Diversity Article Hispanics
Do Diversity Policies Matter?
by Juan E. Rodriguez, MBA, Diversity Scholar, Author, and Editor of Diversity Jobs http://www.diversityjobs.com
A recent survey conducted by the National Society of Hispanic Professionals (NSHP) asked 268 Hispanics their opinion on diversity policies in the workplace. A whopping 72 percent of those surveyed felt that diversity policies were more words than actions or did not make a difference, while only 27 percent felt that such polices were necessary in the workplace and benefited Hispanics.
While it is probably true that most Hispanics surveyed believe in the ideals of diversity, it is apparent from the survey that a large majority of respondents do not feel that its purposes have been accomplished to their satisfaction. On the other hand, human resources executives at many of the largest corporations in the United States continue to tout their advanced diversity policies and the great accomplishments they have made in designing a workplace that closely reflects the US cultural landscape. Who really is correct, the respondents to the survey or human resources execs? Do diversity policies actually make a difference? The answer depends on whom you ask.
Employees and HR execs expect different results from diversity policies. Corporations and their execs generally expect that diversity policies will foster creativity among their employees and have a positive effect on business outcomes. “Inclusiveness is…a win-win dynamic: it generates opportunities for growth, flexibility and adaptation in the marketplace for both the employee and the organization,” writes Nancy Lockwood, a human resources expert, in “Workplace Diversity: Leveraging the Power of Difference for Competitive Advantage.” If that were the case, one would think that diversity initiatives would perhaps increase growth, sales, and even productivity and eventually positively impact the bottom line. In some cases, however, the results of diversity initiatives appear to be nothing more than periodic tallies of employees from “diversity groups” to save the corporate face.
The Diversity Research Network’s (DRN) five-year study on the effects of diversity on business performance found “no strong positive or negative effects of gender or racial diversity on business performance.” It is interesting to note that in conducting this study, the DRN found it very difficult to find companies willing to participate for the duration of the study. Of the twenty large and well-known Fortune 500 companies that initially agreed to participate in the study, only four actually completed the study. The remaining sixteen withdrew from the study for a variety of reasons, some citing time commitments and confidentiality issues, but the DRN found that “not only had none of the organizations [they] contacted ever conducted a systematic examination of the effects of their diversity efforts on bottom line performance measures, [but also] very few were interested in doing so.” Excuse me? They were not interested in measuring the results of their own diversity initiatives?
Diversity initiatives cost a great deal of money and require long-term commitments, especially large-scale implementations of these initiatives. It is baffling to me that with the amount of money many of these large Fortune 500 companies probably spent on diversity initiatives, they chose not to measure the results. When businesses make investments in new programs, entities, or assets, it is because they expect the investment to yield additional revenue, competitive advantage, realized intangible gains such as enhanced productivity, or other measurable results.
Moreover, when businesses make such investments the performance metrics are usually in place well before making the investment. Perhaps one of the reasons why Hispanics view diversity programs as inconsequential and nothing more than lip service is because they are not presented with verifiable results. In addition, as we all are part of the instant gratification society that we live in, we expect immediate results from workplace diversity programs that are relatively new. We often expect short-term results and have the tendency to become disheartened and disappointed when those results fail to appear.
I do not believe that any Hispanic would disagree with the notion that diversity initiatives have tremendous potential, and I am equally confident that corporate execs believe that such programs will eventually lead to additional revenue, as they have expanded their applicant pools to include the best and the brightest from all groups. But if diversity truly is that important, why not devise a means of measuring the effectiveness of diversity programs prior to implementing them? Sadly, it appears that some corporations prefer the idea of a more colorful corporate photo and measure the effectiveness of their diversity policies essentially by counting heads at the company picnic.
According to Braun Consulting, a Seattle based personnel and labor relations consulting firm, “Many companies track the success of their diversity efforts in terms of what they DO, not necessarily what leads to RESULTS. Or in another words, they measure what they put out, not what results they achieve in terms of either profit or savings.” Or in terms of employee satisfaction, for that matter.
