Diversity: Celebrate Difference, Strengthen Performance

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By Greg Levin

There is a big difference between accepting employee diversity and embracing it. While most corporations today claim to actively promote diversity in the workplace, relatively few effectively manage it and use it to full advantage. The problem, say numerous experts in the area of diversity and human resources, is that many organizations fail to incorporate the critical concept of inclusion into their diversity initiatives.

“Diversity describes the spectrum of human similarities and differences,” according to The Workplace Diversity Network, a Joint Project of Cornell University and the National Conference for Community and Justice. “It refers to the composition of people associated with the organization. Inclusion, on the other hand, describes the way an organization configures opportunity, interaction, communication, information and decision-making to utilize the potential of diversity.”

Corporate diversity initiatives that do not take inclusion fully into account rarely achieve the company’s desired results and are often little more than Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) or Affirmative Action (AA) policies, says Cecilia Chavez-Protas, president and CEO of Competitive Edge Consulting, Inc., an independent firm specializing in helping call centers create inclusive work environments to enhance performance. Effective diversity initiatives, she says, “focus on including everyone and excluding no one – they are qualitative. EEO/AA [policies], however, focus on the quantitative – counting how many [members] of the protected classes are hired and promoted based on legislation.”

Companies that have taken the time to develop holistic diversity and inclusion initiatives report very positive results. In a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) titled “The Impact of Diversity Initiatives on Bottom Line,” 91 percent of respondents said that their initiative helped their organizations maintain a competitive advantage; 79 percent of respondents said that it improved corporate culture; 77 percent said it helped recruit new employees; and 52 percent cited enhanced customer relations.

Chavez-Protas has seen the realization of such benefits first hand over the years during her work with numerous call center clients. “We are not a homogenous society – we have many differences that we must be responsive to – age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic status, educational levels, etc. Call centers have the opportunity to embrace diversity both internally and externally. Those that do are better equipped to meet and exceed their employees’ and clients’ needs.”

Components of Effective Diversity/Inclusion Initiatives

With an increasing number of companies starting to view diversity and inclusion initiatives as business imperatives, certain core success factors have started to emerge. Several of these factors are highlighted in a landmark report, Best Practices in Achieving Workforce Diversity, by the National Partnership for Reinventing Government (NPR) Diversity Task Force. The task force’s study team identified and carefully analyzed 65 companies, public and private, that were recognized for their efforts in achieving workforce diversity and inclusiveness. Some of the common success factors uncovered during the study include:

Leadership commitment. The study found that companies with the best diversity and inclusion initiatives have managers who “champion diversity by infusing it into all organizational processes and ensuring that diversity is integrated into the core values of the organization.” Diversity experts like Chavez-Protas wholeheartedly support the study's findings. She says that too many managers treat diversity initiatives as a “‘flavor-of-the-month, versus a corporate culture ongoing revolution.” She adds that, to effectively gain buy-in from upper management, managers need to emphasize that a diversity initiative is “not just a nice thing to do, but the profitable thing to do. You need to present the business case behind the effort.”

Todd Campbell, manager of SHRM’s diversity initiative agrees that for a diversity initiative to succeed, it must be viewed as business incentive, not a “feel-good” issue. “The real reason for a diversity initiative succeeding is that you treat it like any other strategy,” says Campbell. “You have to make sure the CEO and top management are supportive of it.”

Diversity goals tied to key business processes. As stated in the NPR report, “Today’s leaders realize that in order to be effective, successful diversity planning must be aligned with and provide support for strategic business objectives and operational decisions.”

According to the study findings and leading diversity consultants, top companies when creating their diversity and inclusion initiatives tend to address such key areas as:

* Recruiting and hiring. The focus here is generally on ensuring that the company employs qualified candidates that collectively represent a variety of cultural or ethnic groups, and that it draws from alternative labor pools such as workers with disabilities and mature workers. Successful companies are also careful that the hiring assessments and tests they administer do not favor any particular group over another.

* Training and coaching. Organizations serious about diversity and inclusion tend to have initial and ongoing training programs that feature an eclectic mix of educational methods (such as traditional classroom training, role-playing, on-the-job instruction, and e-learning) that cater to a range of different learning styles and backgrounds.

* Compensation. Diversity leaders strive to ensure equity and fairness with regard to employee pay. They seek to ensure that workers with the same or similar responsibilities and experience receive equal compensation, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, or gender, or sexual orientation.

* Incentives and employee motivation. To effectively motivate and retain a diverse workforce, top companies create incentive programs that offer something for everyone. Recognition and rewards at these organizations take many forms (i.e., both team and individual-based, monetary and non-monetary incentives) while focusing on both quality and productivity results.

