Should We Get Rid of Designated Diversity Roles?

By Maren Hogan

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What exactly is the role of a diversity officer and are they an essential piece to every workplace? Should there not be a little part of “diversity officer” built into our hiring managers/selves to begin with? Do we have to physically eat a honey roasted dinner of “diversity officer” plated on a gold table of equality to make recruiters hire for not only diversity but talent as well? Can’t we do all of this without designating a specific “role” for it?

With the recent news around Twitter’s new Diversity Chief (if ever there were a misnomer for a role…) we thought we’d take a look at the factoids:

Diversity officers, what are they? 
Diversity officers are designated employees set with the task of ensuring the company both hires and maintains diversity within the workplace.

What do employees think about diversity? 
According to a diversity hiring survey by Glassdoor, employees feel deeply about diversity in the office. 57% of people think their company should be doing more to increase diversity among its workforce.

In that same survey, 45% of people said the hiring managers were seated in the best spot to increase workplace diversity. 42% said the CEO is in the best seat, 40% said Human Resources and 23% said employees were responsible for heightening diversity in the office.

Your employees want diversity, in the wake of the democratic debate quiet man Martin O’Malley said something eye-opening about people under 30.

“Talk to our people under 30. You’ll never find among them people who want to bash immigrants, people who want to deny rights to gay couples. That tells me we are moving to a more connected, generous, compassionate place, and we need to speak to the goodness within our country.” — Martin O’Malley Governor of Maryland

Why is this significant? Because the majority of people O’Malley was talking about, will be heading the workforce, sooner rather than later. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2015 millennials will overtake 75% of the workforce by 2030.

Big picture, “managing diversity” vs. “managing” 
How is managing diversity different from just straight up managing? Well, managing diversity is a distinct subcategory of managing, in that it is strictly for hiring and maintaining diversity in the workplace and making sure diversity is not lost through the rough terrain of the bustling workplace. The diversity officer also ensures that once they bring new people on, that they stay on task and are taken care of in an appropriate manner, while optimizing company time and money.

What is a hiring manager? A hiring Manager brings on new people and ensures they stay on task and are taken care of in an appropriate manner, while optimizing company time and money.

So if you’re keeping track here, one specifically caters to diverse employees, and the other caters to “everyone else.” Which begs the question, why are we categorizing diverse employees separately from “employees?” Why does there need to be a diversity officer/manager? Shouldn’t someone in a managerial hiring position be of the 21st century, and therefore, able to “manage diversity?” Shouldn’t managing “diverse” employees be the same as managing “not diverse” employees? Where’s the connection here?

“Larger corporations are big political donors, yet in many cases, they are donating to politicians with social stands that go against stated company policies on diversity, in particular when it comes to same-sex marriage. It’s good if a CEO is personally overseeing diversity efforts, but if they are also responsible for donations to a politician who opposes same-sex marriage, what’s the point?”- Eric Rosenbaum, writer CNBC

Conflicting views and actions can confuse your hiring force, not to mention give your company a muddled brand image. It seems that the concept of diversity hiring is still a muddled, mud stew of contradicting force. Maybe most companies don’t have a basic good intention, maybe companies do need that reinforcing factor delivering on the promise of diversity.

What are the benefits of diversity officers? 
So why DO certain companies need diversity officers? As much as you would like to infer that everyone is good and that all hiring managers hire with a non-biased approach, that is not always the case. Many corporations/companies have come to this realization, that maybe some of their hiring employees can’t be unbiased. Some companies have incorporated diversity officers because they aren’t sure their hiring managers are truly onboarding new employees with diversity in mind.

The diversity officer is there to be the absolute line in the sand, incorporating/maintaining unique employees with a wide set of skills.

Some companies have it right like Hospital giant University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), their workplace diversity efforts include incorporating dignity and respect as a value on employee evaluations. They also reach out to minorities and women-owned suppliers. The hospital also grooms minority candidates internally forget this, leadership positions!

Diversity officers/managers can be a great tool for integrating valuable ideals into a company. That is if the diversity officer is there to do the deed. Many companies need to sit down and consider whether their hiring process is effective in terms of hiring new talent AND diversity.

So what does this say for your company? Take a long hard look at your onboarding system, look at your recruiter, your hiring manager, and then your workforce. Could you have more diversity in your office? Should you have a diversity officer?

 

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