While some corporations are clearly failing in the performance metrics arena, it may also be true that Hispanics, along with other minority groups, have somewhat unrealistic expectations of workplace diversity programs. If we assume that one of the most important results of diversity policies is the presence of more minorities, disabled, women, and LGBT employees in an organization, then what additional benefits are Hispanics expecting? Should opportunities for Hispanics and other “diversity groups” abound because of increased diversity in the workplace? In my opinion, the purpose of workplace diversity never was to get a leg up on the white, straight, non-disabled, male Christian worker, but that may be one of the results we currently expect. John Wrench, author of the commentary “Diversity management can be bad for you,” says that the idea behind diversity policies is that “encouraging a culturally diverse workplace where differences are valued enables people to work to their full potential in a more creative and productive work environment.” So if companies create work environments where diverse employees are valued for their cultural differences, then those employees will essentially find creative solutions to problems and become more productive.
When I look at it that way, should I really be expecting any financial or upwardly mobile rewards from any company’s well-executed diversity initiatives? Apparently not, because the goal is to make me more productive and creative, not to give me a promotion and a raise.
If the purpose of diversity initiatives is primarily to develop a more productive and creative workforce, then the NSHP survey is probably right on the money. That said, maybe the reason why a compelling majority of Hispanics surveyed felt that diversity programs are more words than actions or make no difference was because in terms of personal rewards, they really don’t make a difference! If Hispanic workers expect to get some sort of personal financial benefit or a promotion as a result of a more inclusive workplace, the reality is that it may not happen.
More likely is the case where because of Company X’s public and transparent commitment to workplace diversity, their product or service becomes more appealing to a larger, more diverse market, thus spurring corporate growth and more internal opportunities for advancement, eventually leading to the promotion and raise of many employees.
I believe we expect too many results too quickly from diversity programs. If we examine the status of workplace diversity in the United States as a whole, the reality is that although it has made amazing strides over the past two decades, it is still a relatively new concept. Bear in mind that it was just 42 short years ago that the Civil Rights Act was passed, the Equal Rights Amendment was never passed, and we still struggle with discrimination in all arenas of life on a daily basis. Nevertheless, the US workforce is continuously becoming more and more diverse, and the fact that there are people in your place of work that are different from you is an accomplishment in and of itself.
Even though right now it may seem that diversity policies are somewhat useless because we may not be able to reap immediate tangible benefits, the fact that we have these policies in this country is a strong indicator that we are on the right track. Diversity polices are long-term investments and the link between these policies and personal financial success may not be immediately apparent.
We have a long way to go in crafting a completely diverse and inclusive workforce in the United States before we can fully reap the benefits of diversity and inclusion in the workplace on an individual level. But as the nation continues to become more and more diverse, all companies will have no choice but to seriously enact measurable and effective diversity policies to meet not only the needs of their employees but also their clients and customers. According to the human resources consulting firm Hewitt Associates, by 2008, women and minorities will represent 70% of all new labor force entrants, and by 2010, 34% of the workforce will be non-Caucasian.
This follows the general US population trend, as minorities, Hispanics in particular, are increasing in numbers and purchasing power. In the next decade, Hewitt Associates expects that “there will be a significant labor shortage (anywhere from 10-23 million) largely due to baby boomer retirements and a smaller emerging labor pool.” If minority populations are growing, but the labor pool is shrinking, minorities will eventually make up a substantial majority of the entire labor pool. If this trend continues, we may need to worry about our over representation in the workforce!
The fact remains that diversity initiatives are necessary and benefit almost everyone, but at this stage, those benefits are more likely to be realized in the long term. If deficient corporations don’t get on board and begin to create meaningful diversity policies that are more than just lip service and that actually do make a difference to all employees—not just Hispanics—they’ll miss the boat and the giant pile of money that will float away with it.
by Juan E. Rodriguez, MBA, diversity scholar, author, and editor of Diversity Jobs (http://www.diversityjobs.com)
1. National Society of Hispanic Professionals (2005-2006) “Hispanic Values at Work Survey”
2. Lockwood, N. R. (2005) “Workplace Diversity: Leveraging the Power of Difference for Competitive Advantage” from SHRM Online
3. Kochan, T., Bezrukova, K., Ely, R., Jackson, S., Joshi, A., Jen, K., et al. (2002). The Effects of Diversity on Business Performance: Report of the Diversity Research Network
4. Braun Consulting News, (2005) “Workplace Diversity: Does it Work? Explaining ‘Myth vs. Reality’”
5. Wrench, J. (2005) “Commentary: Diversity management can be bad for you”
6. Hewitt Associates (2004) “Preparing for the Workforce of Tomorrow”