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Does your organization have a strategic focus on diversity and inclusion? Four questions to help you determine the answer.

By Audra Jenkins

In today’s global business environment, customers, employees, and operations often span geographical and cultural boundaries. That’s why an active diversity strategy can have a significant influence on performance, profitability, and growth. According to a recent Bersin by Deloitte study, 44 percent of Fortune 500 respondents indicated they invest in diversity to increase innovation and agility.

While awareness is growing, many organizations have yet to establish diversity as a strategic priority. Recently, a Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) survey found that, of the Fortune global 1000, one-fifth of the respondents report that their organizations had very informal diversity efforts, many with no formal structure. What’s holding back the effort and commitment?

Often, the biggest obstacle is simply knowing where to begin. Randstad Sourceright looked at survey statistics and commentary addressing diversity issues as they relate to companies across North America, EMEA, and APAC, for the whitepapers, Driving Diversity in the Global Workforce. When formulating a structure, the most pressing diversity challenge is not about knowing the answers; it’s about knowing which questions to ask. Four key questions come to mind.

  1. Do we have a core statement about our position on diversity that reflects our relationship with our markets, our customers, and our talent?

An effective diversity program begins with a core understanding of the company’s position on diversity. That’s where the core statement comes in. An organizational definition of diversity provides the foundation to communicate the vision and to build a more inclusive and innovative work environment. There is no one-size-fits-all diversity statement.

The approach should embody overall organizational goals and objectives while taking into account
the various demographics of the company. A comprehensive diversity statement includes the following elements:

  • Statement of purpose that clearly outlines why diversity is important to the organization
  • Inclusive language to indicate openness to everyone, not just historically disenfranchised groups
  • Linkage to corporate vision and values
  • Statement of the strategic business benefits of diversity as a by-product
  • Branding the organization as an employer of choice
  • Linkage to talent management and succession planning goals
  1. What is our diversity strategy today, and how it is evolving for the future?

Whether you are addressing gender or ethnic diversity, or engagement of differently-abled, veterans, or other groups, there is a big difference between diversity activity and diversity strategy. Activity from one-time corporate social responsibility events to related publicity has a positive, but limited effect on employer brand and employee engagement. A longer-term approach will yield consistent positive results that can prove critical in elevating an organization’s reputation as an employer of choice.

An effective strategy embraces all facets of diversity. There are many ways to break down the components of a strategy. Typically, talent acquisition and public relations are important to a company’s diversity efforts. Along with these efforts, corporate social responsibility may also be included. These areas of focus are generally concerned with outreach and awareness for the market, which is important. To deliver lasting positive impact, however, the strategy must also look internally to address the most critical driver of change: organizational culture and the employee experience.

  1. Does our diversity strategy influence the experience of our employees every day?

The daily experience of employees is a true reflection of a company’s commitment to diversity. A great
way for a company to begin influencing that experience is to assess its “cultural competence.” How proficient is an organization at overcoming the barriers to employee opportunity, engagement, and productivity? Consider the following questions:

  • Is there a diverse leadership team managing the day-to-day operations?
  • Are there diversity champions who take an active role in coaching, mentoring, and educating?
  • Does the overall workforce reflect the changing demographics of society?
  • Are different points of view and innovation encouraged and welcomed?
  • Does the company support employees’ efforts to learn a second language?
  • Are there specific and measurable diversity outreach recruitment efforts?
  • Have hiring managers developed and implemented actionable plans to improve diversity in their respective areas?
  • Does the company support employee resource groups (ERGs)? These groups are established by the organization and give employees the opportunity to join and connect with others in their group and work toward common goals, outreach and other activities.

Asking questions and being aware of individual biases and perceptions are important steps to identifying internal roadblocks. Once barriers are identified, they must be addressed in order to build the foundation for a successful diversity and inclusion program.

  1. Have we identified our diversity goals and the performance metrics to support them?

Each organization has unique challenges. Identifying and communicating goals that address those specific challenges is the first step to bringing the diversity strategy to life. Once expectations are established, a consistent, periodic status report to key stakeholders is crucial for maintaining visibility.

Along with the reporting of performance data,
it is important to draw from lessons learned and
make adjustments as needed. Likewise, devoting resources and training to support the goals is essential for enabling action and creating change. Finally, celebrating successes will reinforce commitment and keep the strategy moving forward.

How can organizations measure performance? Hard metrics vary by organization, and they range across pre-employment and employee functions. Examples of talent acquisition and hiring metrics include diversity of candidate slate and diversity of applicants hired. Examples of employee metrics include the percentage of internal diverse employees who are promoted, the percentage of leaders who participate in company mentorship programs, or the percentage of leaders with diversity goals linked to incentive compensation.

How a company communicates the goals and plan goes a long way toward achieving results. General announcements or communications campaigns may gain some level of awareness. However, specifics
on the objectives, clear definitions of success, and transparency of process will win long-term buy-in and support.

These are yes-or-no questions, and for many—if
not most—organizations, the answer to each of them will be “no.” This is not a reason to put off the conversation. Simply asking the right questions can help establish the tone and priorities for an effective diversity strategy.

Beginning small is fine, as long as it’s a real beginning. In fact, starting from the basics is often preferable
to more highly visible but shorter-term publicity and awareness efforts. In the real world, organizations must do both as they evolve their cultural competence while continuing to attract a diverse workforce.

Audra Jenkins is senior director of diversity and compliance for Randstad Sourceright.

Tags: Engaged Workforce

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