gender diversityEmployers in both the public and private sectors are more than ever focused on attracting and retaining a diverse workforce. Diversity and inclusion programs are now some of the most visible programs within workplaces. These programs have a strong significance because they reflect the types of ideas, thoughts, innovation, work, and engagement that occur within particular industries and workforces. They also reflect the ability for businesses to recruit top talent. The most sought-after candidates are unlikely to be happily employed within an organization that does not boost a diverse workforce.

Organizational leaders must be invested in diversity and inclusion program management in order for any efforts to be successful. Some studies have shown that leaders say that they are too busy to even consider these efforts. However, diversity and inclusion efforts should be included within human resources management in order to support any challenges to recruitment, improve employee satisfaction and retention, provide better client service, increase community engagement, foster innovation and problem-solving skills, and more fully promoting organizational values.

A Shift in Trends 

A recent shift in trends has led many leaders to either revive their or begin diversity and inclusion programs. This shift in trends includes:

  • More CEOs Are Speaking Up: More and more are using their platforms to address diversity issues head-on. By doing so, they are incorporating an increasing amount of diversity and retention initiatives and goals to fulfill underrepresented pipelines in particular industries.
  • What About Semantics?: When it comes to diversity, if you’re not tying inclusion efforts to innovation, then you’re thinking archaically. An ever increasing amount of employers are explicitly tasking diversity roles with innovation, in part by titling key jobs accordingly. For example, a company may employ a Senior Vice President for Diversity and Innovation or a Senior Director of Innovation, Diversity, & Inclusion amongst its senior staff. Diversity has long been marginalized. Framing diversity in terms of inventiveness, imagination, and competitiveness is a smart practice for re-enlisting employees within organizational change.
  • The Definition of Diversity Has Changed: While organizations are seeking to create a workplace that is inclusive of gender, race, and sexual orientation (just to name a few), many are also now seeking the value in the diversity of thought. Some industries that are known to be insular, such as tech and law, are finding that pursuing talent with different thinking and problem solving backgrounds is essential. Diverse thinkers help guard against groupthink. Expert overconfidence can lead to failure if not accounted for beforehand. Only forward-thinking companies see the danger in this lack of diversity and will question their own hiring and retention practices as well as their operating norms.
  • It’s Not So Much About Being a Good Corporate Citizen: The business case for diversity has been put front and center. Economic theory suggests that consumers and clients will correct for an organization’s lack of diversity by spending their hard earned money elsewhere and making the slow-to-change businesses nonexistent. Employees operate in a similar fashion because they are continuously balancing the costs of working somewhere against the personal benefits they derive, including a match in values. Advances in employee engagement, effort, and retention alone make for a persuasive diversity proposal. If you add both of these things to customers who evangelize your diversity philosophy and products as well as feel that you have insight into who they truly are- the diversity ROI is difficult to ignore. 

Supporting Recruitment Challenges and Skills Shortages

According to the 2015 U.S. Talent Shortage Survey conducted by Manpower Group, over 5,000 hiring managers in the United States and in the past decade employers have experienced ongoing skills shortages. The amount of employers that reported talent shortages has varied between 14 and 52 percent over those 10 years. There has been unprecedented technological growth, continually shifting demographics, an increasing amount of customer sophistication, and the rise of individual choice, all of which have resulted in a new world of work. In between all of this, diversity also plays an ever increasing larger role as well because it automatically addresses these challenges and skills shortages by opening more opportunities within the recruitment, hiring, and retention processes. Employers who apply diversity tactics and programs into their regular HR functions, have higher rates of engagement, satisfaction, and retention than those who do not. Diversity is also a natural response to our skills gap. If we continue to enrich ourselves with innovative thoughts, ideas, risk-taking and problem-solving abilities then we are enhancing our workplaces, our services and products, our clients, our brands, and ourselves by allowing those thoughts and ideas become a part of our culture.

Improving Employee Satisfaction and Retention 

Employers know that employees who are satisfied and engaged are more effective and productive and are the most likely to stick around. However, retention of employees also means saving resources that may have otherwise been used to recruit, hire, and train new staff. Organizations that do not support and nurture a diverse workplace may be able to recruit diverse talent, however, they will face major challenges when trying to retain it. Recent statistics indicate that diverse employees are more likely to leave an organization than non-diverse employees due to:

  • Lack of value: If employees do not feel valued then they are more likely to search for an employer who values them and their unique skill sets.
  • Disconnect: If an employee does not feel a part of an organization, there is some type of disconnect occurring within the culture and values that will prevent that individual from sticking around as well. He or she wants to feel a part of a team or something larger that is doing something meaningful. It is your job as a leader to see that this type of a disconnect does not occur.
  • Lack of opportunity for advancement: Employees need to be challenged and know that they have a future in which they can consistently cultivate, hone, and utilize their skills. Without opportunities for advancement, employees will become bored, complacent, and corporate cultures will follow suit.
  • Cultural Barriers: If cultural barriers exist, they can present verbal and language barriers, nonverbal communication and personal space issues, generational barriers, and status and resistance. It is important to remove cultural barriers in order to avoid an adverse effect on productivity and morale.
  • A Competitor is More Capable: Professional development is very important in keeping your talent. If an employee believes that a competitor is more likely to develop the talent or career path for a more diverse range of employees, then they will leave your organization.

Properly managing diversity means minimizing the challenges or barriers to a productive and diverse workforce. An organization will experience more engagement amongst its employees if it is more effective at supporting diversity and inclusion. A better fit is also achieved and employee engagement increases when managers are attuned to the particular skills and practices required for guiding a diverse team, and when each employee understands the workplace’s culture and values as well as their role within it. Organizations that take diversity seriously and implement effective integration strategies have greater success within accomplishing optimum employee performance and retention of staff. 

Other Reasons Why Diversity is Important 

Diversity also aids in providing better client service. People are more easily engaged when they feel represented amongst their colleagues and peers. When employees are members of the communities that an organization is working in or with it adds both trust and credibility. Organizations also gain valuable cultural knowledge that will help them better understand the needs of the community in which they serve. It also broadens community engagement by casting a wider net to connect with a greater variety of people and access broader and deeper networks. Increased community engagement can result in links with potential members, new employees, volunteers, supporters, and donors. This type of diversity results in further reach, greater visibility, and much broader base of support. Diversity can contribute to more effective decision-making and problem-solving by providing a range of perspectives, a broad spectrum of expertise, and more robust process for critical evaluations.

Promotion of Organizational Values

Diversity can also fully promote organizational values. It is implicit that individuals have the opportunity to live their best life. We must continue to build workforces that exemplify the communities we live and work in, the clients we work with, and society at large.

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