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How do I establish an effective diversity program at my company?

 Many companies translate "Diversity Program" into efforts aimed at recruiting a larger pool of diverse candidates. If this is the only approach you take, however, you may be wasting company resources.

Answer: Hewitt Associates (a consulting firm) found a disproportionately high attrition rate among minority groups they call the "revolving door syndrome"). In part, people of color are likely to leave the corporate world to start their own business venutures. Another unfortunate reason is that many people of color - feeling they are isolated and excluded - don’t feel welcome in Corporate America.

Before you look to hire diverse candidates, make sure your organizational culture and environment will support diversity, otherwise retention is sure to become a challenge.

Following are 10 ways to ensure that your diversity program is successful:

  1. Make it strategic
    Incorporate diversity into your business strategy and communicate the professional “business sense” and leadership commitment to diversity; make training only a part of the overall diversity program; revisit existing policies and programs to ensure they align with and support your vision for diversity.
  2. Make it measurable: Know your baseline
    How do your current employees feel about your environment - Is it inclusive? Do they feel they are part of the company team? Do they feel their input is welcome? Periodic climate surveys and ongoing exit interview surveys can provide you with valuable information with which to measure your program’s effectiveness.
  3. Make it relevant to your customers/clients
    Who are your current customers/clients? Who might your new customers/clients be and what are their interests? How might you position your organization to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse market?
  4. Make it inclusive
    Make your program applicable to all employees of the organization, rather than targeting people of color, women and/or disabled employees.
  5. Make sure there’s accountability
    Assign responsibility to a core team of leadership professionals for the development and implementation of strategic action plans.
  6. Make it experiential
    Roll out development programs that enable participants to draw from real world examples and engage in interactive exercises so that they can “try-on” new concepts and build new skills.
  7. Make it unifying
    Rather than polarizing or alienating, which many diversity programs tend to be as they recreate social inequities
  8. Make it standard
    Role model an appreciation of differences from the top down; the message must stem from leadership and business vision, and be modeled by senior executives.
  9. Make it collaborative
    Encourage accountability and ownership of the responsibility for fostering an inclusive environment by all managers and staff throughout the organization.
  10. Make it comprehensive
    Cover the basics, like rolling out compliance training and developing anti-harassment and anti-bias policies, but be sure to assign critical importance to the development of intercultural competence and the associated skills. 
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