What is a diversity initiative?

A "diversity initiative" is an organizations strategic response to diversity. The initiative looks at the internal and external needs of the organization in the area of diversity and responds with a strategically aligned approach.

Initiatives can have a short or 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 for implementation and the overall success.

What does it entail?

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.

According to a 2001 Society for Human Resource Management/Fortune survey, the majority of the 121 US HR professionals who responded said that diversity initiatives affect their organizations’ bottom lines in several positive ways including:

  • improved corporate culture
  • improved recruitment of new employees
  • improved client relations
  • improved productivity

A Vision

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.

A Plan

Once the vision has been developed, the organization should then develop a diversity plan. The plan outlines the goals and objectives for diversity. Many employers 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 underrepresented groups, or looking at succession planning, among other issues.

How can I get my organization to start a diversity initiative?

Build a business case for a diversity initiative. Look at business priorities and the changing demographics of your area.  Review the need to increase, maintain and sustain customer relationships with diverse populations. 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 agency 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 agency make an informed decision about starting and succeeding with a diversity initiative.