‘Diversity’ Defined in Less Than a Third of Workplaces

‘Diversity’ Defined in Less Than a Third of Workplaces

Report Illustrates Challenges in Unlocking the Strengths of Diversity


Alexandria, VA.–(HISPANIC PR WIRE – BUSINESS WIRE)–February 26, 2008–Organizations believe workplace diversity is important–but only 30 percent have an official definition of it. And, there is no common language to guide companies in managing their diversity efforts.

Those findings are detailed in a research report released today by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). It partnered with the American Institute for Managing Diversity Inc. in conducting a year-long study on the status of diversity in the workplace.

“Our research confirms that most organizations currently have diversity policies and practices in place,” said SHRM President and CEO Susan R. Meisinger. “But, while policies mark a significant step forward, challenges remain.”

The good news from the 2007 State of Workplace Diversity Management Report, say HR professionals and diversity practitioners, is evidence of greater awareness of diversity in a general sense. That makes this a good time for organizations to focus more on how diversity can have a positive impact on the bottom line.

A survey that was part of the project asked more than 1,400 HR professionals and diversity practitioners to gauge the extent to which diversity practices accomplish specific business objectives:

— 52 percent said that to a “large extent,” diversity practices created a work environment or culture that allows everyone to contribute all that they can to the organization.

— To that same extent, 49 percent said the practices achieved appropriate representation of racial and ethnic groups.

— Similarly, 48 percent said that to a large extent, the practices enhanced the ability of people from different backgrounds to work together effectively.

Also within the “large extent” category, respondents said diversity practices leveraged differences and similarities in the workforce (39 percent) and among customers and markets (36 percent) for the strategic advantage of the organization, and that they eliminated or minimized prejudice (38 percent).

Still, diversity management remains a challenge. Respondents said that, among other hurdles to diversity management, the field is not well-defined or understood, focuses too much on compliance, and places too much emphasis on ethnicity and/or gender.

“The field is stuck, with little innovation in how we are tracking diversity,” said Frank McCloskey, survey contributor and vice president of diversity at Georgia Power.

“There is lack of discipline and understanding of what diversity means beyond race and gender or how success is being defined, or not being defined, by most corporate diversity and inclusion initiatives.”

Other notable findings of the survey conducted with 993 HR professionals and 330 diversity practitioners representing publicly and privately owned companies, non-profits, and the education sector:

— Small companies–99 or fewer employees–are the least likely to have an official definition of diversity

— Public/government organizations are more likely than private non-profit and for-profit organizations to define diversity.

— Some 75 percent of HR professionals said that, from a strategic perspective, leveraging the diverse talents of the workforce was extremely important to their organization; they would like to see greater emphasis made on the positive relationship between diversity and business results.

For more information visit: http://www.shrm.org/surveys.

About the Society for Human Resource Management

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest association devoted to human resource management. The Society serves the needs of HR professionals and advances the interests of the HR profession. Founded in 1948, SHRM has more than 235,000 members in over 130 countries, and more than 575 affiliated chapters. Visit http://www.shrm.org.

‘Diversity’ Defined in Less Than a Third of Workplaces