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How to Measure Your Success in Promoting Workplace Diversity

by K. Danielle Edwards, studioD

The workplace is a microcosm of the greater society. As the nation's demographics continue to shift, diversity will continue to grow. Diversity not only encompasses race and sex but also sexual orientation, age, ability status, socioeconomic background, educational level and personality type. Many of today's leading employers are committed to diversity, and about 30 percent of organizations have an official mission statement devoted to it. With this emphasis on diversity in the workplace, measuring the success of related programs, promotions and initiatives becomes a competitive priority.

Strength in Numbers

Metrics and statistics can be clear measures of success in workplace diversity initiatives. A workplace diversity initiative may seek to cultivate a balanced workforce that reflects the composition of the community, state or nation. That could mean periodically assessing employee demographics by race and gender, for example. Organizations may embark on strategic recruiting efforts and build alliances with community organizations, government and universities to leverage workplace diversity. As employers make inroads in recruiting diverse professionals, job candidates representing varied backgrounds and demographics, in turn, begin to perceive the company as an employer of choice -- a place where they can contribute their skills, benefit from professional development and social opportunities, and blossom. The pipeline of talent begins to reflect this commitment.

A Seat at the Table

Diversity is also closely connected to the concept of inclusion. If diversity seeks to ensure there are people of various races, genders, ages, educational backgrounds, personality styles and more within a company, then inclusion tries to make sure they have a seat at the table where decisions are made. This means elevating diversity from simply having a representative sample from diverse groups present in the workplace to ensuring they have a voice of influence and authority that enriches processes, practices, programs and policies. The Society for Human Resource Management defines inclusion as "the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success.” Employers can evaluate the composition of decision-making committees and leadership teams for evidence of inclusion.

Tipping the Training Hat

Effective and successful diversity programs don't happen by accident. They cascade from the company's culture, organizational values and expectations of professional conduct among colleagues. Training programs help instill the value and importance of diversity at work. About 70 percent of companies with workplace diversity practices have a diversity training program. Effective diversity training should have measurable objectives, be aligned with corporate philosophy, share integration with efforts like mentoring and professional development programs, and be anchored in larger organizational goals, like reducing turnover or increasing promotions among diverse groups. Successful diversity training programs also emphasize cross-cultural communication, require participation from senior leaders and, in some cases, calculate a return on investment for every dollar spent on such initiatives.

Happy Campers

Diversity and employee engagement -- the way workers feel about their jobs, employer and workplace -- are connected. Research shows that when companies take inventory of and strategically channel the strengths of all employees, they fare better in measures of engagement. Employee engagement surveys can measure and track progress in areas related to diversity. For instance, on employee engagement surveys employees may rank how they feel in response to statements like, "My employer appreciates my unique qualities" or "I feel valued for who I am as an individual." Organizations with higher levels of engagement experience less turnover and higher productivity. Approaches that foster employee engagement, like employee resource groups, recognition programs and professional development opportunities, also drive success in diversity.

About the Author

K. Danielle Edwards is an experienced media, public relations, marketing, journalism and communications professional whose portfolio spans daily newspapers, monthly publications, government, national corporations and other companies. Edwards has also won awards for her contributions to communications and social media.

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