Accelerating Diversity

Friday, December 19, 2014

Technology giants like Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Apple have recently pledged to do a better job in recruiting, retaining, and developing diversity in their workplaces, understanding that workforce diversity is intricately linked to their customers and ultimately, to their profitability. They are right to do so. 

The new white paper, Accelerating Diversity for a Better Bottom Line, from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School examines the trend more closely. According to research compiled by  UNC Executive Director, Horace McCormick organizations rich in ethnic, gender, and sexual orientation diversity are more innovative, creative, and demonstrate better decision making and problem solving—all which lead to a better bottom line. The UNC Executive Development white paper describes how talent management and HR professionals can bring these bottom-line benefits of diversity to their organizations. 

No One-Size-Fits-All Approach 

By highlighting some of the various work populations, the paper demonstrates that there is no single “one-size-fits-all” approach to diversity. Corporate leaders should be aware of each group’s similarities, differences, wants, and needs. 

Women. Evidence shows, though, that the presence of women in the workplace and in leadership positions increases productivity and innovation and improves team dynamics and decision-making. And the number of women nominated to the boards of large, public U.S. companies reached an all-time high of 30 percent in 2014, according to the Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) report. However, women still face an uphill battle when it comes to corporate leadership positions. The ISS report also noted that in 2014, women comprised just 18.7 percent of sitting directors and less than 20 percent of U.S. boards on average. 


To address this poor showing, many organizations are increasingly introducing leadership development tracks geared exclusively toward women. But that is not enough. To attract and retain women in the workplace, the paper suggests HR and talent management professionals develop programs and policies: 

  • Have CEO endorsement and include accountability measures.
  • Offer family-friendly benefits and encourage all employees (not just women) to use them.
  • Develop work-life balance as part of the organizational culture, not just by exception.
  • Actively develop women as leaders and ensure that leaders are an example. 

Hispanics. The exponential growth of this population is expected to radically change the workplace and marketplace. Organizations seeking to attract and retain Hispanics as clients and employees must be aware of their differences and similarities. To attract Hispanic talent, the Professional Diversity Network offers the following recommendations: 

  • Identify a trusted advisor to coordinate and advise senior managers on matters specific to Hispanic employee programming.
  • Put existing Hispanic executives front-and-center to establish a sense of pride and to serve as a “real” recruiting case study.
  • Go national on job searches. Many hispanic professionals will relocate for the right professional opportunity.
  • Partner with credible Hispanic organizations to support causes that are important to the Hispanic community.
  • Seek CEO engagement and hands-on support.
  • Offer virtual and in-person networking opportunities for Hispanics that give them access to a hiring manager. 

If diversity has not been a high priority for the organization, there are a few steps that HR and talent management professionals can take to begin to improve diversity in their workplaces and in their investor and customer bases. 

  • Conduct a diversity needs assessment to ensure the workforce, board, and leadership reflects the communities and customers it serves.
  • Obtain CEO support. Each of the top three organizations topping DiversityInc’s 2014 list (see call-outs) note the importance of senior-level support.
  • Develop a diverse leadership pipeline now. HR professionals should review their organization’s talent development and succession plans to include diversity. 

To learn more, download Accelerating Diversity for a Better Bottom Line from the UNC Executive Development resource library.  


About the Author

Ryann K. Ellis is an editor for the Association of Talent Development (ATD). She has been covering workplace learning and performance for ATD (formerly the American Society for Training & Development) since 1995. She currently manages ATD's Community of Practice blogs, as well as ATD's government-focused magazine, The Public Manager. Contact her at 

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