Changing the Way You Do Business
Rob McInnes, Diversity World
we enter the 21st century, workforce diversity has become an
essential business concern. In the so-called information age, the greatest
assets of most companies are now on two feet (or a set of wheels). Undeniably, there is a talent war
raging. No company can afford to unnecessarily restrict its ability to attract
and retain the very best employees available.
speaking, the term “Workforce Diversity” refers to policies and practices
that seek to include people within a workforce who are considered to be, in some
way, different from those in the prevailing constituency. In this context, here
is a quick overview of seven predominant factors that motivate companies, large
and small, to diversify their workforces:
As a Social Responsibility
many of the beneficiaries of good diversity practices are from groups of people
that are “disadvantaged” in our communities, there is certainly good reason
to consider workforce diversity as an exercise in good corporate responsibility.
By diversifying our workforces, we can give individuals the “break” they
need to earn a living and achieve their dreams.
As an Economic Payback
groups of people who have been excluded from workplaces are consequently reliant
on tax-supported social service programs. Diversifying the workforce,
particularly through initiatives like welfare-to-work, can effectively turn tax
users into tax payers.
a Resource Imperative
changing demographics in the workforce, that were heralded a decade ago, are now
upon us. Today’s labor pool is dramatically different than in the past. No
longer dominated by a homogenous group of white males, available talent is now
overwhelmingly represented by people from a vast array of backgrounds and life
experiences. Competitive companies
cannot allow discriminatory preferences and practices to impede them from
attracting the best available talent within that pool.
As a Legal Requirement
companies are under legislative mandates to be non-discriminatory in their
employment practices. Non-compliance with Equal Employment Opportunity or
Affirmative Action legislation can result in fines and/or loss of contracts with
government agencies. In the context of such legislation, it makes good business
sense to utilize a diverse workforce.
As a Marketing Strategy
power, particularly in today’s global economy, is represented by people from
all walks of life (ethnicities, races, ages, abilities, genders, sexual
orientations, etc.) To ensure that their products and services are designed to
appeal to this diverse customer base, “smart” companies, are hiring people,
from those walks of life - for their specialized insights and knowledge.
Similarly, companies who interact directly with the public are finding
increasingly important to have the makeup of their workforces reflect the makeup
of their customer base.
As a Business Communications Strategy
companies are seeing a growing diversity in the workforces around them - their
vendors, partners and customers. Companies that choose to retain homogenous
workforces will likely find themselves increasingly ineffective in their
external interactions and communications.
As a Capacity-building Strategy
change is the norm in the business climate of the 21st century.
Companies that prosper have the capacity to effectively solve problems, rapidly
adapt to new situations, readily identify new opportunities and quickly
capitalize on them. This capacity can be measured by the range of talent,
experience, knowledge, insight, and imagination available in their workforces.
In recruiting employees, successful companies recognize conformity to the status
quo as a distinct disadvantage. In addition to their job-specific abilities,
employees are increasingly valued for the unique qualities and perspectives that
they can also bring to the table. According to Dr. Santiago Rodriguez, Director
of Diversity for Microsoft, true diversity is exemplified by companies that
“hire people who are different – knowing and valuing that they will change
the way you do business.”
whichever of these reasons that motivates them, it is clear that companies that
diversify their workforces will have a distinct competitive advantage over those
that don’t. Further, it is clear that the greatest benefits of workforce
diversity will be experienced, not by the companies that that have learned to
employ people in spite of their differences, but by the companies that
have learned to employ people because of them.
© Rob McInnes, Diversity World, 1999
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Diversity World offers consulting and training services
designed to enrich workplaces
and reduce employment barriers.