Author – Vaneeta Aggarwal
Experts and almost everyone else almost unanimously agree that an inclusive and diverse workforce is in the interest of everyone concerned. Such an environment considers the efforts put in by all employees and, in many ways, mirror the demographic specifics for the available labour at any location. Things are, however, far from perfect, as the George Floyd death demonstrated in May 2020. Other than the tragedy itself, the incident also helped bring into focus the significant inequalities in the most advanced and skilled workforces like the US.
Besides its ethical desirability, diverse and inclusive workforces also help businesses hire the best available talent. They improve engagement with customers and enhance the willingness of consumers and the general public to do business with you. US businesses must ensure they meet the promises they made during Floyd’s tragic death. That is ultimately the real test of “official” statements.
The Historic Disparities for Coloured People in the US Workforce
The disparities in the workforce constitution have been historically present, and that too in a significant manner. While discussing the same, one mentions the following points:
- Hiring rates are lower than what you would expect
The figures suggest that white candidates for jobs are more likely to get a callback than other applicants with the same qualifications. Hiring rates as measured by the number of applicants hired among the total pool of applicants for both Hispanic and Black US citizens and work-visa holders stayed almost the same from 1990 to 2015.
- The representation in leadership and white-collar job roles is not proportionate
It is no myth that people of colour are usually employed at lower-tier jobs. There is indeed a conspicuous absence of the demographic in top leadership roles in corporate America. As per the stats presented by a Harvard Business Review article, people belonging to the AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) demographic have the lowest chances of making it to top executive and management positions in Silicon Valley itself.
Further, one should note that historically, the number of Blacks Americans to have CEO positions in Fortune 500 companies stands at a meagre 21. Among the 21, 5 are existing Fortune 500 CEOs.
Additionally, while the representation of Hispanic Americans in the top job is indeed rising, it still is lower than 4% among the Fortune 500 CEO demographic. Lastly, we should mention that no Black Americans hold Chairperson, CFO or CDEO posts in the FTSE-100.
- Negative workplace experience
Studies have found that coloured employees consistently report less positive or satisfying work experience than their white-coloured counterparts.
A more-than-significant 31% of employees belonging to the AAPI demographic and a quarter of Black and Hispanic employees professed to experience bias and demographic stereotypes at work. Black employees further report that they are treated relatively unfairly and get inadequate support in advancing their careers. Female black employees also report less perception of value and respect in their workplace than other races and ethnic groups.
The Progress Made
But it would be a flaw for us to dismiss the significant progress towards a more diverse and inclusive workforce, though much work still needs to be done. For example, many top-tier businesses like Microsoft, McDonald’s, Best Buy and Boeing have pledged since 2020 to bring more parity in their hiring and train employees about Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) essentials. In addition, 60 US firms also appointed a CDO or Chief Diversity Officer as a historic first in their business history.
But some facts dishearten a believer in the new workplace culture of diversity and inclusion. For example, consider the following facts from several recently conducted surveys:
- While an overwhelming 93% of Corporate America business leaders concede that D&I was a top priority, only a significantly less 34% believe it to be a workplace strength.
- An overwhelming 80% of HR professionals did not take D&I seriously and viewed it as yet another move. Simply put, there was a conspicuous absence of real impact resulting from such initiatives.
- However, a whopping 78% of all Black employers employed as professionals recognized that the D&I efforts made by several firms have plenty of good intent backing them. Yet, to strike a discordant note, 40% of the demographic profess to have experienced more talk than real action when implementing D&I practices.
- The last fact to bring to your attention would be many CDOs who abandon their roles. Most often, the causes are the paucity of all kinds of financial, strategic and political support.
Time to Act in a New Way
The top management boards of firms and their respective CEOs are more under pressure today to act according to their D&I beliefs than ever before. As a result, many asset managers, including big names like Black Rock, New York City Employees’ Retirement System and others, provide incentives to companies to share workforce demographic information. Such information includes workforce composition details like race, gender and ethnic data.
Long-standing and firmly rooted disparities in the workforce cannot be weeded out only through one-off so-called “initiatives” The need is to strengthen the D&I framework across the organization instead. The following steps will prove to be of immense help to business leaders achieve their stated D&I goals:
- CEOs need to be D&I champions
When it comes to D&I, the CEO is the person who must take charge of their efforts to achieve the professed goals. It doesn’t mean that the responsibilities of the CDO be delegated. Still, it does mean that CEOs need to go beyond excellent public statements. They need to push the initiative right into the organization and embed its ethos in the same. It does mean that they must hold responsibility for achieving those goals and be the D&I culture symbol for their business.
- Make D&I a part of the larger business strategy
The time has come for realizing that D&I is more than another HR challenge. Far from it, D&I needs to find its way into the core business strategy and help execute the same. It needs to be a part of daily work like many other agreeable activities in the office.
Businesses need to realize how a more diverse and inclusive workforce can give them access to many consumers besides more significant opportunities and chances of success.
- Ensure the accountability is fixed for D&I goals for the top leadership
It is now widely held that the real test is not in ideas but in execution. Accordingly, experts suggest that businesses should use OKR or objective and key results metrics to determine the success of D&I initiatives and provide related incentives. Companies can achieve the same by delegating responsibility for two D&I result sets. The two sets they recommend fall into the categories of representational diversity and inclusion experience at work. Many businesses are trying to define specific D&I KPIs (key performance indicators) to align with the suggestion.
- Work to remove systematic bias
According to research, organizations will get better results if they try to control systematic bias that goes hand in hand with managing talent and other types of HR decision-making.
It needs more priority than trying to solve the tricky issue of individual prejudice. It is common to find that the hiring, selection and career change process itself has a significant role in increasing bias, sometimes even unintentionally.
- Change focus from D&I training to coaching for leadership development
Often organizations are unable to get sustained behaviour changes regarding bias through a one-off D&I training session. It is a far more effective option to undertake an organization-wide strategic method instead. Such intensive training takes place over extended periods by enhancing both the awareness and related skills of employees.
While most people appreciate the goodwill towards D&I, as evident from the public stances of leaders and organizations, it does not make achieving the goals any easier. It would be wise for organizations to pursue the issue systemically and comprehensively.
The strategies we mention above should prove valuable to business leaders who truly have a vision for a diverse and inclusive work-place.
Disclaimer : The article is based upon the research of news and general public campaigns reported in different media