticipated and accommodated by employers.

A New Strategy on Diversity: Aligning Leadership and Organizational Culture

The Diversity Initiative

Speaking at a National Naval Officers Association Conference, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Mullen stated “diversity continues to be a leadership issue and critical to the Navy’s future success.” Everyone is familiar with the traditional challenges of diversity. However, concepts of diversity have evolved from inclusion and tolerance, to managing diversity, and recognizing the link between diversity and the emerging complexity of organizations such as the Navy. “A complex environment is one characterized by multiple critical elements that differ significantly.” Complexities such as joint collaborations, emerging technology, and globalization contribute to the challenges of organizational diversity within the Navy. Culture is not created by declaration; it derives from expectations focused on winning. We can only have a culture that encourages performance if we recruit the right people, require them to behave in a way that is consistent with the values the Navy espouses, and implement processes that will allow the Navy to be successful.

Differences of any kind make the task more complex. Differences such as proficiency in the use of technology or differences among warfare communities (i.e. Supply Corps, Aviators, Surface, etc.) will contribute to organizational complexity. If the Navy wishes to remain competitive in this complex environment, we must adopt “complex managerial strategies” drawn from multiple strategies.

If we accept that the leader’s job is to inspire and support the collective responsibility to create a better future for the Navy, then what are the tools to effectiveness? What characteristics must naval leaders have for this mission? There are key principles we must consider while striving to improve leader-follower relationships. First, organizational design affects culture which in turn impacts strategy formation. Second, leaders must have an understanding of their organization’s culture in order to identify the obstacles to effective leadership. Finally, by aligning the Navy’s organizational design and diversity strategy with culture leaders can modify their behavioral styles for desired outcomes by utilizing tools that engage sailors. In summary, I will identify obstacles to diversity and measures of effectiveness that commanders can implement to manage diversity.

IMPACT OF ORGANIZATIONAL DESIGN ON DIVERSITY

The task of managing diversity in today’s rapidly changing environment is becoming progressively more difficult. Of course increasingly dissimilar kinds of people are entering the Navy and demanding different treatment. But some underlying forces are also present and pushing toward needed unity. Some of the reasons that spurn the need for diversity management include: “misunderstanding or distortion of affirmative action requirements,” the expectation that “only one group needs to change,” or an “appearance of ‘political correctness’ that can put off those with differing views.”

Though the increased existence of cultural differences within the Navy is a fact, there is also a culture that is already present. The Navy is a subculture of identifiable traditions and a strong national culture. This cultural foundation forms a viable base for mutual action, trust and support. It can help commanders build unity among their sailors. “The reporting relationships, business practices, policies, and even the physical structure of any workplace are based on the cumulative experiences of that organization.” The culture we know today is a result of the people who have made up the Navy over time, the larger culture they have created, and the total context in which we operate.

Leadership for diversity is an integrative activity that proposes one value system, one culture, around which many people can gather to accomplish useful results. “[Diversity management] requires the ability to think and act in certain ways, and that is what ensures that it is doable.” The Navy must accept the good values and reject those values and behaviors that are undesirable. Many cultures include values, ideals or behavior that work against effective, coordinated performance. While most would agree in that understanding the role of culture and other variables is important in a range of arenas.

However, in practice people often report that they experience “great discomfort when confronted with the need to discuss these issues and even greater discomfort when the discussion leads to an examination of the social inequities that are associated with membership in certain groups.” For example, American society typically does not accept cultural values that regard punctuality as unimportant or that condone nepotism; nor does it condone bribery, child labor or a host of other determined values or behaviors. These examples of unacceptable values are inimical to efficient interpersonal relationships.

As more people are entering the Navy with different cultural backgrounds, the pressure is on the corporate culture of the Navy to change. “In an effort to recruit and keep top-tier employees of all races and both genders, Fortune 500 companies have begun to address diversity issues in the workplace.” Established business expectations, rites and rituals will have to be altered for the new but different sailor; and some of the present cultural systems may need to be discarded. Navy leaders have a special responsibility with regards to diversity. “Not only must you develop yourself to handle the many diverse situations that occur in the workplace, you also are called upon to be a diversity leader– to help create a climate that values diversity, fairness, and inclusion.” As the Navy continues its transformation into the 21 century, leaders must consider how diversity will affect our strategic planning and policies.

