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The Developing Diversity Accountability Paradigm

by Christopher Metzler, Esq.

Most organizations have diversity efforts in place but simply cannot figure out how to make

them effective. One of the main reasons they are not successful is that organizations lack effective ways of holding people accountable for these efforts. Many organizations have instead developed a half-hearted process that links results to compensation. This link to compensation is quite the rage in diversity circles. The fundamental flaw with this approach is that in application it is a quota in disguise. Consider the following example:

Manager X has compensation and/or bonuses linked to

“diversity efforts.” Manager X has an opportunity to hire nine people during the year. In an effort to get his bonus, 90% of his hires are so called “diversity candidates” (code word for women and racial minorities). He is applauded for his efforts and he gets the bonus. He is therefore seen as an example of being held accountable. This same manager has other opportunities for promotion and development during the same year. His selections are overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly male. The manager sees nothing wrong with his decisions despite the presence and availability of several women, racial minorities, and other groups who could have been selected. The manager’s reasoning is simple: he has already done well in his diversity efforts this year. There is not, therefore, a reason to do anything else.

Holding managers and others accountable for diversity requires more than just a link to compensation and the tacit endorsement of employment quotas. It requires a strategic approach to accountability that is clearly articulated and enforced. In addition, it requires vigilance, patience, support, and creative thinking.

In order for diversity efforts to succeed, organizations must hold everyone accountable through a proactive, progressive approach that is both prospective and retrospective.

The following is an overview of Cornell’s Ten Point Accountability Matrix:

  1. Education and training
  2. Leadership principles
  3. Proactive diversity efforts and results
  4. Employee selection
  5. Employee development
  6. Placement vs. opportunity (selection, development, and promotion)
  7. Diversity related behaviors and competencies
  8. Staff evaluation on diversity
  9. Efforts to move toward inclusion
  10. Knowledge transfer

Accountability should be at the following levels:

  • Individual
  • Interpersonal
  • Group
  • Organizational

Diversity Accountability Graph

About the Author: Chris Metzler, Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and EEO Programs, Cornell University, ILR School, believes that issues of diversity, inclusion, AA, and EEO need to be addressed proactively as opposed to reactively. Chris has established the country’s first diversity certification program for those who are serious about advancing the profession. Chris works with colleagues to improve the diversity profession and to build on the rich work done by the pioneers in the field. He fundamentally believes that eventually diversity will become the way we do business and not just in addition to the business.

Chris Metzler