Three steps for improving diversity in the workforce

In spite of changing U.S. demographics, organizations are slow to make progress in the workplace and keep the same pace.

By 2044, the U.S. population as a whole is expected to become majority-minority, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s report “Projections of the Size and Composition of the U.S. Population: 2014 to 2060.”

The report predicts that by 2060 just 36 percent of all children (younger than 18) will be white, compared with 52 percent today.

The Pew Research Center’s “The Next America” by Paul Taylor expects a similar trend. In 1960, 85 percent of the U.S. population was white. By 2060, it projects the total U.S. population will be 43 percent white.

Organizations have attempted to improve diversity in the workforce by:

  • Establishing diversity councils.
  • Adding the responsibility for diversity to an existing employee’s role.
  • Hiring an employee who leads the diversity effort for the organization.

Although these efforts can help an organization make progress, the missing component often is a transparent commitment from leadership.

If leaders want a more diverse organization, consider these three steps for improving diversity in the workforce:

Lead by example

It can be easy to assign the task of diversity to others in the organization, but if business leaders want a more diverse organization it requires them to lead by example.

Hiring managers and employees need to see their leader’s decisions reflect the commitment they espouse. Leaders should consider whether or not actions support their commitment to a diverse workforce.

Employees, customers and the communities we serve judge our commitment by what we say and by what we do.

Share the responsibility

Diversifying the workforce is everyone’s responsibility.

Recruiters should be required to present a diverse slate of employees. Hiring managers need to be open to diverse candidates.

Current employees should feel there is an environment where diverse employees can thrive, so they are willing to recommend their friends.

Leaders should understand if the lack of diversity is a problem of supply or demand and address the issue accordingly.

Measure, track outcomes

What gets measured gets done. Leaders should understand their employee data, including where in the talent acquisition, development and promotion processes they have gaps in diversity.

Just as with any other area of the business when improvement is required, develop a strategic plan and assign the responsibility to the appropriate leader with adequate resources to drive process improvement and outcomes.

Diversity is sometimes the one value we can work on for years and still profess a commitment. In no other area of the business — marketing, finance, customer service or product development — could we make little or no progress and be a competitive leader.

We must all do our part at levels of the organization to create a diverse workforce.


Esther L. Bush is the President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh. Esther has established herself as a voice of reason, a coalition builder and a force for positive change in the Greater Pittsburgh community and throughout the U.S. Under her leadership, the Pittsburgh Urban League recently ranked as one of the nation’s top performing affiliates — for the second time.