Monday, June 4, 2012

Four Steps to Building Organization-Wide Diversity

Companies with high levels of diversity typically benefit from the mix of ideas and perspectives that people from different backgrounds and life experiences bring to the table. Still, many companies find themselves struggling to develop and implement a successful blueprint for diversity and inclusion.

While each company is different, there are some universal best practices that can help organizations create, implement and sustain an effective diversity strategy. By following these four steps, companies can develop a functional strategy to increase diversity across all demographics, creating a work environment that includes a vibrant mix of people and perspectives.

1. Define diversity for the organization.

Diversity can mean different things to different people, so the first step is to define what diversity means to the organization as a whole. Part of this process entails analyzing the diversity of the current landscape to determine potential gaps. Identify where the organization could benefit from including not just people of different gender, ethnicity or age, but also where operations could benefit from more innovation and risk-taking or different ways of thinking. After analyzing where those talent gaps are, determine a realistic time frame for developing, implementing and monitoring the diversity strategy.

2. Ensure alignment between business requirements and talent needs.

The next step is to make sure the team is on the same page and that business requirements line up with talent needs. Diversity leaders can determine whether the company has the time and resources to develop current employees or whether it needs to hire new talent to fill gaps to improve diversity. It's also important to take necessary steps to ensure the organization is well prepared to manage the increase in constructive conflict that can result when people with different perspectives share their ideas.

3. Move from strategy to action.

While diversity leaders might have a great diversity plan on paper, it must be translated into specific actions throughout the organization. For instance, hiring managers should be trained to refocus their hiring strategies on diversity from being more aware of the value of diversity to recognizing their role in hiring and developing a more diverse workforce. They should be taught to identify individuals who can bring or develop the practical skills needed by the business.

4. Create an ongoing culture of diversity.

A successful diversity strategy requires an understanding of the organization's culture and what can be done to ensure a sustainable diversity strategy. An ongoing culture of diversity can be maintained by rewarding people for such activities as mentoring others, inviting dissenting opinions, taking calculated risks or creating ways for people to collaborate. Encouraging these actions can help the entire organization understand and appreciate the value of diversity and how it impacts bottom-line business results.

Developing a successful diversity strategy isn't just about filling key talent gaps; it's about hiring qualified people across all demographics who can bring new ideas to the organization. By focusing on that strategy, companies will have a blueprint for sourcing, hiring and managing talent from all backgrounds.

By Steve Lopez - Director of consulting services at Manpower Group Solutions.