In light of the presidential election, the topic of diversity is more salient than ever. Elect a black man or, possibly, a woman for president? Fast Company partially tackled the issue in its cover story on the brand of Obama. This particular passage got me thinking:
“… With census data projecting that 40% of Americans will be nonwhite by 2010, businessleaders who are charged with inspiring and attracting the best talent and satisfying an increasingly diverse pool of shareholders may soon find that diversity is a business imperative.”
Diversity as a business imperative – if that’s your aim, just how do you become more diverse?
I’ve been around the block just long enough now that I’ve had the opportunity to get involved in the kickoff of several diversity initiatives with several different organizations. And I can’t say I’ve necessarily loved ‘em. I don’t get gung-ho when people start talking about wanting to get some more diversity in the door – as a matter of fact, I want to run and hide as soon as the discussion starts. But before you get on my case and start screaming about equal opportunity and whatnot, be forewarned: I’m a minority. And it’s not because I don’t think diversity is important or that I’d like to be surrounded by a workforce that is homogeneous… just hear me out on this one.
I’ve heard way too many times, at the kick off for diversity initiatives, the following question: “Where are we advertising our jobs?” As if the starting place for hiring more diverse candidates is to begin placing advertisements in newspapers or on websites that are targeted at minority groups. It’s at this point that I begin rolling my eyes, because advertisements are simply not enough. In fact, I kind of take offense to the fact that you think you can place an ad in my local Korean newspaper and think that this gesture is going to be enough to attract me. You’ve ignored me and my people all these years and didn’t give a damn about diversifying until now… and you think placing an ad is going to make the difference? It’s a weak attempt to reach out.
In order to be successful and lasting, diversity initiatives and outreach take a lot of work. It’s not something you can put a band-aid on and expect the problem to be fixed overnight. The environment has to be conditioned and reconditioned. You’re going to have to employ some really strategic and targeted retention tactics for your existing minority staff. There has to be the right amount of cultural sensitivity in place with non-minority staff. And recruiting efforts have to start at the grassroots level, particularly if minorities aren’t interested in or haven’t considered your industry. Placing ads is not enough.
Diversity as a business imperative – that’s a fair reason for wanting to mix your workforce up a bit. But if you’re not willing to put in the sweat equity to make it happen, then get ready to keep receiving the same ‘ole, same ‘ole job applicants.
Jessica Lee is a VP of TA at Marriott International where she leads a team that enables the company to think big, broad and boldly about all things talent acquisition and in effect, keeps them relevant and ahead of the curve in how they attract and acquire top talent. Don’t be fooled by that fancy pants title and description though, she’s still an everyday HR gal in the trenches at the core. SPHR certified, a decade and a half into trench HR life… she can whip up a corrective action plan or source for your purple squirrel in a heartbeat.
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