How to Increase Workplace Diversity

Organizations stand to gain several benefits from having a diverse workforce. According to a study published in the Harvard Business Review, diverse firms are 45% more likely to report a growth in market share over the previous year and 70% likelier to get into a new market.

It is widely accepted that firms with a critical mass of minority workers exhibit a greater degree of innovation than their non-diverse competitors. But how can a firm actively promote diversity?

Measure progress
Companies should keep track of the number of employees that are from diverse backgrounds. How well are these workers doing within the organization? Are they represented in middle and senior management?

If a business enterprise decides to seriously tackle this problem, it must make a beginning by regularly recording and monitoring data on the issue.

Tweak recruitment policies
The organization should actively look for candidates from minorities and diverse backgrounds. If it is not getting enough applications from people of different ethnicities, it can ask local organizations to forward resumes of job-seekers who fit the profile that the company is looking for.

Another good source for prospective employees is referrals from existing workers.

If recruitment targets are being met, the next step should be to see if these new staff members are successfully absorbed into the company or whether they leave soon after joining.

If the rate of resignations of these recruits is higher than for the other employees, the company must try and ascertain the reason for this. It could be useful to conduct detailed exit interviews to determine why workers from minorities are leaving the organization at a greater rate than others.

Conduct training programs
The importance of preparing new recruits for the roles they have been selected for should be a top priority. Training programs should impart technical skills as well as soft skills.

Leadership training can help prepare persons from diverse backgrounds for senior roles.

AT&T’s example
This telecommunications company has gained tremendous benefits from its diversity program.

According to a recent report, 19% of AT&T’s employees are African-Americans and 13% are Hispanics. It is making serious efforts to raise the number of women in its workforce from the current level of 35%.

The company does not restrict its diversity program only to its recruitment policies. It also focuses on promoting people from diverse backgrounds to senior positions. AT&T’s board of directors includes four women and two African-Americans.

The organization has extended its program to include external parties. During the last year, AT&T made purchases totaling $16.5 billion from suppliers with diverse backgrounds.

Randall Stephenson, CEO and President says, “A diverse workforce and inclusive culture are essential to AT&T. They allow us to attract and retain the best and the brightest to develop the most innovative products….

Top management support is essential
The most critical factor to ensure the success of a company’s diversity program is that it should it have the active participation of top management, especially the CEO. Some companies have created the position of Chief Diversity Officer to give their efforts focus while others rely on their C-suite executives to push the cause.

Whichever approach a company adopts, it should remember the importance of having a diverse workforce that represents the population. Meeting diversity goals can contribute in a significant manner to business success and to improving the organization’s reputation as a company with fair and unbiased policies.

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