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Diversity: Hype or Helpful

by Cynthia Kay

Diversity and Inclusion in corporate America may seem like buzz words, just a lot of hype. But, it is becoming more and more important to the fabric of many of the large companies for which I work. I have helped many of them create communications around their diversity efforts and in the process I have learned a lot. Diversity has a much broader meaning than it did many years ago. In the past, it was about race and gender. Today diversity is about age, background, life experience and so much more. Simply put it is about recognizing and embracing all the things that make individuals unique. Large companies often form groups where individuals can come together with others to network, find support and engage in activities for the benefit ofthe group or the larger community. Often employees belong to more than one group. With all of the technology that large companies have in place theseindividuals don’t have to be located in the same facility or even the same city. So why is there such an emphasis on diversity and inclusion? Can it reallyprovide helpful business benefits? Organizations that value a diverse employee base report that not only does the employee benefit, the business does as well. Having individuals bring different perspectives to business challenges results in more engaged employees, better decisions, better products and typically a positive impact on the business. You might wonder why I am bringing this up. One reason is that my company recently became certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise which makes us more attractive to companies with supplier diversity goals and we’re seeing incremental business opportunities. I also believe that smaller companies can benefit from diversity, but believe it is much harder to have a diverse employee base when you operate a small business. Small businesses have fewer people. So you have to really make an effort if you want to build a diverse team. Additionally, potential employees like to join an organization where they have colleagues that they can relate to. That is not always possible in a small business so they may be more attracted to a larger organization. While it is difficult to compete with larger organizations for diverse talent it is not impossible. On and off throughout the years I have been successful in trying to build a diverse team. When I have been able to hire individuals that could expand our horizons it has brought us different perspectives and influenced how we approached our work. However, the reality is that you have to make a bigger effort to attract a diverse talent pool. And, it can’t be about hiring one individual. You need to have a strategy. I believe the most important thing that you can do is look at the organizations that you serve and see if have a workforce that resembles or connects with your customers. If, not then you need to look at that the next time you are ready to hire. You will probably have to seek out individuals rather than waiting for themto respond to your traditional recruitment efforts. For example, post positions on websites or in publications that are targeted to specific populations. You can use recruiters who specialize in helping you create a more diverse work environment. There are even diversity career expos. With the internet, you can reach out using your networks like LinkedIn. Word of mouth with your business contact and employees is likely to get you noticed and on the way to a more diverse organization. What’s the bottom line? As the world becomes more and more diverse, so does the workplace. Embracing diversity and inclusion can help motivate employees, satisfy customers and drive results for your business.

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