I usually get a flat and dry, “No!” from Human Resources (HR) Practitioners when I ask: “Does HR have a Diversity and Inclusion problem?”
No surprise there at all.
The issue though is that the statistics say otherwise and so do my experience and some very credible statistics.
Coming from a British framework in the 80s, most people who managed the personnel function were men who came out of operations or women who came with a clerical background. There was little experience or interaction with the people in the organisation actually.
Personnel is where files were kept.
Fast-track, forty (40) years later and statistics indicate that the profession is dominated by white, females. At least in the United States (US) which is the source for this article.
So, let’s explore this dilemma and then let me know what you think in the comments below.
Does HR Have A Diversity And Inclusion Problem?
Yes, HR does have a diversity and inclusion (DI) problem. That could be why so many organisations are struggling to design, implement and manage their Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) strategies. On average, over 60% of people in HR are white and over 75% are women. The majority of DEIB heads are black women. But, (big BUT), diversity and inclusion are so much more than gender and skin colour. And that may well be the problem!
For organisations that do not have the budget or strategic space for DEIB, it is usually dumped on HR. After all, that is where most of the “soft” things that no one else wants to do are usually placed, right?
If something is wrong with the people, send them to HR and get them to fix it.
But, HR has enough of its own problems to fix. Sending them more could take them further away from the elusive E-suite or C-suite.
DEIB could change that for HR.
What if, by making HR and DEIB congruent, we could redesign not only the face of HR but more importantly, the work of HR and the results it delivers?
How Does Diversity And Inclusion Affect HR?
HR is impacted by diversity and inclusion all along its supply chain. Its primary objective is to ensure that the organisation has the right people, in the right place, to do the right work, at the right time.
In essence, HR is the Gatekeeper for all employees. It should, therefore, be able to influence and shape the organisation’s culture. This must include a safe space for DEIB.
All employees should be represented and engaged and feel welcomed to contribute and grow in the environment.
As interest in diversity started to rise in the 60s, it emerged as simply a black-white issue. The recent uprisings across the country, fueled by events such as George Floyd, have exaggerated this thinking.
However, as Forbes noted in their September 2022 article, Does DEI Focus Too Much On Black People?, ” . . . DEI efforts that focus on Black people do not take into consideration other communities that experience marginalization.”
Others in the diversity pool should be given a fair and respectful opportunity to participate, regardless of colour or other criteria such as ethnicity, mobility, etc.
One of the best places to start implementing these changes would be for HR to revisit and revise redundant policies that make little or no room for dancing on the stage of diversity and inclusion.
Why Is Diversity And Inclusion Important In HR?
The role of a diversity and inclusion policy is to help prevent discrimination against employees and provide a platform for anyone who has been subjected to discrimination, or believe they have witnessed discrimination. An effective policy will allow them to raise the issue with their employer and be assured that it will be kept confidential, taken seriously and addressed promptly.
In approaching DEIB as a fundamental aspect of an organisation’s behaviour, it would make sense to weave it into the fabric of HR. HR is the independent gatekeeper and influences and shapes Organisational Behaviour and Organisational Culture.
When I study organisations that have positioned DEIB as a separate and excluded function, away from HR, it is evident that areas such as Recruitment & Selection, Performance Management and Training & Development are negatively impacted.
An argument that is presented to me frequently is that placing DEIB away from HR helps to strengthen the independence and confidentiality that is critical for DEIB to be respected.
My response to that is if HR is not seen as being confidential and not respected then this needs to be urgently addressed.
Should HR Be Involved In Diversity & Inclusion?
Having shared how diversity and inclusion affect HR and its importance to the function, my recommendation should be clear.
HR should not only be involved in diversity and inclusion but rather DEIB should be an integral aspect of how HR behaves and the outcomes it achieves in the organisation. They should be congruent.
Diversity and inclusion are critical components of any thriving and future-oriented organizational culture. HR Practitioners are directly responsible for creating environments that are conducive to the variety of experiences, skills and goals in the workforce.
To attract and retain the best and most effective talent AND remain competitive and sustainable, diversity and inclusion must be behaviourial criteria for HR. Involvement goes without saying.
Inclusion is necessary for employee engagement and a sense of belonging. With high levels of engagement, other initiatives such as retention, succession planning, learning and development, management and leadership become much easier.
My Closing Thoughts . . .
One of the most engaging HR projects I have ever led was with a medium-sized manufacturing organisation on the West Coast of the United States.
The CEO was a mixed-race, ethnically diverse man who grew up with his Mum and 2 brothers in a family that “shared” religious practices. One of his brothers was autistic and he had first-hand experience with the attendant challenges that arose.
He was adamant that the organisation of over 10,000 employees would be reflective of what he considered to be “the way real life should be.”
Without question, HR was handed the responsibility to ensure that it did not have a diversity and inclusion problem. It had to live the values of the organisation’s culture and ensure that the same ethos was evident in every hire and employee.
HR’s action statement was: “The best Candidate for the Role, regardless of colour, creed, race or personal challenge.” Attitude and behaviour ranked higher than qualifications.
10 years on and they remain one of the most sort after places to work with a waiting list that has helped to lower their recruitment costs and increase retention.
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About The Author
Hi! I am Cassandra, the Founder and Chief Cook and Bottle-Washer at LaMP International Limited.
Thank you so very much for taking the time to read this article. I trust that you have enjoyed reading it and that it helped you to better understand HR’s role in diversity and inclusion.
I have been working within the DEIB space for over 20 years. It continues to serve me well in my roles as a mother, sibling, partner, facilitator, coach, strategist, change agent and entrepreneur.
Coming from the Caribbean, we are born into very diverse and inclusive cultures. It is a way of life – a passion, so to speak, for us.
For almost 40 years, I have been working around the world with thousands of people, helping to rethink behaviours, structures and organisations.
My work has impacted industries such as Energy, Oil & Gas, Manufacturing, Media and Management Consulting in roles that took me from a staff position all the way to the E and C suites.
I love working with people and organisations and helping them become more effective, successful and sustainable.
Reach out to me if I can assist you in any way and help you to Change Your Script!