ORGANIZATIONS CAN CULTIVATE A DIVERSE WORKFORCE
An organization’s plans for becoming multicultural and making the most of its diverse workforce should include these components:
1.Securing top management’s leadership and commitment.
2.Assessing the organization’s progress toward goals.
4.Training employees in diversity.
5.Retaining diverse employees.
A major 30-year study of hundreds of companies found the greatest diversity where managers had explicit diversity responsibilities. Moderate change occurred in companies with mentoring and networking programs. Formal diversity training programs had little effect unless the organizations also used the other methods.58 Thus, cultivating diversity needs to be a well-planned organizationwide effort in which individual managers champion each element, addressing this issue as seriously as they do other challenges.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) has long cultivated diversity at executive levels; in 2019, the league had the highest percentage of minority and female owners in the history of men’s sports. In that same year, 33 percent of NBA teams’ head coaches were people of color, and the league had four female assistant coaches—the highest number in NBA history.59
4.1|Start by Securing Top Managers’ Commitment
Obtaining top management’s leadership and commitment is critical for diversity efforts to succeed. Otherwise, the rest of the organization will not take the effort seriously. One way to communicate this commitment—to all employees and to the external environment—is to incorporate attitudes about diversity values into the corporate mission statement and into strategic plans and objectives. Managers’ compensation can be linked directly to accomplishing diversity goals. Adequate funding must be allocated to the diversity effort. Top management can set a personal example by participating in diversity programs and making participation mandatory for all managers.
The work of managing diversity cannot be done by top management or diversity directors alone. Many companies rely on minority advisory groups or task forces to monitor organizational policies, practices, and attitudes; assess their impact on diverse groups; and provide feedback and suggestions to top management. At Equitable Life Assurance Society, employee groups meet regularly with the CEO to discuss issues pertaining to women, African Americans, and Hispanics and make recommendations for improvement. At Honeywell, employees with disabilities formed a council to discuss their needs. They proposed and management accepted an accessibility program that went beyond federal regulations for accommodating disabilities.
As you can see, progressive companies are moving from asking managers what they think minority employees need and toward asking the employees themselves what they need.
4.2|Conduct an Organizational Assessment
Management can periodically assess the organization’s workforce, culture, policies, and practices in areas such as recruitment, promotions, benefits, and compensation. They can determine whether they are attracting diverse candidates from the labor pool and whether customer needs are well served by the current workforce. The objective is to identify problem areas page 216and opportunities. Cisco measures positive outcomes that it associates with being diverse and inclusive, including financial growth, employee engagement, and customer loyalty. The firm’s managers believe that leveraging diversity is a critical contributor to its growth.60
4.3|Attract a Diverse Group of Qualified Employees
Companies can attract a diverse, qualified workforce via effective recruiting practices, accommodating employees’ work and family needs, and offering alternative work arrangements.
Recruiting A reputation for hiring and promoting all types of people can be a strong recruiting tool. Xerox gives prospective minority employees reprints of an article that rates the company as one of the best places for African Americans to work. After being named to Bloomberg’s 2019 Gender-Equality Index, L’Oréal, Sodexo, and Lenovo issued press releases on their websites—a move aimed partially at attracting job applicants.61
Diversity is built into the origins of the Philadelphia law firm of Caesar Rivise.62 The firm’s founder was Abraham Caesar, an attorney specializing in intellectual property (such as patents and trademarks). In 1926, Caesar could not land a job at one of the local law firms because he was Jewish, so he founded his own firm, later adding partner Charles Rivise. The two attorneys wrote important reference books on patents, establishing a reputation as experts.
Given Caesar’s early experiences, it’s not surprising that his law firm committed itself to diversity in hiring. Stanley Cohen, now a partner, recalls that when he joined the firm in the 1960s, his secretary was a Black man. Another Caesar Rivise employee since the 1960s, Bernice Mims, graduated at the top of her South Philadelphia High School class but lacked access to jobs because she was Black and some employers stipulated “no Jews or Negroes.” Caesar hired Mims as a law clerk, and she remained loyal to the firm and worked her way up to manager of human resources.
