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Should your organization launch a diversity program?

For employers, the word “diversity” no longer refers only to race and gender. It’s about providing a working environment in which all employees — regardless of background, identity and beliefs — are recognized and reassured that their contributions are valued. An organization that succeeds at managing diversity should see robust productivity and high morale, and it may be able to attract more of today’s top job candidates.

For these reasons, many employers are establishing diversity programs. Should your organization follow suit? Perhaps, but it’s important to fully grasp the purpose of a move like this before you begin investing dollars, people and time.

Setting objectives

In a nutshell, diversity programs are formal efforts to help employees better understand, accept and appreciate differences among everyone on staff. Differences typically include race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, disabilities and sexual orientation. They may also include education, personality types, skill sets and life experiences.

A program might include training courses, seminars, guest speakers, group discussions and social events. Strategic objectives often include:

  • Improving collaboration and productivity within teams and amongst various teams or departments,
  • Attracting job candidates from as many different societal groups as possible, and
  • Connecting with growing multicultural markets who don’t necessarily respond to traditional messaging.

Think of implementing a diversity program as an investment, not an expense. It should include specific goals and achievable returns.

Starting the process

Many diversity programs fail because of lack of consensus regarding their value or, simply, faulty design. Here are some tips on getting started:

Begin with executive buy-in. Successful programs start with the support of ownership and senior leadership. If the C-Suite isn’t committed to the program, it probably won’t last long if it gets off the ground at all. Typically, a champion will need to build the case of why a diversity program is needed and explain how it will positively impact the organization.

Assemble the right team. Form a diversity committee to identify objectives and give the program its initial size and shape. If you happen to employ someone who has been involved in launching a diversity program in the past, learn all you can from his or her experience. Otherwise, encourage your team to research successful and unsuccessful programs. You might even engage an HR consultant who specializes in the field.

Put your program in writing. The committee needs to develop clear language spelling out each goal. The objectives can then be reviewed, discussed and revised. Ensure the goals support your strategic plan and that you can accurately measure progress toward each. Don’t launch the program until you’re confident it will improve your organization, not distract it.

Assessing feasibility

A diversity program could help employees get along better and attract the job candidates you need to stay competitive. But that doesn’t mean establishing one is a no-brainer that you should rush into at any cost. Our firm can help you assess the feasibility of the idea.

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