* Employee development and advancement. Successful companies provide viable opportunities for employees of all types to continually improve and move on in the organization. Skill and career paths incorporate objectivity and are designed to be accessible to anybody seeking to take on new challenges.

Focused measurement and evaluation methods. The NPR report points out that holistic diversity initiatives involve not only the formation of specific goals tied to key business processes, but also solid methods for measuring the achievement of those goals. “A number of our benchmarking partners pointed out that one could not develop a successful diversity process without periodically assessing and evaluating the status and accomplishments of the process.”

Poor measurement tactics can destroy the best-laid diversity plans, says Terrence Simmons, a diversity consultant and CEO of Simmons Associates in New Hope, PA. “You want to be measuring the right thing. It is very disheartening when you’ve got a set of metrics that don’t really get to the heart of where you want to go.”

The key to effective measurement of diversity and inclusion effectiveness, according to The Workforce Diversity Network, is to understand and apply three key types of measures: process, outcome, and feedback. The NPR study findings confirm the importance of employee feedback about and involvement in diversity and inclusion initiatives. The study found that a number of leading organizations not only survey their staff, but also have established employee-led diversity councils, task teams, focus groups, affinity councils and networking groups.

Comprehensive diversity awareness training for all employees. Seeking feedback is not the only way in which companies directly involve employees in their diversity and inclusion initiatives. According to the NPR report, diversity awareness training is mandatory for all staff and managers at companies with the most effective initiatives. The general aim of such training is to help create a common understanding of diversity and the impact it has on job performance and morale.

But just because a company provides diversity awareness training doesn’t necessarily mean that the specific training they are providing is good or helpful, according to Mauricio Velasquez, president of Diversity Training Group in Reston,

* The training has management’s support, but not their commitment.

* The training is “off-the-shelf” and not custom designed to meet the unique needs of the particular organization.

* The training is awareness-based, but provides no real skills.

* The training has no formal follow-up.

* Training is all the organization is doing.

Diversity Not Without Adversity

Experts and managers agree that creating and maintaining a diverse, inclusive workplace is no small task. The investment in time, the strategic challenges, and the potential for misunderstanding and conflict can seem daunting to many companies as they embark on their diversity initiatives. In fact, sometimes the whole process requires a change in traditional thinking, says Chavez-Protas.

“Treating [employees and clients] as they want to be treated is very different than the ‘Golden Rule’ of treating them as you want to be treated. You may insult or demean or not exceed their expectations. In order to treat them as they want to be treated, you must be willing to get to know their differences.”

But Chavez-Protas points out that “Diversity is effort, but well worth it. When difference intrigues us enough to want to know more about one another – because difference is viewed as an asset versus a liability – imagine the collaborative possibilities.”

About the Author

Greg Levin is a freelance writer and the former editor of Call Center Management Review published by ICMI. To learn more, visit www.incoming.com or call 410-267-0700.

Source : Connections Magazine

Where's the Diversity?

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Diversifying the allied health care workforce is vital in providing quality health care for all Americans

By Sharon Palmer, RD

What do Martha Stewart house paint and the allied health workforce have in common? Give up? Both come in any shade of white you can imagine. Of course, the controversial diva of decorating also offers 4,000 or so other choices, whereas the color palette for allied health professionals is currently much more limited. In fact, statistics indicate that minorities comprise only about 10% of allied health care professionals in this increasingly diverse country.

At the turn of the 20th century, the U.S. population was 13% minority (African American, Hispanic, Native American and Asian/Pacific Islander). Today, these individuals comprise one-quarter of our nation's population. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2050 it is likely that more than one-third of our residents will identify themselves as minority. With this kind of increase, one would expect to see a similar rise echoed in the health care workforce across the U.S. This, disappointingly, is not the case.

The lack of diversity certainly is not due to a lack of available positions. The Allied and Auxiliary Health Care Workforce Project from the Center for the Health Professions at University of California, San Francisco, reports that allied health workers make up an estimated 60% of the U.S. health care workforce, totaling more than 11 million workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists pharmacy technicians, laboratory technologists, physician assistants, physical therapists and occupational therapists as some of this decade's fastest-growing occupations. In fact, out of the list of the top 30 fastest growing jobs in the U.S. from 2000-2010, more than half are expected to be allied health jobs. Unfortunately, the supply of allied health care workers isn't expected to keep up with this rise in demand. The American Hospital Association (AHA) estimates vacancy rates of 21% for pharmacists, 18% for radiological technologists and 12% for laboratory technologists.

