By Dr. Steven Lindner
Diversity is a sensitive and often controversial topic, and employers take great strides to maintain and ensure a diverse workforce.
In fact, companies spend millions of dollars advertising job openings, recruiting job candidates from many different communities and backgrounds, and training and developing their workforces so they are diverse.
Yet real concerns remain about the disparity between majority and minorities, women and men, young and old, heterosexuals and homosexuals, the disabled, and those of particular religions and nationalities.
In my 20 years of experience supporting the hiring of many corporations in the U.S. and abroad, my company has always used an all-inclusive approach to recruit and qualify job candidates. Sourcing and selecting talent based on job-related qualifiers and merits is imperative.
In an effort to create “real equity” for job seekers, the U.K.’s Prime Minister David Cameron asked employers to hide applicants’ names on their initial job applications.
This move was aimed to help job seekers with ethnic or minority sounding names. But would hiding applicants’ names on résumés, colleges—and where they live—really curb employment discrimination?
In fact, candidates concerned about name discrimination often use aliases on their résumés.
Discriminatory claims often arise from the viewpoint of an individual that he or she was disadvantaged within an organization, and the burden of proof is on the employer to prove otherwise.
Being objectively diverse ensures compliance with standards and laws and helps employers defend themselves against discrimination claims.
Employers should be as transparent as possible in how and why decisions are made so employees have sufficient data to know they were not discriminated against.
However, this does not automatically ensure that employees and candidates will perceive a company as being diverse.
A new study examining diversity in the workforce, conducted by Dr. Bonnie Green of East Stroudsburg University, found that employees from underrepresented populations experience the work place differently than members of majority groups.
Those in the majority felt that their organizations were welcoming of diversity. However, most recently hired minority members expressed concerns of tokenism. They felt an expectation to “represent” their minority group and go “above and beyond” to prove themselves.
They also reported feeling more comfortable with people “like themselves.” Minorities who had these concerns typically left the employer within 24 months.
When it comes to subjective measures of diversity, being a minority inside an organization does not always mean minority outside of the organization. Individuals decide whether they are in the minority or majority largely based on the group they find themselves in.
So how can recruiters and HR professionals enhance workplace diversity?
*Act with inclusivity and equal opportunity for all job candidates and employees based on individuals’ merits, not demographics.
*Think beyond racial and ethnic differences. Equity for all includes men and women across sexual orientations, religious beliefs, disabilities and age groups.
Procter & Gamble, for instance, takes pride in being a leader in diverse talent development. The company’s mission statement emphasizes diversity: “Everyone valued. Everyone included. Everyone performing at their peak.”
Meanwhile, the firm, which employs more than 100,000 workers, has a board of directors that is 58 percent diverse and 41 percent women.
While I am in no way advocating hiring an unqualified person just to increase diversity within an organization, it is important to be cognizant of the benefits of a well-rounded workforce. After all, how will organizations develop collective intelligence if those behind the scenes all share common experiences and similar interests?
*Participate in opportunities to find commonalities
No matter how different we may appear, we all function similarly. When we bring people together casually to discuss everyday subjects, they realize how similar they actually are regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability or age.
For example, individuals who have dealt with a sick child or elderly parent can appreciate and have empathy for others who face similar situations. Shared experiences such as these lead to an understanding of the commonality we have as humans.
Establishing a diverse workforce is one of the biggest challenges for human resources professionals today. In a work world that is becoming increasingly more diverse, it is important to embrace each and every demographic.
About the Author:
Dr. Steven Lindner is the executive partner of The WorkPlace Group, a leading “think-tank” provider of talent acquisition and recruitment process outsourcing services helping employers find, screen, assess and onboard best talent. The WorkPlace Group has helped employers hire thousands of job seekers in 44 different countries. In doing so, hundreds of thousands of job seekers have been sourced, screened, assessed, and hired for clients ranging from small firms to Fortune 500 companies.