Diversity, Part II: Making The Dream a Reality
Once your organization is sold on the case for business diversity, the hard work begins: Achieving this critical objective in a fast-changing society and competitive global marketplace.
“There is no magic bullet for diversity,” says Michael Carrillo, president of CPGjobs. “Achieving real diversity throughout an organization requires creativity and commitment. It also requires courage, because it means going against tradition and changing entrenched power structures.”
Carrillo says companies should focus on two critical areas to achieve their diversity goals: “First, we must promote the advancement and retention of women, people of color, older executives and others already in our industry. Second, we must groom a new generation of managers to lead our organizations in the 21st century.”
“Diversity starts at the top, and sometimes that’s where it ends,” observes Dennis Kennedy, founder and CEO of the Texas Diversity Council. That’s why “job one” of any diversity plan is communicating the importance of diversity to the organization, Kennedy says. “Too many people still do not understand the value of diversity, particularly the value of diversity in leadership.”
The essential next step is doing an internal assessment, according to Kennedy, a professor of business management at the University of Texas.
“Employees should be encouraged to provide honest input into the process, even if that means hiring an outside firm to help,” Carrillo says. “You may be surprised at what you find when you conduct a truly searching diversity assessment.”
Some of the assessment tools Kennedy recommends include focus groups, confidential employees surveys, HR system audits, and compensation audits. Compensation audits can compare such things as male vs. female compensation, average pay, and positions’ compensation comparability ratio, the relationship between your pay scales and the market rate.
Once you have established the facts on the ground, it’s time to set goals. “The smaller you set your goals, the less you’ll accomplish,” says Carrillo. “For example, if 60 percent of your workforce is comprised of women and people of color, establish a goal of having 60 percent of your management team women and people of color in five years. Is it ambitious? Yes. But you won’t get there if you don’t try.” Big goals will require a big commitment and, in most cases, a major change in corporate culture. Training is one key. “Diversity should be incorporated in every training session,” Kennedy says.
“Whether you’re training about computers or customer service, you want everyone to hear why diversity is important to the organization.” He adds that “diversity training should not be optional for managers. When people look around and see only cashiers at diversity training its sends the wrong message.”
“Of course some people are not going to value diversity, regardless of training,” Kennedy says. “There has to be some kind of accountability.” Linking bonuses to diversity goals is an effective — and increasingly popular — way to ensure progress. “I know of one company where missing your diversity goals means you have to have a sit-down with the CEO. It’s a real motivator.”
A color, age and gender-blind organization is a fine ideal, but does not work in practice, many diversity advocates maintain. That’s because there are built-in barriers to equal opportunities in the workplace and the world.
Kennedy cites “occupation segregation,” a de facto opportunity barrier resulting from the fact that “women and people of color are often relegated to certain jobs or departments” that offer less pay and fewer chances for advancement.
“It’s not just enough to have diversity in hiring. You have to look at starting dollars and occupation,” he says. “The marketplace dictates what jobs are paid, but we dictate who goes in those jobs. Bottom line, you have to look at your HR systems to ensure that everyone has equal opportunity.”
The Network of Executive Women recommends a ten-step program to increasing diversity in the CPG/retail industry. The plan includes recruiting diverse executives from outside the organization; fostering internal promotion by offering professional development and career tracks; networking with women- and minority associations; establishing mentoring programs; and supporting affinity groups. The final piece of the puzzle is creating metrics that measure progress and enable you to change course or shift resources as needed.
The face of diversity is changing. “The rapidly growing Hispanic population, for example, is a factor which cannot be ignored,” Carrillo says. Kennedy notes that “people are working longer” and that age is now a critical factor in the diversity landscape.
Diversity pays real dividends, Carrillo says. “Studies show that diverse companies are more responsive, more productive and more profitable than companies that are less diverse,” he says. “Demographics mean that your work force will continue to become more diverse, regardless of what you do,” Carrillo says. “The question is whether or not you harness this valuable resource to your company’s competitive advantage.”
Michael Carrillo is president of CPGjobs, the CPG industry’s leading candidate recruiting service for HR professionals and employers. You may contact him at Michael@CPGjobs.com or call (626) 535-0143.