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.

Comply With The OFCCP With A Diverse Hiring Strategy

The OFCCP or Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has required that diversity be a top consideration in the hiring process. Depending upon the contract, it can even specify a minimum percentage of minority employees to be hired on the job. Diversity is a must and there are various outdated practices that employers use when it comes to the hiring process.

According to a recent study by InternMatch, approximately 81 percent of companies are going to recruit diverse candidates in 2014. Additionally, about 85 percent of companies are looking to take action to hire women, Latinos and African-American.

There are various ways to recruit and this includes using social media to help with the recruiting process. There are many ethnic groups using social media and this makes it easy to tap into such populations for the purpose of hiring. Approximately 80 percent of Hispanics and 75 percent of African-American use social media while only about 70 percent of whites use it.

Many employers have begun using niche job boards as a way to attract more diverse candidates and there are about 27 percent of Fortune 10000 companies that use on-campus career fairs.

When applications are collected, it’s important to be able to take all of that information and process it appropriately. Many employers have begun using more technology within their HR department in order to obtain an applicant tracking system. This allows the ethnicity to be a search criterion so that HR managers can find the best person for the job and ensure that diversity regulations are met at the same time.

In some instances, there are companies reaching out past the United States in order to hire. This is done not only to add to the diversity but also to tap into other talents that are not found within the U.S. Over 70 percent of the world’s purchasing power is found outside of the country and there are many companies, including Hilton and Microsoft, which tap into talents abroad for their workforce.

There are all sorts of benefits to hiring a diverse workforce. Not only does it help to comply with the OFCCP, it can also add flexibility to the work schedule. Approximately 44 percent of Hispanics and 48 percent of African-American have the ability to adjust a work schedule as needed. This flexibility can help to reduce labor costs by 20 percent or more.

Employers need to look into creating a diverse workforce and it starts with the hiring process. Using technology such as social media and an applicant tracking system can help to show where diversity lies so that the best person is hired for an open position.

Diversity Success Strategies

In today’s fast growing and global economy, businesses risk falling behind as leaders in their key sectors if they continue to be reactive and not proactive in relation to diversity and equality.

By 2010, 50% of the UK workforce in urban areas will come from diverse backgrounds. With the word ‘Global’ following the word ‘Economy’ in almost every business case, diversity a key government initiative companies cannot afford anymore. The following are constantly a reminder of why diversity is key to the success of every business in the UK today:

1. Age discrimination

2. Bullying and harassment

3. Disability

4. Equal pay

5. Ex-offenders

6. Race discrimination

7. Religious discrimination

8. Sex discrimination

9. Sexual orientation

Here at Diversity Success, we focus on developing and equipping people from diverse backgrounds with the soft skills required to help employers gain a competitive edge in today’s global economy while helping employers understand the following:

1. Diversity and the business background
2. Understanding diversity and its effects on employers
3. The impact of diversity on business performance
4. The consequences of failing to manage workforce diversity
5. Key factors that influence the effects of diversity
6. Diversity and the business case
7. Understanding and implementing diversity measures
8. Successfully measuring the impact of diversity to make progress.
9. And using diversity to gain a competitive edge over competitors.

For example, Halifax Building Society increased profits by £130,000 at six branches trialling an older workforce and Nationwide Building Society saved £7million in staff turnover costs by widening the recruitment age.

I met up with Celia Oke, one of UK’s leading Diversity & Equality consultants for the Job Centre Plus and after hours of sharing ideas and opinions, we came up with a number of critical points to implementing a successful diversity and equality strategy.

It is not ground breaking news that we are in the people business and people buy into people before they buy from them. Global diversity has come of age and in today’s constantly changing business environment, a multicultural Britain with different cultural values, beliefs and standards, if you are not recruiting the right people, i.e. people who understand your customers, then you are not ready to succeed in a global and diversified business economy.

In order to increase sales, improve customer loyalty and satisfaction then employers must be proactive in adapting a workforce that spans across time, space, cultures, and geographies.

This means that managing global diversity effectively is imperative for businesses that want to be faster, better, and more cost effective in the chaotic and complex global marketplace.

During my informal chat with Celia Oke, I finally came up to the following 7 conclusions for a successful diversity success strategy:

1. Where the head directs, the body follows:
Global Business thinkers recognise that implementing a diversity success strategy is a business and social opportunity to increase productivity and growth. As a result, it should be high on the priority list when business leaders are determining the financial success and growth of the business. If the head does not direct the body, the body can do nothing. Business leaders must therefore invest the time and money needed to develop, implement, monitor, and review a diversity strategy that will have a positive impact on business, employees, suppliers, customers, products, and services.

2. Birds of the same feather flock together:
In order to win and retain more customers who are constantly from diverse backgrounds, then you need to see, speak, hear and understand their language and way of life. To do this you need a diversified team – A global team that can speak the language and understand the way of life of your customers. Their key role must be to identify, define, design, and launch a successful global diversity initiative for your organisation. Include participants who represent diverse regions, countries, cultures, and languages already existing in your community. Let every implemented initiative be focused on creating a workforce that reflects the economy.

3. Assumption can be the mother of all failures: Knowing your current workforce culture and its effects on previous, current and future customers is key to identifying key diversity issues; globally, regionally, and by country. If your employees cannot engage your customers at all levels, then your competitors could be winning over your customers. Identify the barriers in the environment that prevent people engaging your employees and vice versa. You can do this by working with locals to find out what differences make a difference in their country or region and learning how those differences help or hinder people from performing to peak potential.

4. Communicate don’t tell
A well thought out communication plan must involve learning how to listen to the needs and requirements of employees and customers alike. Consider the responses and not the reactions of local communities by understanding local preferences. This ensures the support of a global diversity initiative. Make sure you understand the business objectives of Senior leaders and be ready to present how a diversity led initiative can help meet their business goals.

5. If you are doing it – Front it
Creating awareness for your diversity led initiatives among employees and communities will secure the success and growth of not only the initiative but also the business. You can do this by educating the workforce to increase awareness and build the skills needed to lead, manage, and team effectively in a globally diverse organization.

6. Accountability can secure proactively
Where people are held accountable, an answer is always expected for every action. If it can be measured, dated and recorded, it can be analysed, assessed and improved. Evidently companies succeed by making their employees and departments accountable. A diversity led initiative should be no different if you are to sustain a successful campaign.

7. Reflect! Reflect!! Reflect!!!
If you have an end date in mind, then you might as well mark that date as a drop in profitability and sales. Globalisation is here today. It’s always been here and it’s not going to go away. To remain in it is to effectively and continually manage your Diversity led initiatives. It is a continual process that is integral to the success and future of the business. An open ended project not a closed one. Always work in terms of outcomes and communicate these outcomes to Senior leaders, departments and the communities involved. Remember, your mission is to sustain the loyalty and satisfaction of your customers. You can only do this by communicating feedbacks to all parties involved.

By Keji Giwa

Other readings:

Managing Diversity for Success

By: Elizabeth K. McArthur

By Doug Harris, Managing Director and Leader,

The Kaleidoscope Group, LLC

ProGroup’s 10 Critical Success Factors for Global Diversity Success


By Norma Carr-Ruffino, Ph.D, Professor of Management at San Francisco State University since 1973