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Few Organizations Define Diversity

March 4 2008 - While organizations tend to believe that diversity in the workplace is important, only 30% have an agreed definition of 'diversity', according to a recent Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) report.

The 2007 State of Workplace Diversity Management Report is based on a year-long study on the status of diversity in the workplace conducted in partnership with the American Institute for Managing Diversity Inc. The survey included 993 human resource professionals and 330 diversity practitioners from a range of organizations, including publicly and privately owned companies, non-profits, and the education sector:

While the report states that there is evidence of more awareness of diversity in a general sense, managing diversity continues to be a challenge. Specifically, among other hurdles to diversity management, survey respondents emphasized that the field:

  • is not well-defined or understood
  • focuses too much on compliance, and
  • places too much emphasis on ethnicity and/or gender.

Frank McCloskey, survey contributor and vice president of diversity at Georgia Power said:

"The field is stuck, with little innovation in how we are tracking diversity. There is lack of discipline and understanding of what diversity means beyond race and gender or how success is being defined, or not being defined, by most corporate diversity and inclusion initiatives."

A survey of more than 1,400 HR professionals and diversity practitioners within the project asked them to evaluate the role of diversity practices in accomplishing specific business objectives:

  • Around half (52%) felt that to a 'large extent,' diversity practices create a work environment or culture that allows everyone to contribute all that they can to the organization.
  • To the same extent, 49% considered that diversity practices achieve appropriate representation of racial and ethnic groups.
  • 48% believed that diversity practices enhance, to a large extent, the ability of people from different backgrounds to work together effectively.

Other significant findings in the report include:

  • Small companies - those with 99 or fewer workers - are least likely to have an official definition of diversity
  • Public/government organizations are more likely to define diversity than private non-profit and for-profit organizations
  • About 75% of HR professionals said that making full use of the workforve's diverse talents was strategically important to their organization. This group wanted greater emphasis on the positive relationship between diversity and business results.

SHRM President and CEO Susan R. Meisinger commented:

"Our research confirms that most organizations currently have diversity policies and practices in place. But, while policies mark a significant step forward, challenges remain."

Previous Article - Communicating workplace diversity a top priority

September 13 2003 - Research earlier this year for the New York Times Job Market showed that top managers at organizations with established workplace diversity programs support these initiatives by communicating them as:

- top priorities to employees (91%)
- top priorities to to their customers or the business community (73%)
- by funding diversity recruitment and retention initiatives (65%)

These findings came from telephone interviews with 500 hiring managers across the nation conducted by Beta Research Corporation to identify trends in workplace diversity. 350 diverse job seekers (74% African-American, 21% Hispanic and 4% Asian) were also surveyed through minority-focused websites.

They also found that nearly all hiring managers (92%) in businesses with diversity programs said that their senior managers strongly supported workplace diversity as a company goal with 72% saying that diversity initiatives were included in their company's business strategy.

Defining Diversity

More than half of hiring managers (55%) and two-thirds of job seekers (67%) said they defined diversity as a mixture of people of different backgrounds, races and cultures. When asked what ideas they associated with workplace diversity, hiring managers said:

Equal opportunity
Fairness
Inclusive culture
Affirmative action
93%
92%
76%
72%

While job seekers said:

Equal opportunity
Fairness
Inclusive culture
Affirmative action
95%
88%
54%
77%

Recruiting Diverse People

Two-thirds (67%) of organizations surveyed said they were actively recruiting diverse job candidates. Just over a quarter (27%) of hiring managers said that the attrition rate for their minority employees was higher than that of non-minority employees. 14% of hiring managers (14%) said their organizations had introduced retention programs that were specifically designed to retain minority employees. Their hiring practices included the following tactics:

Use referrals by current diverse employees
Advertise to brand their organization as diverse
Place help-wanted ads in publications targeting diverse groups
Reach out to associations representing diverse groups
Place help-wanted ads on Web sites targeting diverse groups
Sponsor and promote mentor programs for diverse employees
Sponsor and promote affinity groups for diverse employees
Target historically African-American or Hispanic universities
78%
62%
59%
55%
51%
42%
24%
22%

Minority job seekers said the following factors were important to them and found them to be helpful criteria when evaluating potential employers:

Company's support of work-life balance
Company's hiring/cultivating of diverse employees
Company's ranking on a "Best Places to Work" list
Strong mentor program
Company's sponsorship of affinity groups
Company's ranking on a "Best Place for Diverse Employees" list
70%
65%
49%
43%
40%
29%

Diversity Retention

When asked to identify specific initiatives that were very valuable to their organization's diversity retention efforts, 55% of hiring managers cited affinity groups as being very valuable and almost all employers (92%) said they used affinity groups to reach workplace solutions that were acceptable to all employees.

In businesses that actively recruit diverse candidates, most hiring managers say that their company:

  • directs efforts toward building a culture that is more inclusive of all employees' needs (88%)
  • generally supports work-life balance and overall flexibility (93%)
  • uses a diversity program as the first step toward creating such a culture (93%)

To measure the progress of diversity initiatives, hiring managers said they looked at their company's percentage of diverse talent in non-management positions (51%), management positions (21%), highest paid positions (15%), on the company's board of directors (11%) and total purchases from minority owned businesses (9%).



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