Diversification of your Workforce
What is Diversity?
The word “diversity” gets used a lot, and over time, I believe its impact has become watered down. Diversity has become a buzz-word that for most businesses, seems to suggest that they are open to non-white patrons and employees. But to assume that diversity is simply a black and white issue is to demonstrate a lack of understanding about how deep the issue of diversity really runs.
In order to comply with the EEOC regulations, most organizations have non-discrimination clauses. Yet merely having such a clause and incorporating the values espoused by such a clause in one’s mission statement while operating according to those principles are two very different concepts.
The Encarta World English Dictionary defines diversity as “a variety of something such as opinion, color or style; ethnic variety, as well as socioeconomic and gender variety in a group, society or institution…”
Before any organization can claim to have a diverse workforce it must first define what diversity means within the organization itself. Again, diversity is not merely a black and white issue, but that is a good place to start thinking about it. When reflecting upon the percentage of employees from various races and ethnicities, an organization must first look to the census data from its own marketplace. For example, if one’s marketplace includes census data revealing that citizens within that geographical area are 68% white; 22% African American, 6% Hispanic, 3% Asian/ Pacific Islander; and 1% Native American, then the organization should strive to build a workforce that reflects those percentages. Yes, it might be ideal and more diverse to build a workforce with greater numbers of minority employees, however, it is not the responsibility of the organization to change the community’s composite, but rather, to change its own composite.
In order to measure your organization’s diversity with respect to race and ethnicity, the Human Resources department must keep statistics. These are required in order to demonstrate compliance with EEOC regulations, so the data should be readily available. You will be determining the racial and ethnic backgrounds of your employees according to the voluntary EEOC questionnaire that they have completed as part of the application process. Some employees may decline to complete this, but most will. This means that your data may not be 100% accurate, but you will have a good general idea of the racial and ethnic composite of your organization. Next, you will want to acquire census data from your community and use that to determine how your business compares with respect to race and ethnicity.
Please be aware that this data gathering and analysis is not the same thing as racial profiling as thought of in the negative sense. You are collecting and analyzing data in order to form an action plan that will ultimately create greater workforce diversity and level the professional playing field for all persons, including persons of color.
Now that you’ve considered diversity from the race standpoint, it is time to consider other examples. Those should include such things as religion, gender, sexual orientation and management vs. non-management positions within your organization. This becomes more complicated because applications are not allowed to include questions about religion and sexual orientation in particular. The point here is not to worry about how many Christians vs. Jews, vs. Muslims you may employ, but rather, to create a community of inclusiveness in which all employees feel respected and valued as they practice their chosen religion or live their respective lifestyles.
The following is a list of examples that organizations may adopt as they begin their journey toward developing a truly diverse workforce.
- Make your non-discrimination clause visible to all employees and customers by posting it on applications, your website, business cards, placards in corridors, the employee break room, back of restroom doors, and other places where your target audience is likely to see it. Assure that the clause is replicated in the major languages of your community and your workforce. That may include Spanish, Hmong, or others.
- Assure that training materials, employee handbooks, business signs and business cards, are available in another language as applicable to your community.
- If necessary, have interpreter services available through your HR department.
- Consider where you advertise for employees. Many businesses have turned to internet job sites and major newspapers. You must also consider smaller local papers. Many neighborhoods have their own papers or newsletters and are often looking for advertisements and other fillers. These papers may be targeted at particular ethnic or socioeconomic groups and may often be printed in different languages.
- Recognize major holidays of primary religions, not just Christianity, in your organization’s policies and practices. This includes holidays such as Ramadan, Hanukah, and Passover. Remember, it is not up to the management to determine or speculate about whether or not persons who are members of faiths other than Christianity are practicing those faiths anymore than we concern ourselves with whether or not employees practice the Christian faith by actually celebrating Christmas or Easter.
- Enable employees to work together to determine which religious holidays they would like to take off. For example, if you have a high number of non-Christian employees who wish to work Christmas for straight time but receive time and a half or paid time off for holidays such as Passover or Ramadan, find ways for your company to honor those requests.
- Adopt domestic partner benefits to honor the employees who belong to non-traditional families.
- If you provide employee meals, assure that they not only include salads, burgers and typical American fare, but also a variety of options that will appeal to various ethnic groups, especially those groups that you have identified in your census analysis. Promote your menus by featuring them in a company newsletter, emails or fliers.
- Assure that artwork in your company reflects a variety of styles and cultures. This might include featuring African American or Hispanic artists and styles.
- Conduct an analysis of your management structure and determine how many management positions have been filled with non-white professionals and what the ratio is of men vs. women. Make adjustments or plans for recruitment of minorities or women into management positions as needed and according to your community census data.
- Create a “diversity” committee (they can choose their own, more dynamic name) comprised of a variety of employees from different backgrounds and allow them to plan special events and outreach efforts for the purpose of promoting diversity and equality within the workplace. Give them a budget and the responsibility for managing the allocated funds. The committee should include a variety of positions at all levels of the organization, but should not be led by a member of management.
- One such policy should include a Whistle-Blower policy that provides a process for reporting alleged violations of EEOC regulations and company policies, without fear of reprisal.
- Sponsor community outreach events targeted at various populations within your marketplace. This demonstrates a high level of social responsibility and regard for a variety of races, cultures, religions, genders, sexual orientations and other groups that are important to your organization and the community it serves.
Best of luck to your organization in its efforts to diversify its workforce.
- Adopt a set of policies and procedures that support your non-discrimination commitment and clearly outline consequences for violation of the clause. Enforce the policies fairly and uniformly. The diversity committee can be responsible for drafting policies, investigating violations and keeping policies up to date. As such, an HR representative should be a member and should help to assure that the policies are consistent with state and federal law.
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