As recruiters, we're often focused on bringing in a necessary quantity of people who
possess the talent we seek. But it's an altogether different thing to consciously staff up your organization with depth, character, and other qualitative people attributes. Building a "deeper," better-quality organization with value-adding character and professionalism is and should be seen as one of our paramount priorities and responsibilities—I dare say, right up there with our need to staff up particular numbers of employees.
But improving the quality of an organization and its employees is especially difficult when the labor market is tight and the competition for talent is fierce. That is why, more and more, the most competitive and successful organizations are integrating a particularly effective strategy for improving quality: diversity staffing.
These days, diversity is flourishing, despite the fact that so many critics today are calling for "the end of affirmative action." The fact is, today's most successful companies are still teeming with talk of diversity—diversity roundtables, diversity initiatives, diversity task forces, diversity seminars, marketing, etc. The economic truth is that those who fall under the diversity umbrella—minorities, women, those with disabilities, and others—are more in demand and visible than ever before.
Why Is Diversity Necessary?
Here are a few reasons why diversity is so necessary these days:
- The business world is becoming more global, thanks to the Internet and world markets that intersect daily.
- The U.S. labor market is tighter than it's ever been before.
- The marketing of products and services has become culturally and demographically segmented.
- Economic consolidation is occurring on a global level. All one needs to do is turn on the TV to witness one company buying or "merging" with another company half way around the world. More than ever before, corporations need diverse peoples and their intellects in order to ease and facilitate such strategic consolidations and mergers.
This is where recruiters must take the lead and broaden their talent search for people that possess such diversities—diversities of mind, culture, experience, education, background, and physical abilities. The broadness and wealth of your approach to diversity are really up to you. Start off by defining diversity according to your organization. Top corporate managers throughout the U.S. realize that diversity must be defined in far broader and more inclusive terms than it often is, terms that include age, ethnic origin, gender, personal styles, culture, orientation, and beliefs.
Obstacles To Diversity
Diversity staffing is a tough strategy to architect and deploy. Yet anything worthwhile is never easy. In part 2 of this article, we'll be talking about the many successful solutions that other corporations have effectively utilized when deploying diversity staffing efforts. For now though, I'd like to address what perhaps is the most common obstacle to organizations applying diversity staffing efforts.
Aside from the obvious deterrents (such as difficulties in deploying a diversity program, an inexperienced and ineffective diversity knowledge base, and the "what for?" syndrome), the most pervasive misunderstanding that prevents effective diversity staffing from ever taking off is the lack of knowledge about the positive effect that diversity can have on a company's profit margins. Diversity staffing initiative and profit are almost never linked!
Rather than being seen as a measurable economic management and profit-based business tool, diversity staffing is often misunderstood and plagued by jaded politics and philosophies. We've all heard the excuses: "Isn't diversity staffing the same as affirmative action?" "Won't we be accused of reverse discrimination?" "It's never been proven to work...has it?"
These excuses are best proved wrong by the tangible benefits that organizations are discovering about diversity. Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating that modern diversity programs are a "cure-all" for the many problems that global organizations face. These programs are indeed difficult to deploy, and their quantitative impact is not always easy to measure (consider that a majority of these programs are new).
But the most competitive, globally-oriented organizations have successfully deployed diversity by linking it to bottom-line results. Explains Sandra Salinas, manager of worldwide staffing with Red Herring Communications (a leading Internet economy and culture magazine): "There has definitely been a shift. "Corporations— particularly those with emerging technology products—recruit minorities as a global business imperative, rather than out of some sort of EEOC or state compliance requirement." She adds that, "Having a representation of talent and cultures from all walks of life is critical for anyone that intends to grow and retain an entrepreneurial spirit and productivity—besides it makes for awesome office interaction, not to mention parties!"
Three Major Benefits Of Diversity Staffing That Will Surprise You!
1. Employee Wellness & Development
An increase in employee wellness and development is typically the most noticeable positive impact reported by organizations that have successfully deployed diversity efforts. This is very critical when considering that the desired trend in today's modern, technology-oriented economy is to blur the lines between work and play.
These organizations have observed wonderful developments occurring naturally within diverse workforces. Intrinsically, the social fabric of the company becomes more tightly knit. Some of the positive signs that reveal effectively deployed diversity can be 1) company clubs springing up quickly, 2) altruistic campaigns and events becoming more common, and finally, 3) light-hearted humor becoming a more common response to office problems.
Heck, who says you can't have fun at work? But no matter how fun-loving the social atmosphere is, it's certainly not the "fun" that motivates most corporations. The motivating factor about a fun social atmosphere is that it also brings with it increased productivity, time at work, and creativity, as well as lower absenteeism. In a nutshell: More money! (And as has been said...better partying!)
2. Measurable Productivity And Quality Gains
Still not convinced? Consider the logic these corporations are using: employees who are more happy at work are simply at work more often. More time at work produces more work, which translates into more products or services generated, which leads to increased profit margins.
But having a "happy-camper" as an employee doesn't just lead to more time at work or more work produced. In many cases, diverse, heterogeneous talent has also produced the benchmark levels of quality work that many companies have sought for so long. William C. Steere, CEO of Pfizer Pharmaceuticals says, "Some people believe that seeking diversity automatically leads to excellence, but I think that focusing on excellence inevitably leads to diversity." This statement is indicative of the ideal that most companies have been motivated by during their diversity campaigns.
In my own work as a consultant, I have directly assisted in or helped design the rapid growth of over 18 emerging technology start-ups. During these projects, my team consistently noticed positive quality impacts on the goods and services of client companies when the company developed a more heterogeneous workforce. Today's companies have clients all over the world. Diversified companies mean that diversified clients will now obtain excellent customer services and products that represent them culturally, economically, and socially. Diversity can positively impact client sensitivity and compatibility, and help keep clients buying those goods and services when and how you want them to.
3. Human Capital Retention
Quite noticeable in today's economy is the fluidity of talented people moving between one company and another. This fluidity has made the effort to retain top talent for an extended period of time in one organization very, very difficult. It used to be the case that to stay in one company for many years was a virtue to be imitated and admired. But today's market boom opens up much opportunity and demand for top professional talent in all industries. This makes the temptation to "jump ship" after only one or two years of employment almost too hard for many employees to resist.
There is no question that replacing employees who have left after a short period of time is extremely costly to companies. Today's companies are taking major financial blows due to the costly ramifications that ensue during rapid and incessant "brain-drain:" production delays, employee replacement expenses, diminished corporate knowledge base, loss of intellectual property, diminished corporate morale, re-training expenses, etc.
The good news is that not only has diversity been leveraged to attract the best most heterogeneous talent, it's also been harnessed to retain talent and corporate compositional integrity. Although employee retention could be a separate article onto itself, it's worth mentioning that diverse work environments encourage appreciation for all people and their differences (not just tolerance), diverse customer focus, entrepreneurial innovation, community, quality performance, progressive and inclusive human interaction and communication, and an overall work environment where everyone can thrive.
Obviously, a successful diversity program cannot be rolled out strictly by the staffing arm of an organization; it must be comprehensively designed, supported, and deployed. However, my advice to recruiters is that they take the initial action and become the instigators of an effective shift towards diversity staffing. Who knows? You might just succeed in making your company more competitive than ever before by diversifying its workforce and by positively impacting and resolving a whole host of other profit-sensitive matters.