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by Vault Careers | April 01, 2009

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Elizabeth Hubbard, Director of the New York Office of Hubbard & Revo-Cohen, discusses the benefits of implementing corporate diversity initiatives.

Q: What is a diversity initiative?

A: A "diversity initiative" is a company's strategic response to diversity. The initiative looks at the company's needs in the area of diversity and responds with a strategically aligned approach. The initiative should have a long-term focus, as well as very specific goals and objectives. It should also be easily measurable and tied to the organization's overall business strategy. In terms of implementing the initiative, the entire organization - from the top down - should be held accountable.

Q: What does it entail?

A: Usually organizations begin with a statement by top management that the initiative is an organizational priority. The initiative must have visible support from top management in order to be effective; it should also have long-term organizational viability and sustainability. After the evidence of top management support, the organization may then want to develop a vision for diversity. It is a good idea to include various people from different departments in the development of the vision statement. This process helps to ensure buy-in and reduce resistance.

Once the vision has been developed, the organization should then develop a diversity plan. The plan outlines the goals and objectives for diversity. Many companies see fit to appoint a diversity committee, comprised of a wide variety of people and perspectives, to help implement the plan. The plan may call for training on diversity, enhancing recruiting efforts to attract and retain women and people of color, or looking at succession planning, among other issues.

A number of organizations use outside consultants to help develop diversity initiatives. Outside consultants experienced with diversity can help the organization to develop and refine its objectives. Experienced diversity consultants will work with companies based on their specific needs. In addition, these consultants will help organizations assure strategic alignment of the initiative.

Q: How can I get my company to start a diversity initiative?

A: You can get your company to start one by building a business case for one. That is, be sure to look at prominent business issues such as the changing demographics of your area, the need to increase market share with diverse populations, etc. You may also want to examine your recruiting efforts to determine whether your company is taking advantage of diverse populations. In essence, you would have to construct a strong argument based on business necessity. Your case would likely include what your company has lost by not taking advantage of diversity and what it would gain by diversifying its employee pool.

By answering these questions, you will help your company make an informed decision about starting and succeeding with a diversity initiative.

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