Frequently in today’s news, we’ll hear about massive companies unveiling diversity initiatives meant to promote equal and more inclusive hiring practices. These are, on the surface, good things. But when you dig a little deeper, how much of these grand announcements are coming from a place of genuine understanding about the need for diversity in the workforce, and how much of it is just marketing?
The rise of diversity initiatives came at a rather convenient time for major companies. Firms like Morgan Stanely and Merrill Lynch have a history of having to pay up to settle discrimination lawsuits, meaning that in part, diversity initiatives exist as a kind of public mea culpa for companies with a history of bad behavior.
Before we go any further, I want to stop and make what I think is a pretty important point: for the people that corporate diversity initiatives have helped secure a stable, high-paying job, it doesn’t matter if the impetus behind these programs is genuine or not. For them, it delivered the promised result—and that’s a good thing. When more and more diverse candidates are being selected for opportunities, the “why” doesn’t really matter as long as the diversity and inclusion measures continue once the candidate is on the payroll.
What I fear is this: what happens when diversity is no longer “trendy”? Will the many valuable candidates of color, candidates from the LGBT community, and other marginalized job seekers be left by the wayside once corporations decide they’ve gotten enough good publicity? The fact is this: companies are going to act in what they view as their own self-interest. So, if they get data that diversity programs are no longer popular or they deem they’re spending too much money on it, these programs will disappear. It’s important, then, that we as HR professionals take this window of time to build as much of a diverse and inclusive workforce as we can.
What makes a good diversity program?
The answer is going to be different based on the kinds of people that you’re trying to attract. Obviously, an initiative designed to bring more female employees into a company is going to be different than one that focuses on building a racially diverse workforce.
Have an ear to the ground when it comes to your workforce. If you have a pool of diverse employees to ask what changes they’d like to see in the company, do so. Their input will be extremely valuable in this process. A Forbes article polled female employees, racially diverse employees, and employees from the LGBT community about what they’d like to see at their companies in terms of diversity initiatives. It shouldn’t be a shocker that all of the answers were completely different! Taking a one-size-fits-all approach to diversity will likely do more harm than good.
Changing your company culture is going to be an essential step in building a more diverse workforce. You can make promises all day long about increasing the number of women in leadership roles or supporting social causes that affect Black Americans, but if someone comes to work for you and finds out you don’t walk the walk, then your promises will come across as disingenuous.
What steps to workplace inclusion and diversity have you implemented or seen?