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The Business Case for Workplace Diversity

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Corporate diversity and inclusion efforts are evolving beyond just “doing the right thing” to a business-focused strategy to attract diverse talent, improve retention and maximize the value and contribution of every employee, according to “Talent, Business and Competition: A New World of Diversity & Inclusion,” a 2018 Allegis Group white paper.

Addressing the challenges

A diverse workforce and inclusive corporate culture improves innovation, business agility, productivity, employee engagement and talent attraction, according to a number of studies. Leading companies including Cisco, Target, Staples and HP have recently committed to improving diversity. However, companies may find their progress hampered unless they first address common internal issues:

Diversity in leadership

A lack of diversity in upper levels of management can not only affect strategic decisions the organization makes, but also potentially signal that diversity isn’t valued.  This issue is increasingly making headlines; among Fortune 500 companies, women and minorities hold 31 percent of board seats. Overall, nearly 80 percent of board members are male.

Gaps in equal pay

Women earned roughly 80 cents on every dollar men earned in 2016, according to a recent study. Another study estimated the pay gap between black and white employees at 25 percent. Compensation discrepancies are increasingly seen as a negative for company brands. The most effective companies view D&I as an ongoing imperative, with a focus on eliminating the barriers and biases that lead to those discrepancies.


Overall, while companies are committed to improving in the area of D&I, they continue to struggle to connect activity to measurable goals. Yet this is changing. Microsoft announced in late 2016 that it would tie executive bonuses to diversity goals after seeing the second straight year of declines in female employees. Not only are companies taking action, candidates are also seeing it as a crucial part of a company’s employer value proposition.

Diverse partnerships

“The vast majority of companies I’ve encountered are actively pursuing diversity initiatives,” notes Gina Gauna, director of business development and a chair of the D&I Board of Aerotek. “Many companies have a strategy in place but no matter where they are in the process, we are able to partner with them and share the advantages of the valuable partnerships we’ve formed over the years.”

These partnerships include national programs such as the Black Engineer of the Year Award (BEYA) and Women of Color (WOC) STEM Global Competitiveness Conferences, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), and the PhD Project.

“The impact of a truly effective D&I strategy goes beyond gender, ethnicity or race,” Gauna explains. “Bringing together different groups of people with diverse individual experiences — collectively, that’s what brings the value.”

D&I as a business advantage

Organizations that fail to address those issues will not be able to compete effectively for diverse workers or retain them once they’re hired. Considering the business case and evolving expectations associated with D&I, there are steps business and talent leaders can take to address the situation:

Unconscious bias as a root cause

Bias is a natural part of human behavior, affecting nearly every decision we make. In the workplace, however, it can result in decisions or conditions that reduce opportunity for diverse workers, even in the most diversity-aware organizations. Fighting the negative influence of unconscious bias is a common thread that underlies every D&I-related strategy and activity.

From words to action

No matter how committed an organization is, action is still needed to get results. The answer involves a solid diversity position, objectives for change, metrics for success and executive support.

Talent acquisition strategies

Great recruiting brings diverse talent through the door. From job definitions to the sourcing and recruiting process, evaluation and selection, and in the use of technologies, the opportunities to reduce bias and improve diverse hiring span all aspects of talent acquisition.

Enabling an inclusive employee experience

A positive employee experience is vital to attracting diverse talent. Leadership involvement, mentorship, training, employee resource groups, fairness in compensation, and opportunity for advancement are ingredients to an inclusive company culture.

D&I is no longer about compliance, quotas or check-off-the-box activities; instead, it is about taking down the barriers that stand between employers and vital sources of scarce talent. It is about bringing to bear the full power of diverse, personal experiences and perspectives to understand customers, create value and support innovation. And, D&I is about being prepared for a future where demographic shifts will fundamentally change workforce dynamics.

A crucial component of a strong diversity and inclusion initiative, Gauna adds, is executive leadership and investment. “The more a D&I strategy aligns with a company’s business imperatives, the more successful the program tends to be.”

Want to learn more about D&I? Contact Aerotek now.