SHRM Poll: Workplace Diversity Weathers the Recession

Oct 14, 2010

Alexandria, Va., – Oct. 14, 2010 – A new poll by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) shows mostly encouraging news about diversity in the workplace despite an economic downturn that forced cuts in many human-resource practices.

The “Workplace Diversity Practices: How Has Diversity and Inclusion Changed Over Time?” poll, which compared diversity practices of 2010 with those of 2005, was released during SHRM’s Diversity and Inclusion Conference and Exposition this week in New Orleans.

The poll showed increases in:

  • The percentage of companies that provide training on diversity issues (71 percent in 2010 compared to 67 percent in 2005);
  • The number of organizations that have a diverse board of directors (66 percent in 2010 vs. 53 percent in 2005);
  • The percentage of organizations that said their diversity practices were very or somewhat effective (84 percent in 2010, up slightly from 83 percent in 2005).

At the same time, the percentage of organizations that have workplace diversity practices —recruiting and retention strategies, and community outreach, among others — declined to 68 percent in 2010, from 76 percent in 2005. SHRM researchers attributed the decrease to the global economic downturn that began in late 2007. Larger organizations, government agencies and multinational organizations were more likely to address workplace diversity.

“While some diversity practices have been put on hold during the recession — for example, diversity hiring programs may be suspended when there is no hiring — the findings clearly show that organizations are still making significant investments in diversity programs and these programs are having payoffs for those organizations,” said Mark Schmit, SHRM’s director of research.

The poll also showed that a larger number of organizations (68 percent) mandate diversity training for top-level executives.

Respondents said diversity practices improve an organization’s public image and reduce costs from turnover, absenteeism and low productivity. But measuring return on investment remains a challenge. Fewer organizations (8 percent vs. 14 percent) are collecting ROI data, including the numbers of diverse employees recruited and retained.

Workplace diversity is defined as an inclusive corporate culture that strives to respect variations in employee personality, work style, age, ethnicity, gender, religion, socioeconomics and education.

At its Diversity and Inclusion Conference, SHRM announced that it was creating within the next two years standards for diversity practices, including a description of the top diversity professional position; the essential elements of a diversity and inclusion program; and metrics that measure an effective program.

The poll, conducted in August, surveyed 402 randomly selected HR professionals. For more information, visit:


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