The phrase “Diversity & Inclusion” is a hot HR priority right now, but what does it really mean? Without an actionable plan in place, it runs the risk of being just one more catch-all phrase—well-intentioned but poorly realized.
On paper, diversity means the inclusion of different types of people (as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization. In broad terms, diversity is any element that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another. Inclusion, by definition, is a state of being valued, respected, and supported. In simple terms, diversity is the mix; inclusion is getting the mix to work well together. Why are both so important to the workplace?
Diversity as a Secret Weapon
A diverse workforce is a critical component to the longevity of an organization. The Department of Labor (DOL) predicts that by 2050, minorities will represent one in every two Americans. Furthermore, the Hispanic population will likely become the largest minority group in the country. These changes in demographics, among many others, will make for much more diverse candidate pools.
Experts agree that diversity is an asset for any and all types of organizations. A global study from McKinsey Quarterly found that companies with more diverse executive boards experienced better financial performance, both in return on equity (ROE) and earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT). Since our overall population is diverse, you can bet your future clientele will be diverse too. Why shouldn’t your own workplace reflect that diversity and offer more varied strategic thinking?
Organizations that take full advantage of a diverse staff before their competition will ultimately find it much easier to tackle future challenges in their industry—and can adapt their organizational culture more successfully.
Recruiting for Diversity
If your organization is committed to diversity, then diversity in recruiting must be one of your top priorities. Managers should be actively looking for qualified minority candidates among both solicited and unsolicited resumes. Implementing and maintaining an EEO policy according to EEOC guidelines is a great step in committing your organization to diversity, but it’s not the only one. The Center for Association Leadership (ASAE) provides a great list of important steps to successfully increase diversity among your candidacy:
- Establish networks with minority colleges, professional associations, and minority organizations – Your recruiting department should connect with as many minority networks as possible. This includes local colleges, organizations, and social groups. These institutions may have a wealth of qualified members or connections that your organization may not be able to reach through job boards.
- Sponsor job fairs in minority communities – Contact local venues to sponsor job fairs or get involved in local job fairs already established. Be sure to send employees that are enthusiastic about your organization and are able to emphasize positive points about its culture and opportunities.
- Publish job posts in minority publications and websites – Be sure to submit job postings to minority publications and websites like Diversity Employment Exchange. These sources will allow you to reach a greater number of minority job applicants.
- Encourage referrals among your current minority groups already employed at the organization – Employee referrals are a great way to gain qualified candidates. Implement a diversity campaign that encourages and rewards referrals from your current minority staff.
The ugly side of diversity is that many times recruiters judge a resume or job candidate by their name rather than by the skills and education of the candidate. It happens more often than we would like to think. Scientific American recently discussed a study where academic psychologists were more likely to recommend a male job applicant over a female with the exact same record. In a 2009 New York Times article, two African-American women discussed abbreviating their names to appear more Caucasian because they felt they were called in for more interviews.
The good news is that when diversity is a priority, we have everything to gain. Today’s enlightened organizations train and remind their recruiters and hiring managers that resumes should only be assessed on job qualifications. Name biases can soon become a thing of the past. Diversity starts—and succeeds—through the recruiting process, and only if it’s a top priority throughout the company. From ROI to industry adaptability to the best company cultures, there seems to only be one word: diversify!