HR Needs to Demonstrate Bottom-Line Value of Diversity Programs, Speakers Say

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By Caryn Freeman  

Dec. 11-- To show the value of workforce diversity, HR needs to present it to senior management as a revenue-generating function, speakers said Dec. 6 at the Washington, D.C., chapter of the National Association of African-Americans in Human Resources' fourth annual Diversity Summit.

“We've been trained to suppress our differences,” Tyronne Stoudemire, principal at consulting firm Mercer, said in the keynote address at the Washington, D.C., event. “The truth is the differences are what make the difference. If organizations don't understand those differences, they can't gain market share, they can't go after the right talent, they can't retain talent and therefore cannot be innovative.”


“There are a slew of companies that are no longer around because they didn't take into consideration the shift in demographics in their business strategy,” said Tyronne Stoudemire, a principal at Mercer.  

 


Employers have to train people how to think beyond gender, race or disability and give employees the tools to recognize and leverage those differences, he said. “Someone in the organization has to be forward thinking enough to be able to harness what's ahead,” Stoudemire said.

Workplace Barriers Remain

Although there is evidence demonstrating how a diverse workforce builds a better business, Stoudemire explained that there are also still conscious and unconscious biases and barriers within organizations that prevent diversity from truly taking shape, and companies simply can't afford to let that happen. “There are a slew of companies that are no longer around because they didn't take into consideration the shift in demographics in their business strategy,” he said.

According to Stoudemire, biases are often ingrained in an organization's social and cultural norms and are often demonstrated in their hiring practices. For example, he said, if a company only hires from top 10 or Ivy League schools, “that can prohibit growth by shrinking your pool.”

Pam Green, president and CEO of the Power Project Institute, an HR consulting firm, said that as the workforce continues to become more racially and generationally diverse, and as gender identity and disability also grow in visibility in workplaces, it is increasingly important for employers to develop a no-tolerance policy that makes the work environment safe and engaging for all employees.

“In addition to a commitment from leadership, organizations will have to continue to engage employees who are in under-represented groups about ideas and suggestions the company can adopt to create more tolerance and awareness,” Green said.

Employers should update training and development for leaders and hiring managers, and learn to leverage business opportunities that come along with having a more diverse pool of talent, she explained.

Making the Case for Diversity

HR needs to present a bottom-line argument for diversity to senior leaders, Green said. “There are so many different things to measure that contribute to the bottom line,” she said. “HR has to do its homework,” she added, to convince senior management of the business value of diversity.

Because a diverse workforce offers a difference of experiences, employees are therefore able to see a product or service from a different point of view, Green explained. “This can help a company reach a broader audience and leverage that diversity of thought in creative ways,” she said.

Green encouraged HR practitioners to find out what business leaders are discussing and to develop a plan on how to solve the problem from a diversity and inclusion perspective. “This will help leaders understand the business value of investing in diversity,” she said.

For HR to convince senior management of the value of diversity, Green said, it must:

• understand the business--where the company makes and loses money;

• conduct its own competitive analysis to help show how company practices stack up to those of more diverse competitors;

• speak the CEO's language and provide articles and resources that the CEO reads and respects; and

• do the math and provide meaningful measures and metrics beyond cost per hire and turnover rates.

 

To contact the reporter on this story: Caryn Freeman in Washington at cfreeman@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Simon Nadel at snadel@bna.com