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Making a Business Case for Diversity

Mauricio Velásquez, President
The Diversity Training Group

You are not looking at diversity training because "it is the right thing to do." You are looking at diversity training because your employees and your customers demand it. Corporate diversity efforts are about money, business, and the bottom-line. If you disagree, we have to talk. I am not saying that the moral and social reasons for conducting diversity training are not important. My clients are doing this work because it saves them money, helps them retain good people and meet (hopefully exceed) the expectations of their existing customers and continuously win new ones.

Here are some preliminary questions you should be asking your employees

bulletWhat does diversity mean to you?
bulletHow do you define success here at your organization?
bulletAre you successful? (Barriers)
bulletWhat are our strengths as an organization with respect to diversity? What are we doing well?
bulletWhat could be improved? (Barriers)
bulletWhat are your expectations for diversity initiatives and activities that promote a more inclusive work environment?
bulletWhat are the professional benefits to you? (Organizational benefits)
bulletWhat are the personal benefits to you?
bulletAnything else you would like to add? (Concerns)

What follows is data or information I recommend you gather and review when assessing your corporate culture today and where it needs to be in the future. What does your situation, your issues and corporate culture or working environment tell you about your organization. This data can help gauge where the organization is today.

Exit interviews - Why are people leaving? What are they saying? Who is leaving and who is not?

Attitude Surveys - Have you conducted any attitude surveys in the last year or in the last several years? What did these surveys tell you? What are people saying? Perception is power.

Customer Surveys - What do your customers say about you (recently and over time)? What do they say about your marketing, sales, and customer retention efforts?

Hiring - Who are you hiring and who are you not hiring? Do you conduct structured group interviews? If you are hiring through one-on-one interviews, are you getting more people who look just like you or "remind me of me?" What is your definition of the "best" candidate?

Attrition Rate - What are the attrition rates of women and minorities as compared to other groups? At what rate are different groups of people entering your workforce (attrition v. recruitment rate)? How does it compare across men, women, race, etc.?Look at data over time, is it improving?

Cost of turnover and lost training dollars (total training budget divided by number of employees is average training per employee + recruitment costs divided by new hires is recruitment costs per new hire = total cost of turnover (then break down by EEO-1 category)

Your Demographics - What does your organization look like today versus five and ten years ago (EEO-1 reports, compare data and look for trends)? What are your projections for the future?

Customer Demographics - Does your customer look different today versus five and ten years ago? (It may be difficult, but get your hands on the demographic data of your customer and compare it with your internal labor demographic data. Do you resemble the community you serve? Do you resemble your customers? (Superimpose customer data over employee data). Do gaps exist?

Talent Pool, High Potentials - Who are the future managers and leaders in your organization. Who aren't they? Do you have a fully-inclusive formal mentoring program? Or, like most organizations, is your mentoring conducted informally and typically excludes certain groups of individuals.

If you don't resemble the community you serve, how can you begin to provide its members with high quality customer service? Customer service is about delighting your customers and being able to anticipate their needs. Are your customers (internal and external) strangers to you? How have we been taught to treat strangers? If your customers are different from you and they feel unrecognized, you will begin to lose them because your customers will go where they are valued, understood, and well served. They will not stay where they are made to feel "different" or uncomfortable or unwanted.

Don't tell me you can't get this data. Don't tell me you don't have the time. Make the time. Find an intern to do it. Form an ad-hoc diversity team or steering committee of employees representative of the whole organization and delegate these tasks. Without this data, you can't make a serious business case for instituting diversity training and other corporate-wide initiatives to create and promote a more inclusive work environment in your organization. The cost of not doing this work, of ignoring these issues, is too great. Just look in the newspaper everyday.

My whole approach to corporate diversity and inclusivity is geared toward helping you, the employer, discover what it is "you don't know you don't know" is going on in your employee ranks. We must determine the barriers your people are experiencing. Do they feel valued? Do they feel they can participate? Are they fully integrated into your organization? We must determine what barriers exist to allowing your employees to feel included, satisfied and productive.