Today, Caesar Rivise builds on its historical commitment to diversity by sponsoring diversity fellowships (tuition assistance and internships) at Drexel University’s Earle Mack School of Law. Partnering with Drexel is a good strategic fit because the university emphasizes technology and science—backgrounds that are important for working with corporate clients on technical matters.63
People with disabilities or financial difficulties are sometimes physically isolated from job opportunities. Companies can bring information about job opportunities to the source of labor, or they can transport the labor to the jobs. Polycast Technology in Connecticut contracts with a private van company to transport workers from the Bronx in New York City to jobs in Stamford. Days Inn recruits homeless workers in Atlanta and houses them in a motel within walking distance of their jobs.
Accommodating Work and Family Needs Corporate work and family policies are now one of the most important recruiting tools. Employers that have adopted onsite child care report decreased turnover and absenteeism and improved morale. In addition to providing child care, many companies offer help with elder care, time off to care for sick family members, parental leaves of absence, and customized job search assistance for relocated spouses.
Alternative Work Arrangements Employers further accommodate diversity with flexible work schedules and arrangements. Basecamp offers its employees the ability to work at the headquarters in Chicago or remotely. The firm’s employees are spread out across 32 cities around the world, but their common values and goals unite them, including the desire to have fun and do exceptional work.64
Other creative work arrangements include compressed workweeks like four 10-hour days, job sharing (two part-time workers share one full-time job), teleworking (working from home), and telecommuting (working from home via computer connection to the main work site).
4.4|Train Employees to Understand and Work with Diversity
Traditionally, most management training was based on the unstated assumption that “managing” means managing a homogeneous, often white male, full-time workforce. But gender, race, culture, age, education, and other differences create an additional layer of complexity.65 Diversity training programs attempt to identify and reduce hidden biases and develop the skills needed to work with a diversified workforce.
Most U.S. organizations sponsor some sort of diversity training, typically with two components: awareness building and skill building.
Awareness Building Awareness building is designed to increase recognition of the meaning and importance of valuing diversity.66 Its aim is not to teach specific skills but to sensitize employees to the assumptions they make about others and the way those assumptions affect their behaviors, decisions, and judgment. For example, male managers who have never reported to a female manager may feel awkward the first time they are required to do so. Awareness building can reveal this concern in advance and help the managers address it. Nielsen and many others provide “Unconscious Bias” training to help managers understand and decrease the influence of hidden biases that may influence their decisions.67
Participants learn stereotypes and cultural differences plus organizational barriers that inhibit the full contributions of all employees. They develop a better understanding of corporate culture, requirements for success, and career choices that affect their opportunities.
In most companies, the “rules” for success are ambiguous, unwritten, and perhaps inconsistent with written policy. A common problem for women, minorities, immigrants, and young employees is that they are unaware of many of the unofficial rules that are clearer, even obvious, to people in the mainstream. page 217For managers, valuing diversity means teaching the unwritten “rules” or cultural values to those who need to know them and changing the rules when necessary to benefit employees and hence the organization. It also requires inviting “outsiders” in and giving them access to information and meaningful relationships with people in power.
Skill Building Skill building aims to develop the behaviors needed to work best with one another and with customers in a diverse environment. Most of the skills taught are interpersonal, such as active listening, coaching, and giving feedback. Ideally, the organizational assessment identifies which skills should be taught, tailoring the training to the specific business issues that have been identified. For example, if women and minorities lack helpful feedback, the skill-building program can address that issue. Likewise, training in flexible scheduling can help managers meet the company’s needs while accommodating workers who want time to advance their education, participate in community projects, or look after elderly parents. Tying the training to specific, measurable business goals increases its usefulness and makes it easier to assess.
After an incident in 2018, Starbucks closed 8,000 stores for four hours and conducted a racial bias training program for 175,000 employees.68 The program helped participants understand the daily realities and impact of discrimination, develop mindfulness about personal triggers, and identify and move beyond bias.69
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