IMPACT OF DIVERSITY ON STRATEGY FORMATION

The most important attribute of any planning team is its diversity. This diversity, however, is not about being politically correct or sensitive to a broad representation of sailors. The impact of diversity on strategy formation is not just to avoid age or gender discrimination lawsuits. Successful strategic planning depends on the team’s ability to ask new questions, perceive new insights, and imagine new solutions. It’s difficult for a group of individuals who share similar backgrounds, thinking styles, and experiences to think new thoughts. “Strategy innovation is a creative process, with a goal to identify markets, products, and business models that may not yet exist.”

“A lack of genuine diversity may be the biggest obstacle to improved performance within the [Navy].” If wardrooms are full of too many similar people, from similar backgrounds, who have ascended through similar routes then our diversity strategy is bound for failure. “The best ways for any organization to affirm that it has sufficient diversity is to ensure that the top management team is comprised of individuals with varied sets of skills.”

ALIGNING STRATEGY & DESIGN WITH CULTURE

The Navy must create a new value system that supersedes values that are now inappropriate due to increased diversity. Of course all Americans should be open to new values and alternative ways to behave. But we need to match these alternative prospects with what we have now and only change when we are sure the change will add to the organizational design – new visions and values should not take us away from clear societal goals. Naval leaders must be in the vanguard of this change. They shape new cultures and redefine what’s acceptable within the Navy and for their sailors.
The goal of the Navy’s new Diversity initiative is about drawing the best talent from all aspect of American culture.

The Navy’s diversity initiative provides a strategic framework that is broken down into four areas; recruiting – who the Navy brings in; training and development – how the Navy instills values; organizational alignment – how the Navy continues the momentum of cultural change; and communications – how the Navy informs the fleet of where we’re headed. Admiral Mike Mullen’s address during the Total Force Diversity Day made it clear that the importance of diversity at every level in the Navy is a “strategic imperative” and reminded the attendees that the Navy is engaged around the globe. His efforts remind us that the Navy’s diversity strategy rests on the shoulders of our leaders and will only be as strong as their capacity to strive for successful results.

LEADERSHIP BEHAVIORS FOR DESIRED OUTCOMES

Two Scholars on leadership, James Kouzes and Barry Posner, conducted research on follower expectations by surveying thousands of business and government executives. They asked open-ended questions such as “What values do you look for and admire in your leader?” Four characteristics have consistently stood out among the rest: honesty, vision, competence, and inspiration. Leaders need to develop skills in accepting and using different people and methods to add to the Navy’s capacity to survive in a growing and increasingly complex world. We need to suppress feelings of fear and antagonism and increase the capacity to accept differences. Most importantly, we need to be proactive in seeking leadership training in situations of cultural diversity.

Honesty

“It’s clear that if people anywhere are to willingly follow someone – whether it be into battle or into the boardroom, the front office or the front lines – they first want to assure themselves that the person is worthy of their trust.” Creating and maintaining a culture conducive of trust is becoming more difficult today. The character of the Navy is changing: becoming more diverse and less harmonious. The people coming into our organizations enter with different values and customs. These cultural differences in the people making up the Navy pose major problems in developing a culture of trust. Diversity itself makes the task of developing leadership more difficult.

Every sailor must put off falsehood and speak truthfully, “for we are all members of one body.” Honesty is achieved through Discretion and truthfulness. Discretion keeps our minds and focus on sound judgment, giving serious attention and thought to what is going on. It will carefully choose our words, attitudes, and actions to be right for any given situation, thus avoiding words and actions that could result in adverse consequences. Truthfulness means being straight with others and doing what is right. “It’s after we have contemplated our own actions, measuring how they align with our values, intentions, and words, that we are most likely to make a contribution of integrity to the world.”

