Opinion

Recognizing the value of diversity and inclusion to attract and retain top talent

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Print this page By Brian Rountree, market manager, Global Commercial Banking at Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Now more than ever, companies across the country, in every market and industry, are considering ways to hire a diverse workforce. Companies of all sizes are realizing that their employees aren’t the only ones to benefit; instead, they are seeing the advantages of embracing the different ages, ethnicities, genders and education levels of their employees to create an inclusive, creative and collaborative workplace.

During this time of year, before soon-to-be college graduates enter the workforce, many hiring managers are considering ways to integrate more diverse and inclusive practices. According to the Pew Research Center’s study, Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next, graduates and millennials, currently entering the workforce, are more ethnically and racially diverse than older employees. In Virginia, minorities compromise more than 40 percent of the millennial population, according to research from the Brookings Institution

In fact, based on data from the Virginia Employment Commission on population growth, the Cooper Center research team predicts that younger Virginians in many localities will live in an increasingly diverse society for reasons such as interracial marriage and births among the growing minority population, especially Asian and Hispanic Virginians, and continued immigration. As a result, the level of diversity in the workplace — not only racial and gender diversity — is growing for a few reasons.

First, more and more companies are making an effort to be diverse through recruitment and hiring tactics; additionally, diversity in the workplace is also reflective of larger cultural, ethnic and demographic trends.

Diversity in the workforce pays off

Many companies are focused on recruiting and hiring diverse talent because this brings new perspectives, innovation and ideas that can lead to greater creativity and problem solving. These types of skills offer several benefits, including product innovation, marketing strategies, client work and relationship building. In addition, organizations realize that having a variety of perspectives helps their company adapt and evolve in the changing global landscape.

A culture of inclusion is an environment in which all employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas, perspective and knowledge, facilitating ingenuity and collaboration. Many organizations are embracing strategies to actively promote this culture, which includes:
• Recruiting and retaining diverse talent;
• Maintaining relationships with diverse suppliers;
• Offering training and mentorship to meet the diverse needs of employees.

As the workforce becomes less homogenous, companies are implementing diversity councils to create an atmosphere that yields ideas and offerings that are in sync with a changing market and can attract new talent. Strategies could include providing diversity and inclusion education and awareness seminars or executive management training on the value of diversity and inclusion in the workforce.

Be an ally and a resource

It’s now widely recognized that people work more effectively when they are free to be themselves at work. They are able to communicate more openly, develop ideas and solutions collaboratively, and create supportive, productive work environments with colleagues, clients and customers.

One way to celebrate diversity is through programs like an LGBTQ awareness and support group. For example, an LGBT Ally Program fosters positive change by engaging employees in LGBT initiatives and programs, providing opportunities to participate in educational and volunteer events, while learning how to support LGBT colleagues. Allies, for any group, help others understand the importance of equality, fairness, acceptance and mutual respect, which has a lasting benefit throughout the culture of your organization.

Another great way to support engagement is through global affinity groups, commonly referred to as employee network groups. Global affinity groups encourage employees throughout the company to connect with colleagues with similar backgrounds, interests or dimensions of diversity. While many organizations have started to adopt diversity councils, they may want to consider the additional investment of an ally program or affinity group to have a greater impact on company culture, especially for middle-market companies that may work in multiple regions or states, to truly create an inclusive workplace.

Where CFOs fit in

When discussing diversity and inclusion, who should lead these programs? Who should take the first step?

Creating a diverse, inclusive and supportive company starts with senior leadership. In the past, the topic of diversity and inclusion was largely relegated to HR, but as organizations begin to experience the strategic business value of diversity and inclusion programs, C-suite leadership, and CFOs in particular, have taken a more active role.

Given the strategic business value of creating an open, inclusive workplace, CFOs have become increasingly involved in the process of implementing best practices for diverse and inclusive workforces. This includes being key decision makers in HR conversations relating to benefits, as well as weighing in on where to invest resources that enhance an organization’s culture of diversity and inclusion.

Brian Rountree is market manager, global commercial banking at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.




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