The Importance of Diversity

Having a poor representation of minorities in the allied health care profession poses many problems. It has become painfully obvious that in this culturally rich country, minorities do not receive the same level of health care as their white counterparts. Research from the Institute of Medicine, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Commonwealth Fund suggests that there are differences in treatment and health care outcomes based on race and ethnicity. These disparities are caused by many factors, such as differences in socioeconomic status (education level and income), differences in the health behaviors of those seeking care and adhering to treatments, the lack of multicultural tools and sensitivity in part of the health care provider, language barriers, payment and coverage, outright discrimination and stereotyping by health care practitioners, and the lack of diversity in the health care workforce.

The recognition that we have a problem in this area has prompted the federal government to issue the bold goal of eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities in this country. As addressed in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Healthy People 2010 initiative, the mission is to achieve health care parity by the end of the decade. Specific emphasis will be placed on ensuring cultural competency among health care providers.

With a more diverse population of health care providers, many issues of health care disparity might be resolved. By increasing the representation of minorities in the health care workforce, more underserved populations could receive health care. A culturally diverse health care workforce can more effectively care for a diverse population, as many people prefer to discuss their health care concerns with someone from a similar background.

"Most of the major public health issues today disproportionately affect minorities," says Terry Brown, RD/LD, vice president of the North Texas Chapter of the National Organization for Blacks in Dietetics and Nutrition. "Who could better understand their plight than someone from their racial/ethnic group? We want to speak to people who understand us culturally and face some of the same challenges we do."

By creating a more culturally diverse health care team, better patient communication and treatment will occur along with the bonus that non-minority health care workers will become more aware and sensitive to ethnically diverse patients. In "up close and personal" professions, like physical therapy and occupational therapy, cultural sensitivity becomes even more important in patient care. "When mastering activities of daily living like meal preparation, bathing, etc., you need to have an appreciation of the values and beliefs of a population," says Janie Scott, the director of the Practice Department and Ethics for the American Occupational Therapy Association.

How Do We Get There From Here?

Most everyone agrees that we need a more culturally diverse population walking the halls of America's hospitals and clinics, but how do we get them there? This is the question that has puzzled allied health organizations for years. Many professional organizations faced up to the issue of workplace diversity about 20 years ago, formally waging war against the underrepresentation of minorities in their professions.

Johnette Meadows, PT, MS, who served as director of the Department of Minority and International Affairs in the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) for 14 years, reports that the APTA recognized the need to address this issue about 15 years ago. Since then, the APTA has worked to embed cultural diversity into its goals, objectives and vision. "We are involved with promoting cultural diversity in workshops at schools, in our Web page, and during recruitment and speaker's bureaus," says Meadows.

"We market people of color. We want to show that our membership is diverse. We want advocates and speakers of all races to represent our organization," Meadows continues. "The APTA is proud of their accomplishments, which not only promote cultural competency to its professionals, but also attempts to recruit a diverse enrollment at the local level."

Despite the APTA's ongoing efforts to increase diversity, they currently report that 90.8% of their members are white, 4.2% Asian, 1.9% Hispanic, 1.5% African American, 0.5% American Indian/Alaskan Native and 1.1% other. Physical therapy has traditionally been considered a female field, with 65% of its members female.

The American Dietetic Association (ADA) has also long recognized that their membership is far too homogenous, with only 13.6% male, 2.5% African American, 1.7% Hispanic, 4.8% Asian/Pacific Islander, and .2% American Indian/Alaskan Native/Hawaiian Native. According to Terry Brown, RD/LD, "The lack of visibility of dietetics to young minority people and the academic disadvantaged is one of the principle reasons for underrepresentation of minorities." She also credits poor rates of cultural diversity among dietitians to contributing factors such as few minority role models, low pay in the profession, lack of access to a dietetics program, discrimination, poor recruitment, lack of knowledge to the field of dietetics, and lack of financial resources for a program.

In an attempt to improve diversity, the ADA has promoted a diversity committee, mentoring contract, action award, promotion grant, resource list, and ADA networking groups, such as the National Blacks in Dietetics and Nutrition, the Chinese American Dietetic Association and the Hispanic Dietetic Association.

Jeannette Jordan, a Charleston, S.C.-based registered dietitian and spokesperson for the ADA, serves as a nutrition consultant for the Reach 2010 Project, which is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to decrease disparities in African Americans with diabetes. Jordan believes that lack of knowledge regarding the opportunities that exist in the field, apprehension about acceptance into the profession, the difficulty of being accepted into an internship affect minority participation in the profession of dietetics.