Forward-Looking

From an organizational perspective, “leaders need to continually put the vision and mission (related to the purpose) in front of followers.” Sailors must understand the organization’s vision and know their role in support of the mission. Sailors expect leaders to have a “sense of direction and concern” for the future of the Navy. The leader’s role is to build a team out of different individuals. We distinguish leaders by the fact that they provide the vision around which group consensus can be sought. Leaders can lead only united, compatible colleagues who, in essence, volunteer to accept the leader’s values and methods. This is contrary to the prevalent view that a consensus-seeking process can ascertain vision. Common visions result from articulation by one person of ideals that the larger group can come to accept. The growing diversity in the Navy challenges the leader’s ability to lead “unless he or she can induce increasingly diverse people to accept common values, one vision and similar perspectives.”

Competence

Leadership is more than commanding authority and giving orders, it is people who understand and practice the art of listening and who make building trust a priority. In order to assure a productive work environment where sailors take responsibility, Navy leaders must posses and effectively demonstrate competence. Competent leaders have the ability to bring out the best in others. To enlist in another’s cause, sailors must believe that the person is competent and able to guide us in the right direction. “We must see the leader as capable and effective.”

Inspiration

Inspiration is the psychological feature that arouses someone to take action toward a desired goal. “Inspiring Leadership speaks to our need to have meaning and purpose in our lives.” Stimulation of the mind (spiritually and emotionally) to a high level of feeling or activity can only be accomplished through inspiration. Commanders can inspire sailors by relying not on their own understanding but rather on something greater than themselves. As the Apostle Paul declared “… we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.”

Commanders inspire commitment by looking inward first, becoming aware of how they feel, and communicating a personal vision of the future based on personal knowledge of the past and realistic experience in the present. Focusing on the themes of your own consciousness should be what really drives leaders. “Leaders who develop their message only on the basis of what others might want invariably play to others and only try to please them.” Reactions to leaders will be different depending on the focus of the communication. If leaders only perform to others’ standards, sailors may be entertained, but if leaders communicate with authentic passion, sailors will respond with excitement and grasp a new and real possibility from an authentic experience.

Dynamics of Diversity

The success of the Navy’s increased efforts in diversity will require a firm understanding of the dynamics of diversity. Many diversity strategies are successful because they take into account the ‘Dynamics’ that contribute to the need for diversity management programs. The merging of job ratings, problems with co-workers, and technology can contribute to dynamics.

Technology, for example, allows the Navy to operate globally with coalition forces, but the sailors must become adept in dealing with cultural differences without non-verbal cues provided by face-to-face communications received by liaison officers. The relevance of diversity management initiatives also affects these dynamics. Different corporate or social cultures must co-exist – such as one group with the same functional expertise of a merged job rating seeks dominance of those who are skilled in other fields, resulting in talent mass exodus. The dynamics of diversity has made it increasingly important for the Navy not only to “minimize cultural errors but also to understand and work with people of various backgrounds.”

Champions of Diversity

Because of the nature of hierarchy and use of power and authority within the Navy, the process of managing diversity must begin at the top. Seeing a direct relationship between diversity and mission readiness, former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Vern Clark expanded the traditional Navy’s focus of diversity beyond race and gender, and folded in a “Sailor’s creativity, culture, ethnicity, religion, skills and talents.” As managing diversity moves to the forefront of the Navy’s organizational development, processes must be developed that allow the commitments to become institutionalized within the organizational structure. Efforts devoted to education and awareness must be closely followed by processes that create systematic change. One recommended model is “champion of diversity model”. Under this model, the Navy would identify the elements of the culture and climate that leads to the development of an educated, committed, and systematically supported group of Navy leaders of the diversity change process. Whether it is education, training, or simple awareness Navy leaders have to ‘champion’ diversity.

MEASURE WHAT MATTERS

Diversity Management is about how we make decisions in situations where there are critical differences, similarities, and tensions. Roosevelt Thomas, author of Building on the Promise of Diversity, identified three critical questions that will help any organization in the journey towards diversity. First, what is a quality decision? A “quality decision”, according to Thomas, is one that helps to accomplish three important goals: mission, vision, and strategy. Second, what constitutes significant differences, similarities, and tensions? Another way of asking this question is how do leaders know what mixture if diverse? Are we concerned about race, gender, ethnicity, geographic origin, religion? How do leaders know what level of diversity is right for their organization? We can’t tell just by looking at people. We must first specify which dimensions we consider significant. And for every significant dimension, the first core question should be how different or similar are the members of the mixture? Leaders must know what mixture they currently have and identify which dimensions are important. The third question Thomas suggested is: Where could we use “strategic diversity management?” Once leaders have identified the potential gaps, they can then begin to recruit to fill them.

