Senior human resources executives from member companies meet monthly as the Diversity Officers’ Network (DON) to strategize about ways companies can help each other promote fully inclusive workplaces. The DON members share successful experiences and create action plans to help businesses formulate and execute programs for the hiring and advancement of minorities. The DON knows that a workplace that mirrors the community can help generate business and increase sales.
Members of the Diversity Officers’ Network are a group for human resources professionals who have some or all of the responsibility for implementing diversity tactics within their companies. This group recognizes that strengthening both workplace and marketplace diversity can be a catalyst for St. Louis — to attract new residents, improve economic growth and revitalize the community. Inclusion, for racial and ethnic minorities, is a key challenge for communities in the new century, and the most successful companies will be the ones that move aggressively to find ways to make inclusion an everyday business reality.
Commitment at the Top — And Throughout the Organization
Workforce diversity doesn’t just happen. It takes commitment, targeted methods and persistence. And the commitment starts at the top of the organization.
Communicating commitment, by deed and word, is vital to helping employees and outsiders understand the company’s priority of maintaining a diverse workforce. Internal communication channels — newsletters, e-mail networks, staff meetings, award events — can underscore policies by focusing on minorities advancing within the company, diversity goals and progress, specific outreach programs, training opportunities and other activities that highlight workplace diversity issues. Use of media or other outside communication opportunities to focus on diversity issues and diverse employees also can make the company’s record and commitment known to potential employees and others who may be influential to them.
Seeking a Diverse Workforce
Competition for good minority employees is increasingly strong, and the most successful companies regularly use a variety of channels to reach out and find good candidates. Effective recruitment relies on pursuing many avenues at once, some traditional and some non-traditional. Key goals are to increase the pool of candidates and raise the profile of the company among minority candidates. Experience shows that consistency and persistence are needed to produce results. Some successful techniques include:
- Advertising through minority media
- Recruiting at historically African-American colleges and universities with significant minority student bodies
- Outreach and partnerships with minority professional organizations
- “Meet the Candidate” programs
Growth and Retention
Talented minority employees will have opportunities elsewhere — and the keys to keeping them are creating an environment where they believe they can progress and will be rewarded for good work.
Strengthening hiring and promotion of minorities in senior and mid-level managerial roles — within various business units and functions — provides visible evidence to other minorities that success for them is possible and that diversity is a company commitment, not just a promise. Promotions from within the company, and reaching out creatively across functions, show that paths for career success are attainable for minorities.
Some prudent, but perhaps non-traditional, steps can help a company identify growth opportunities for minority employees. Thinking in new ways about how an employee’s skills may be applied in another area or function, and approaching both jobs and employees with creative flexibility, can help identify minority employees who could achieve in a new position.
Promoting a work environment in which minorities feel comfortable and valued contributes greatly to minority employee retention and satisfaction. Increasing numbers of companies are finding that minority affinity or networking groups within the company, and sometimes with employees of other companies, are valued by minority employees who may be exploring new paths within the company. Such groups share information, reduce feelings of isolation, address issues of common concern and create bonds with other employees and the company.
Strategies such as those listed above have worked for many companies. But it is clear that the best diversity programs are the ones tailored to the needs and environments of individual companies — coupled with determination to make progress at all levels. Many companies achieving success in diversity have found that such determination — with openness to continue trying new approaches that fit their company — can yield significant results over time.
The Diversity Officers’ Network is a component of the St. Louis Business Diversity Initiative, which is publicly committed to increasing purchasing from minority firms and sharing information and joint progress reports with the community.