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Diversity in the Workplace > Retention

Are You All Talk When it Comes to Workplace Diversity Efforts?

For most companies, the answer is “yes,” according to a recent story on NPR.org.  According to yesterday’s report, while diversity hiring practices have come a long way in recent years, most companies still have a long way to go with their diversity efforts, particularly when it comes to promoting minorities.

Even companies that have a good reputation for having great diversity programs still have difficulty mentoring and creating opportunities for minorities to advance in their organizations, says Debbie Atterberry, president of the multicultural nonprofit RESOURCE, in a recent blog post about her organization’s own diversity efforts.  And even among the 60 organizations named as HispanicBusiness Magazine’s “Diversity Elite” this year, diversity in management positions lags far behind the makeup of the general population.

Why is Diversity So Hard for Organizations to Achieve?

A large part of the problem could be an unclear understanding of just what is meant by the term “workforce diversity.” According  to SHRM’s 2007 Workplace Diversity Management Report, while most organizations tend to believe that diversity in the workplace is important, only 30 percent of organizations have an agreed definition of diversity.

(In fact, according to the roughly 1400 human resource professionals and diversity practitioners who participated in the survey, failing to have a well-defined or understood diversity program was one of the major hurdles to diversity management.)

So then perhaps the first step to becoming a more diverse, or inclusive, organization, is to define both what worplace diversity means to your organization, and your goals for achieving a more diverse workforce.

The next important step is to then make sure you communicate that message to everyone – at every level – of the organization. (At RESOURCE, for instance, each staff person is evaluated annually on his or her understanding of the organization’s diversity efforts, and each manager is assessed on his or her ability to develop and manage a diverse staff.)

Evaluating Your Organization’s Diversity Programs: 5 Questions to Ask

At the same time, it’s important that you evaluate your current diversity program, so you know which areas you need to improve.  Start by asking yourself the following questions (based on the methodology Hispanic Business used to determine the Diversity Elite 2009):

  • Is there minority representation on the board of directors and at the executive level?
  • Does my organization have focused efforts to hire from minority groups? Do we participate in diversity job fairs? Or advertise on niche sites, newspapers or magazines geared toward minority groups?
  • Does my organization make concerted efforts in place to support, retain, and promote minority employees? Do we offer incentives, employee support groups, executive training, and diversity awareness and sensitivity training?
  • Does my organization do marketing and advertising to reach minority consumers? Are we involved in philanthropic or community services that benefit minority groups?
  • Does my organization support or sponsor supplier-development programs, executives involved with supplier diversity, incentives tied to supplier diversity, and procurement goals?

The answer to these questions will provide the first clue as to which workplace diverstiy effort (or efforts) needs the most attention. What about you? What steps is your organization taking to increase diversity?

Mary Lorenz

About Mary Lorenz

Mary is a copywriter for CareerBuilder, specializing in B2B marketing and corporate recruiting best practices and social media. In addition to creating copy for corporate advertising and marketing campaigns, she researches and writes about employee attraction, engagement and retention. Whenever possible, she makes references to pop culture. Sometimes, those references are even relevant. A New Orleans native, Mary now lives in Chicago, right down the street from the best sushi place in the city. It's awesome.
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