Diversity must be integrated as an ongoing part of a savvy business's overall strategy to both meet the needs of the organization's employees and have an understanding of its consumer base, says Rebecca Sohn, senior vice president and general manager of Lee Hecht Harrison's Pittsburgh office.
"Companies that recognize diversity as a business imperative benefit by tapping into a large part of the talent pool and employing those who represent a significant part of their consumer base," says Sohn.
Organizations are beginning to view diversity initiatives as the optimal solution for staying competitive, rather than as a legal or moral issue, Sohn says.
Some companies struggle with how to measure meaningful diversity within their organization. Lee Hecht Harrison and others have developed formal diversity programs to best address the needs of the individuals involved in all areas in which the company operates. The company maintains a council that meets to help define what diversity means within the company and to communicate that message to each of its offices.
Here are five tips from Lee Hecht Harrison for instilling diversity awareness and strategy in your organization.
* Communicate your diversity goals. Explore and expand the frames of reference within your company by bringing in key stakeholders for frank and frequent discussions during the development process of your diversity program.
* Assess the present state of your company's diversity. This can provide a benchmark for tracking the improvement once some of the issues are identified.
* Discuss ways to move past stereotypes and prejudice and to proactively address change with representatives from all levels within your company. Creating such a group can move diversity initiatives into the lifeblood and culture of your organization, rather than having only one person responsible for being the diversity conscience of the company.
* Identify ways to track your progress. Have regular meetings and solicit input from associates to assess trends that develop as a result of working toward the goals that were set.
* Look at best practices within your community. Check nominee lists for local professional diversity awards, see what those companies are doing and ask to speak to someone about their program. Contact ethnic organizations that support your community and become familiar with them to become better tied in with local demographics.
Says Sohn: "Companies are starting to realize that there is a real measurable level of value in including people with many points of view and backgrounds to arrive at the best answer." How to reach: Lee Hecht Harrison, www.lhh.com