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Proving the Value of Diversity Management Efforts

By Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR  10/1/2007
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PHILADELPHIA—Diversity is the right thing to do, but your chief financial officer will want to know how much it costs to do the right thing, Dr. Edward E. Hubbard, president and CEO of Hubbard & Hubbard Inc., in Petaluma, Calif., told attendees at his concurrent session of the SHRM Diversity Conference & Exposition held here Oct. 18-20, 2007.

But Hubbard said diversity practitioners should also want to know if their diversity efforts make an impact and add value. Diversity is about output and outcome, he said. Were talking about making sure you have activity for activitys sake. This is why measurement is so important and why diversity practitioners should strive to understand the basic math that can drive measurement efforts.

Untangling Complexity

Diversity measurement may seem complex in part because diversity is itself a complex area. In addition to differences based on race, gender and ethnicity, co-workers will have different work, learning and communication styles, Hubbard said. And, because diversity is built into the structure of organizations and into all types of business activities and relationships, there are added layers of complexity that can influence the measures on which an organization chooses to focus.

Hubbard said organizations can untangle the complexity of diversityand get employees marching in the same directionby tying diversity efforts to the organizations key business strategies. For example, some organizations focus on profit, customer service, quality, employee retention or productivity.

Link Measures to Progress Point

Hubbard said the measures used should be tied to a companys particular stage in the diversity journey. For example, if an organization is focused primarily on creating a diverse workforce, appropriate measures will capture representation percentages, turnover, the number of job offers and acceptances, employee tenure, and recruiting costs. Breaking down turnover data by age, tenure and other demographics can help identify trends.

When an organization is focused on valuing the diverse workforce it already has, the focus shifts to how employees perceive the organizations culture, values and work/life balance as well as how it perceives the leaders of the organization. At this stage, Hubbard said, an organization can measure the number of languages spoken and the extent to which work/life benefits are used.

If an organizations diversity effort has progressed to the point where attention can be focused primarily on managing and developing an already diverse and valued workforce, then measures will be focused on promotions, success planning, performance reviews, litigation costs and requests for reasonable accommodation. Employee satisfaction will continue to be monitored closely at this stage as well, Hubbard said.

But the ultimate goal of diversity management, according to Hubbard, is to be able to utilize the skills and capabilities of each employee fully. It is therefore at the final stageleveraging a diverse workforcewhen measures related to customer satisfaction, market segmentation, innovation, supplier diversity and community relations take center stage. Hubbard says an organization wont be able to focus on these advanced measures until it has progressed effectively through the other three stages.

Diversity is not just about representation; its about utilization, Hubbard said. Thats why finding the right measure depends on the organizations strategy and why measures should be outcome-based, he said.

Hubbards advice for understanding an organizations strategy is simple: Ask managers what issues keep them up at night.

Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR, is online writer/editor for SHRM.

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