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Fri, Apr 30, 2010

Talent Strategies

Diversity’s Three Legged Stool

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The world is changing demographically right in front of us. As Monster’s Chief Diversity Officer, I have a ringside seat. How you manage an increasingly diverse workforce can have a dramatic effect on the success of your business – both organizationally and financially.

When developing and implementing a diversity strategy, I often advise companies to view it as a three-legged stool. The first two legs are obvious – one represents your workforce (the composition of the people who work at your company) and the second represents your workplace (the physical environment which extends all the way through to the kinds of training programs you have in place). Most corporate diversity initiatives remain largely rooted in these two legs. And while we still must be attentive to these historical values, what matters most today is the third leg of the stool: Marketplace.

The best workplace diversity initiatives are leveraging that third leg for competitive advantage. Companies are hiring diverse employees and executives not because it’s the right thing to do but rather, because it’s enabling creativity and innovation. Tapping into the unique cultures, perspectives, experiences and ideas can have a profound impact on your bottom line. (I’m very much looking forward to the day when the title of Chief Diversity Officer will be rooted in innovation and growth and not anti-discrimination compliance.)

So where to start?

1. Look in the mirror: Diversity should be a reflection of your company. It’s not a good strategy to compare yourself with others and model best practices of companies further along. Start by defining what diversity means for your organization and clarify the role it will play, including leadership roles and expectations for diversity initiatives. Accountability is key.

2. Begin with the mindset of your candidates and tailor programs accordingly: The strongest diversity strategies are structured around what candidates are looking for, which is maximum opportunity. It’s about skills, talent and abilities. It’s important to acknowledge that different groups have different needs and they want their needs recognized and met. Standardized, cookie-cutter HR approaches simply won’t work.

3. Integrate and learn: Diversity programs should no longer be based on 20th century ideals that “we’re all the same” which promotes equal opportunity or “we’re all different but equal” which celebrates individuality on an equal playing field. Instead, focus on integration and learning. Build programs to take advantage of the opportunities from human diversity, helping employees learn to collaborate with people who are both like and unlike themselves.

Workplace diversity is an untapped sweet spot of growth potential. And while there is no “best way” to manage it today, with strength in commitment, it’s easy to get started.

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