The Chief of Naval Personnel stood up the “Fleet Diversity Council” which meets semi-annually to discuss the diversity strategy for our sailors and civilian employees. It provides a forum for unfiltered dialogue about diversity related initiatives and issues and whether or not they are working. The council provides feedback to the Chief of Naval Operations as well as communications to the fleet. Throughout this I’ve made it clear that diversity is a leadership issue. This is largely due to both the wide variety of diversity that there is in the Navy, and the impact that diversity can have on so many aspects of organizational and individual behavior. However, this does not remove the responsibility from individual sailors nor the requirement for life long learning.

We’ve Still Got a Lot to Learn

My experience of diversity training has often been that people attend such training with the view that there is little that they can learn about diversity. So there is a challenge to us all to assess what we still have to learn about diversity and to meet that challenge with openness and a willingness to learn. “People will only effectively learn about diversity if they are prepared to take risks in their learning.” It is not a comfortable feeling to learn that we have prejudices we need to deal with. It is not easy to find that our own view of the world is just one of many, and those other views are equally valid. We all have a great deal to learn about diversity. Not just a better understanding of the reality of diversity in the Navy, but also the issues that this raises. If our Navy is to be a reflection of our society, then naval leaders must strive to understand the reality of diversity in our society as well.

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1. Chief of Naval Operations (August 12, 2005)on “Diversity is a Leadership Issue.” 33rd annual National Naval Officers Association (NNOA) Conference in New Orleans LA. Chief of Naval Operations Public Affairs http://www.news.navy.mil/local/cno/

2. Thomas, R. R. (1996). Redefining Diversity. New York, NY: AMACOM Books. p. 192.

3. Hamm, J. (May 1, 2006). The Five Messages Leaders Must Manage. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Article. p. 3.

4. Thomas, (1996) “Redefining Diversity”: p. 192.

5. Karsten, M. F. (2006). Management, Gender, and Race in the 21st Century. Lanham, MA: University Press of America, Inc. p. 96-103.

6. Cross, E. Y. and White, M. B. (1996). The Diversity Factor. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill. p. 25.

7. Thomas, R. R. Jr. (2005). Building on the Promise of Diversity: How We Can Move to the Next Level in Our Workplaces, Our Communities, and Our Society. Saranac Lake, NY, USA: AMACOM. P. 103. Retrieved July 9, 2006, from http://site.ebrary.com/lib/regent/Doc?id=10120209&ppg=121.

8. Robinson, John D.(Editor). (2003). Diversity in Human Interactions : The Tapestry of America. Cary, NC, USA: Oxford University Press, Incorporated. P. 8.

9. Pollar, Odette. (1994). Dynamics of Diversity: Strategic Programs for Your Organization. Boston, MA: Course Technology Crisp. P. 9.

10. Lieberman, Simma. (2003). Putting Diversity to Work: How to Successful Lead a Diverse Workforce. Menlo Park, CA, USA: Course Technology Crisp. P. 38.

11. Johnston, Robert E. (2003). Power of Strategy Innovation: A New Way of Linking Creativity and Strategic Planning to Discover Great Business Opportunities. Saranac Lake, NY: AMACOM. p. 86.

12. Stern, Stefan (2006). A Vigorous ‘Human Audit’ is Good for the Top Table. Financial Times, June 26, 2006. p. 79.

13. Weinzimmer, Laurence G. (2001). Fast Growth: How to Attain It, How to Sustain It. Chicago, IL, USA: Dearborn Trade, A Kaplan Professional Company. p. 134.

14. Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Mullen addressed a packed audience at the Naval Air Systems Command Total Force Diversity Day June 29, 2006 at Patuxent River, MD. CNO Calls “Diversity a Strategic Imperative.” from Chief of Naval Operations Public Affairs http://www.news.navy.mil/local/cno/

15. Kouzes, J. M. and Posner, B. Z. (2002). The Leadership Challenge. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. p. 24.

