Improving performance with diversity.

Author:Holmes, Tyrone

According to the 2005 Workplace Diversity Practices study facilitated by the Society for Human Resource Management, 76 percent of surveyed organizations had some type of formal diversity activities in place. Be it diversity recruitment, training and education, community outreach or supplier diversity efforts, more organizations than ever emphasize diversity as a core element in their business practices. Unfortunately, the results of these efforts have been, at best, mixed.


One reason for this apparent lack of success is a failure to connect diversity programs to organizational performance systems and practices such as strategic planning, performance management and quality improvement initiatives. To overcome this problem, there are five steps we can take to systematically connect diversity programs to organizational performance: clarify the benefits of the diversity program, identify SMART goals, develop action plans, define performance expectations and evaluate impact on performance.

Step 1 Clarify the benefits of the diversity program

The first step in any diversity initiative should be to define the benefits that are expected from the program. Specifically, what do you want to gain by leveraging diversity? How will a focus on diversity help you achieve your strategic goals? What benefits will employees gain from participation in the diversity process? Generally speaking, the benefits you can expect to gain from successfully empowering diversity can be divided into three main categories: improved individual and organizational performance, enhanced customer service and improved organizational bottom-line, For example, if one of your strategic objectives is to increase market share, you can leverage diversity by tapping into the burgeoning multicultural market and by hiring a high quality, culturally diverse staff to serve this market.

If one of your goals is to reduce turnover and its associated costs, you can leverage diversity by creating a more culturally inclusive workplace that maximizes the likelihood of success for a diverse range of individuals.

Step 2. Identify SMART goals

Once you are clear about the benefits you hope to gain, your next step is to develop goals for your diversity program. The most effective goals are SMART in that they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. The SMART goal method provides two benefits. First, it ensures the objectives of your diversity program are...

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