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March 10, 2009

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QUESTION:

Hello moderator and others out there in cyberland. My question really is, do candidates find it more helpful if the recruiters (both in-house and at recruiting firms) are as diverse as the professionals they desperately want to fill their positions? In my case, this question is aimed at attorneys and paralegals at corporations and law firms.

RESPONSE:

Diversity of staffing in any organization or industry can prove to be a tremendous competitive advantage for a variety of reasons, one being that it is often easier to attract and retain a more diverse staff if some diversity already exists within the organization. It matters less, however, which individuals on the staff are "diverse" (however you define the term), than current and prospective employees' perceptions of how effectively diversity is actually valued, managed, and leveraged within the organization. The mere existence of employees from diverse backgrounds is not as critical as whether it is evident to others that they are comfortable and committed working for the organization and feel that they are being treated and regarded appropriately by their coworkers and managers.

It is not enough merely for certain positions to be staffed with "diversity candidates," or for only the HR department to believe that diversity is important to the organization. It is not possible for the HR Department alone to enhance the effectiveness of diversity management or to change corporate culture if management does not assume accountability for whether or not the change actually occurs. Prospective or existing employees can easily identify when diversity issues exist and/or when touted diversity initiatives appear to be more "window dressing" or "program of the month" than representative of actual values and beliefs that are held by the organization's leadership, embedded in business goals/objectives, and continually reinforced through accountability mechanisms.

~Successful diversity management requires executive leadership to understand and appreciate both the potential value of diversity as a competitive advantage and the potential challenges, issues, and pitfalls of managing workforce diversity, as well as to be trained and skilled in how to most effectively leverage diversity within their unique organizations. Of course, it is also critical for the Recruiting staff (and the entire HR Department) to have similar understanding, appreciation, and skills.

As with most aspects of effective diversity management, attracting and retaining a diverse workforce requires being willing and able to find out what exists "beneath the surface" of each current and prospective employee (i.e., what each individual can contribute and what each needs/expects from the organization). It is also important to resist the tendency to make judgments or assumptions about individuals based on their real or perceived "belonging to any diversity group."

Each of us is diverse from others in some unique way...

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Filed Under: Workplace Issues

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