In the mid-1980s, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) began establishing multicultural initiatives that focused on student recruitment from a cross section of the population. "When our profession started in World War I, it was primarily white middle class women who wanted to help soldiers. This captured the hearts of women at the time. Services were provided in private hospitals, in a confined community," says Janie Scott, of the AOTA. With noncompetitive salaries, the profession became a convenient one for suburbanite mothers who wanted to move in and out of their profession.

The AOTA looked at ethnicity in their membership in 2002. Out of 33,003 members, 20% did not list ethnic origin. Of those who did list their ethnicity, 1.9% were African American, .2% American Indian, 3.3% Asian, .3% Asian American, 1.5% Hispanic/Latino/ Latina, .2% Multiracial, .8% other and 71.9% white. With a growing diverse patient base, the AOTA wants to enlist a more diverse membership and boost support groups such as the Black Occupational Therapy Caucus and the Native American Occupational Therapy Group.

Educating the Future

The problem of poor diversity in health care professions has its roots in the higher education system. For many reasons, minorities are not enrolling in allied health programs, as is evidenced in the 10th Report by the Center for Health Workforce Studies, which shows a decline in the number of minorities applying to all health professions education programs.

Despite ardent measures to attract a diverse population, at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock the enrollment is estimated at 8% minority. Yet at Texas Southern University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Houston, enrollment is typically only about 10% white. Since 1949, Texas Southern University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences has educated approximately 35% of the nation's black pharmacists. Schools that have been designated as special purpose institutions serving minorities, such as Texas Southern University of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, don't appear to have troubles attracting diverse students in search of allied health careers to campus.

The University of Kansas Medical Center and the University of Missouri-Kansas City recognized that they needed to increase the participation of minority students in health professions and put together a groundbreaking package to do something about it. The Health Professions Pipeway Initiative, a multi-institutional, multidisciplinary strategy, hopes to lead the way to greater diversity in health professions.

Funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Disadvantaged Assistance and the University of Kansas Medical Center, this program targets high school seniors and college undergraduates. Offered throughout the year at satellite centers on university campuses, the program hosts many opportunities, such as counseling, field trips, academic enrichment, tutorials, health career clubs and seminars. At no cost to the student, an eight-week Health Science Enrichment Institute Summer Program is provided for disadvantaged or minority students and offers them preparation for admission to a health professions school. The enrichment program focuses on reading, communication, mathematics, biology, chemistry and test-taking skills, which may not be developed in disadvantaged students.

Many other organizations are addressing the health care diversity crisis. The Institute of Medicine has identified strategies to increase the racial and ethnic diversity of the nations' health care workforce, which includes modifying admissions practice and criteria, placing greater emphasis on cross-cultural skills and competencies in heath professions training and accreditation procedures, and increasing the number of minority faculty. In South Carolina, the South Carolina Hospital Association and South Carolina Technical College System announced a $476,000 grant through the federal Workforce Investment Act to assist students seeking a career in health care.

Setting Examples

One of the programs shining the brightest light on the path of cultural diversity in health care is the Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP), which has established goals of increasing the number and quality of individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds into health profession schools. By achieving these goals, we might better meet the expanding health care needs of an underserved population while developing a more competitive applicant pool to build diversity into health professions. In 1999, the Bureau of Health Professions awarded 112 HCOP grants for a total of $28.2 million to 59 undergraduate institutions and community colleges, 50 health professional schools and health science centers, and three public and nonprofit organizations. Of these 112 grants, 29 grants were awarded to Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

The HCOP has made a significant impact on careers. Over the past 20 years, the HCOP has nurtured the entrance and graduation of thousands of minority and disadvantaged students into health professions school. Between 1980-1999, an average of 8,500 students participated in HCOP each year. In addition, thousands of students received counseling or other services.

Now the HCOP focuses on increasing education and social and cultural competence early on in the educational pipeline. Major emphasis is placed on developing partnerships with community-based organizations that promote education and cultural diversity. They reach out to students in lower grade levels to attract more into heath professions.

Often health professional programs admit students in their junior year of college, which may be too late to attract the interest of minority students who are simply underrepresented in college to begin with. Organizations like the AHA have developed a Commission on Workforce for Hospitals and Health Systems, which encourages hospital leaders to build a thriving workforce by reaching out to students in grades K-12 with the help of local colleges and universities.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, in conjunction with the Health Professions Partnership Initiative, awarded six grants to increase minority participation in health professions. A requirement of this grant is that efforts focus on middle and high school curricula.

A Question of Class

Chances are, however, that plenty of minority kids will still go to disadvantaged schools that aren't targeted for recruitment or aid, causing them to miss the opportunity to discover careers in health professions. Even the kids that consider an education in a health field may lack the math and science skills, not to mention the financial resources, needed to enter an allied health program.