16. Kouzes, “The Leadership Challenge”: p. 27.

17. Holy Bible (1985). King James Version Study Bible. Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan. Ephesians 4:25.

18. Sherman, Stratford (2003). Rethinking Integrity. Leader to Leader, No. 28

19. Winston, Bruce (2002). Be a Leader for God’s Sake. Regent University, School of Leadership Studies. Virginia Beach, Virginia.

20. Kouzes, “The Leadership Challenge”: p. 28.

21. Fairholm, Gilbert W. (1998). Perspectives on Leadership: From the Science of Management to Its Spiritual Heart. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated. p. 103.

22. Kouzes, “The Leadership Challenge”: p. 29.

23. Kouzes, “The Leadership Challenge”: p. 31.

24. Holy Bible (1985). King James Version: I Corinthians 2:13.

25. Pearce, Terry (2003). Leading Out Loud: Inspiring Change through Authentic Communication. San Francisco, CA. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p. 16.

26. Karsten, Management, Gender, and Race in the 21st Century: p. 100.

27. Suich, K. (2004). Navy Diversity Directorate Formed. Navy Personnel Command, Public Affairs. Story Number: NNS040625-20. Retrieved Electronically 24 June 2006 http://www.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=13469.

28. Cross, “The Diversity Factor”: p. 57.

29. Thomas, (2005). “Building on the Promise of Diversity”: p. 103 – 105.

30. In support of the CNO’s Strategy for our People, the Chief of Naval Personnel has stood up the Fleet Diversity Council. It will provide a forum for unfiltered feedback to the CNO about diversity related initiatives and issues, and how they are working or not working in the fleet. http://www.npc.navy.mil/CommandSupport/Diversity/Fleet+Diversity+Council.htm

31. Clements, Phillip Edward. (2006). Diversity Training Handbook: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Changing Attitudes. London, GBR: Kogan Page, Limited. P. 100.

Diversity in the Boardroom

Organizations with diversity initiatives in management and directorship roles are better equipped to reflect the increasingly diverse profile of the markets and communities where they operate. Because of this, they are more responsive to new ideas and programs that attract the patronage and loyalty of a wider range of people.

Company boards composed of diverse backgrounds also gain broader perspectives on decision making and direction setting for the organization, and are more inclined to offer creative approaches in dealing with business issues presented by a rapidly changing economic landscape. Positive images and feelings towards organizations that embrace diversity will also lead to stronger relationships with investors, employees, government and the general public.

Because of these advantages, more and more companies are beginning to adopt diversity hiring programs to beef up their leadership and management levels with talent from a wider range of backgrounds.

Diverse Talent Pool: Where to Look

Senior level recruiting is difficult in itself, but diversity-oriented hiring is even more complicated due to cultural sensitivities, stiff competition for talent and lack of organizational expertise in this area. Because of this, organizations of all sizes are increasingly relying on third party executive search firms to help them identify, attract and select candidates who fulfill their diversity criteria.

Executive search firms that specialize in diversity search projects can address these unique challenges head on. Their main goal is to find people with the required skills and experience and can contribute to further diversifying the leadership of their client organizations. But attracting the interest of these candidates and ensuring that they are a good fit with the companies in need of them is a more complicated task. The best candidates may have limited availability for new commitments to another organization, and they want to make sure that the hiring organization has a sincere commitment to diversity.

Selecting an Executive Search Firm

Businesses with a well-run diversity program can teach other organizations a thing or two about selecting an executive search firm for their diversity search assignments. For one, they are known to stick to firms with demonstrable experience in conducting specialized diversity search projects. They also ensure that they have a good cultural fit with the search firm they hire, and are able to communicate their diversity objectives and specifications clearly.

The following pointers will also help organizations in selecting the right search firm for their diversity hiring programs:

  • Demonstrated experience in successfully identifying and attracting diversity candidates
  • Understanding of the unique requirements of diversity recruitment
  • Affiliation with reputable industry and business organizations
  • Sound and ethical candidate search and screening strategies
  • Strict confidence and discreetness during negotiations

There’s no doubt that a diverse workforce and leadership can help propel businesses of all sizes and industries to better cope with a rapidly changing world. Partnering with an executive search firm experienced in diversity recruitment will significantly help turn this goal into a reality.