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Many Companies Lack Diversity Training, Budget, Metrics

SHRM survey offers advice for smaller companies with limited resources

Although the nation’s large number of minorities underscores the need for robust workplace diversity programs, large majorities of employers don’t provide diversity training and don’t measure the impact of their diversity practices, according to a new survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

More than 3 in 4 lack policies addressing gender identity, and more than 1 in 3 have no policy addressing sexual orientation discrimination at work.

The SHRM research, published April 8, 2014, is based on responses from 292 HR professionals gathered in fall 2013. Respondents were asked questions about their companies’ diversity initiatives in 2013, although questions about diversity budgets referred to calendar year 2012.

Minorities constitute more than one-third of the U.S. population, the survey authors pointed out, adding that minorities’ share of the population is growing at a faster rate than that of nonminorities. 

“This basic demographic shift—coupled with greater public advocacy and awareness recently concerning differences in ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation—has magnified the need for diversity and inclusion initiatives in the workplace,” the researchers wrote. 

Findings from 2013 are compared with those from 2011, the last time SHRM conducted a similar survey. Among the notable results were:

  • More than 3 in 4 organizations (76 percent) had no policy addressing gender identity and/or gender expression.
  • More than 1 in 3 (35 percent) had no policy addressing sexual orientation discrimination at work
  • Only 15 percent had staff devoted exclusively to diversity.
  • Fewer than 1 in 4 organizations with less than 500 workers provided diversity training in 2012. 
  • Fewer than 1 in 8 had a diversity training budget in 2012, less than in 2011, when about 1 in 6 had such budgets.
  • About 2 in 3 (66 percent) had no way to measure the impact of their diversity practices. Another 16 percent weren’t sure if their companies measured impact. 
  • More than 9 in 10 (93 percent) didn’t measure the return on investment for their diversity initiatives. 

Ethnicity, gender, race and age were the areas of diversity that organizations most frequently focused on, according to the survey. Parental status and gender identity were among the areas that received the least attention. 

In general, larger organizations (defined as those with 500 or more employees) far outpaced smaller ones when it came to investments in diversity initiatives. 

For instance, large organizations are more than twice as likely as smaller ones to provide employees with diversity training; three times as likely to collect metrics on their diversity initiatives; almost four times more likely to measure the impact of diversity efforts; more than twice as likely to have employee affinity groups created around an aspect of diversity; and five times more likely to have a diversity training budget. Large companies also devoted more resources than smaller ones to diversity efforts surrounding religion, veteran status, and gender identity or expression. 

About two-thirds of the respondents worked at companies with fewer than 500 employees. 

While devoting staff specifically to diversity and inclusion might be impractical for some companies, the researchers noted, 17 percent of organizations use volunteers for diversity efforts, including staff-led committees, councils and advisory boards. 

“If an HR professional is drafting a set of diversity and inclusion initiatives for the first time, they may consider tying these programs to staffing, which is a frequently-used approach,” the researchers wrote. They added that more than half of respondents used recruiting to increase diversity in their organizations, while nearly 2 in 5 said their retention strategies are designed to help diversify the workplace. 

Other top strategies that HR professionals used to increase workplace diversity included: 

  • Partnering with educational institutions and government organizations devoted to diversity.
  • Providing leadership development opportunities, including mentoring and coaching, that promoted diversity in senior company positions.
  • Conducting employee attitude or engagement surveys that included questions about organizational diversity.
  • Holding managers accountable for diversity-related tasks or outcomes. 

The industries most represented in the survey were government; manufacturing; professional, scientific and technical services; health care and social assistance; and finance and insurance. Least represented were real estate, utilities, repair and maintenance, and construction. 

Dana Wilkie is an online editor/manager for SHRM.


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