Michael Castillo, now president of the Latino Midwest Medical Student Association, attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he graduated with an undergraduate degree in biochemistry and molecular biology. Castillo reported that at Berkeley the initial enrollment of 180 minority students in his class wound up with only three graduating with a degree.

When talking about the issues of cultural diversity in the health care education setting, Michael Castillo says, "This isn't an issue of color. It has to do with socioeconomic class. The minority students who attend college are from affluent backgrounds; the black child from Beverly Hills doesn't share the same experience as the white person in Harlem."

Even for college-bound minorities, the allied health professions may not appear glamorous or financially rewarding enough to be worth the cost in sweat and dollars. "There is a hefty cost associated with entering an allied health field. It's much cheaper to become a computer programmer," says Janie Scott of the AOTA.

But the wave of the future may be in the hands of those working the health care beat. Health professionals on the home front can make a difference in diversifying the health care force. As they create opportunities to educate children about their profession, mentor minority children in the community and attend career days at local schools, they can make a difference by boosting the number of minorities entering their profession.

Providing high-quality, sensitive care to all cultures probably speaks the best recommendation to the impressionable patient and their families. It sends the message that these careers offer opportunities for all ethnicities. And the more culturally diverse the health care team becomes, the more role models are sent out into the community. By creating a diverse profession that provides health care services to an equally diverse population across our country, the caregiver opens his or her eyes to the unique values and backgrounds of every patient.

About the Author

Sharon Palmer is a registered dietitian with a 16-year career in health care. She is now a free-lance writer residing in Southern California.

Source : Diversity Allied Health Careers

Workforce Diversity Varies with the Territory

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By John Rossheim
Monster Senior Contributing Writer

What does workforce diversity mean in a state as predominantly white as Vermont?

That was the question underlying a political attack against Howard Dean, a former presidential hopeful. Democratic opponent Al Sharpton criticized Dean for not naming people of color to top positions in state government while he was governor of Vermont.

If workplace diversity is important to you, you should consider raising a similar question when you evaluate a potential employer: Is the company making sufficient progress toward diversity goals, given the racial and other characteristics of the local, regional and national workforce?

You can investigate this by asking a few more questions.

What's the Demographic Makeup of the Local Area?

First, ask yourself –- and the employer –- how the staff measures up to the local workforce along the dimensions of diversity that are important to you. This might include age, gender, sexual orientation or disability, as well as race and ethnic background.

For starters, "organizations should do all they can to ensure there's a numerically based decision on diversity goals," says Mike Hyter, CEO of J. Howard & Associates Inc., a multicultural consulting firm in Brighton, Massachusetts. "You can look at census data as an indicator of the makeup of your labor pool" and set diversity goals accordingly.

Workforce census data is available for metropolitan areas and states, for example. But since it is gathered only every 10 years, this information periodically becomes outdated, Hyter notes. Ask a prospective employer whether the human resources department uses private market research to update the company's diversity goals.

How Diverse Are the State and Region?

"When the hiring company moves up into managerial and executive ranks, often the recruiting area gets larger," because the pool of qualified local candidates is smaller, says Melanie Harrington, executive director of the American Institute for Managing Diversity, an Atlanta think tank.

"The search may go from city and county to statewide or nationwide," Harrington says. Willingness to take on a national executive search, which carries higher costs for recruitment and relocation, can test whether an employer is willing to back its rhetoric on diversity with money.

But you do have to be realistic about the availability of qualified, diverse talent in the hiring situation you're sizing up. For example, Howard Dean's defenders pointed out that Vermont's civilian labor force was 96.7 percent white in 2000, according to the US Census Bureau.

That state's workforce, from which state employees would naturally be drawn, is much more homogenous than the national workforce. Across the United States, workers are 72.8 percent white, 10.7 percent Hispanic, 10.5 percent African American, 3.6 percent Asian and 2.4 percent other races.

How Are Diverse Employees Distributed Through the Ranks?

The raw numbers of women and minorities working for a company don't tell the whole story of how diversity relates to geography. An employer may brag that overall it has a high percentage of minority workers, while the deeper truth is that minorities dominate the outlying production facilities, but managers at the downtown headquarters are nearly all white.

You should also take note of the prospective employer's assumptions about the risks that diverse employees may be willing to take. "Companies shouldn't assume an executive won't move to Des Moines because they're African American," says Hyter. The 2000 Census reported that the Des Moines labor force was 90 percent white and 3.2 percent African American. Among general and operations managers in the city, 1,960 were white and only 20 were African American.

Source : Monster Career Advice