Corporate Diversity Should Mirror Both Population and Customer Base

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The corporate world has come a long way in terms of diversity initiatives, but there’s still a long way left to go. While many companies have taken significant steps toward recruiting and retaining diverse workforces, many others have failed to address the issue.

Often, executives expect that their workforces will grow more diverse organically as time passes, but if there are unaddressed issues in hiring and retention practices, this may not be the case.

For example, to close the diversity gap in white-collar jobs in the automotive industry, hiring of African-American workers would need to increase by 420 percent and hiring of Hispanic workers would need to increase by 239 percent, according to Topics in Corporate Diversity, a study from human resources technology company Restless Bandit. White-collar jobs in the high-tech industry face even larger gaps, with African Americans being underrepresented by 643 percent and Hispanics by 500 percent. White-collar financial service jobs show a 550 percent gap in African-American workers, and non-pharma healthcare white-collar careers underrepresent minorities by 275 percent.

These jobs data are disturbing, especially considering the U.S. labor force will have be majority non-white by 2050, according to Restless Bandit. To keep pace with the changing workforce, companies should be focused on a level of diversity in their workforces that matches not only their communities, but also their customer bases.

“As the American economy trends toward a service economy and as the population mix moves toward a more racially diverse demographic, companies that want their employee bases to mirror the demographic make-up of consumers will have to think hard about talent acquisition strategies,” says Steve Goodman, CEO of Restless Bandit.

The First Step Is Admitting You Have a Problem

Many executives may not even realize that hiring discrimination based on race and gender occurs within their companies. As diversity initiatives grow more commonplace, it’s becoming clear that the lack of diversity in many areas of the American workforce isn’t intentional, but the result of societal biases that hiring managers and recruiters may not realize even exist. However, the statistics don’t lie. The problem cannot be ignored.

Through diversity training initiatives, companies can address biases in their hiring practices.

birds“Unconscious bias is the greatest hurdle to overcome in terms of closing diversity gaps,” Goodman says. “Despite our best efforts, many people are not even aware of the ingrained biases that influence their decision-making. Stereotypes about gender and race may often determine who recruiters are bringing in.”

In combination with that training, technology is also instrumental. Data doesn’t discriminate, consciously or unconsciously. Statistics can show where a company is lagging behind.

“Technology is one of the most effective ways to address the diversity gap,” Goodman says. “Data analysis helps identify and quantify the shortcomings, and artificial intelligence, talent rediscovery, and machine learning are proving very effective to combat unconscious bias and increase diversity in recruiting and hiring.”

Education All Around

Many companies have had success in addressing unconscious bias by implementing specific training programs. Carefully conducted training, designed with sensitivity to all involved, can make teams more cohesive and more productive. Education has long been the go-to method for battling discrimination, and the workplace should be no different.

But educating the workforce isn’t enough. Diversity initiatives should focus outward as well. Companies looking to increase the diversity of their workforces should take steps to get involved in minority communities and promote educational opportunities through internships and scholarships.

“The education gap between Hispanics and the white and black populations also plays a role in the workforce diversity gap,” says Goodman. “We need more equal opportunity for higher education in order to lessen the gap.”

Getting involved with minority communities now to help increase opportunities for education will provide companies with the diverse workforces they need in the future and will pay dividends in brand image both now and in years to come. The benefits outweigh the costs. Your company’s executives in 2050 will look back and thank you.

By Jason McDowell