In Human Resources and Recruiting, as in any industry, the focus on particular programs and strategies periodically adjusts to highlight a topic either that is new or that has been outshined by something else for a while. In our industry, the attention of articles and agencies meanders from employer branding, employee retention, job posting sites, applicant tracking systems and employee referral programs to, these days, social media and mobile web tools, just to name a few. Every one of these topics is relevant and important to the success of recruiting and HR organizations, and, to be fair, as mere mortals we can only focus on a few things at a time. However, there is one topic of which we should never lose sight: Diversity.
We capitalize Diversity for a reason – it is a key Essential for success, though sometimes it seems that the impact of successful Diversity practices gets lost in the shuffle of priorities. A 2010 study by SHRM, “Workplace Diversity Practices: How Has Diversity and Inclusion Changed Over Time?” returns attention to how Diversity programs affect business as well as how practices and efforts have changed in recent years.
Respondents to the SHRM survey indicated that a Diversity program can improve an organization’s image, reduce turnover and absenteeism, improve productivity and increase organizational competitiveness. However, while these impacts are profound and while many companies relay improved minority representation among upper ranks, fewer respondents reported collecting Diversity program return-on-investment data in 2010 than were doing so in 2005, and a smaller percentage of respondents reported having “in place any practices that address workplace diversity.” In short, focus is waning in the face of what may be seen as more pressing priorities.
The results of the SHRM survey aren’t dire, and all of the results are not negative by any means. However, this survey highlights the loss of focus on Diversity at a critical time in our economy. Interestingly, it’s difficult to find information about how the recession is impacting different Diverse groups. One study that received a good amount of attention during this same time period was released by the National Association for Law Placement and showed a slight comparative decline in minority and women lawyers, a decline that some noted as minor and that others noted as “historic.”
However one interprets the results of these studies, the fact is that there are consequences when companies stop attending to Diversity and inclusion as top priorities or see them as optional programs. To keep our companies, and our country, competitive, we need to reawaken our focus on Diversity within our ranks and to remember that our Diversity efforts will pay dividends long after the current excitement about mobile-accessible Internet tools and social media has passed.