HR imperative to companies walking the diversity talk

Donna Brazile, the esteemed political strategist, professor and author, once said, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” Most savvy human resources professionals would agree with Brazile.

Diversity is a word some executives easily throw around in an effort to prove that their companies are providing employment opportunities to individuals who represent various backgrounds. “My company is very diverse,” a gentleman who leads a Texas-based public relations company once told me. “We have men and women in our workforce, and they are all types of nationalities.” Being unfamiliar with his company, I praised him for his diversity efforts, and because I was so impressed, I wanted to learn more. “That’s wonderful,” I remember saying. “Tell me about your senior leadership team. How large is it?” The gentleman went on to proudly tell me he had seven senior executives. When I asked him how many of his top executives were female, his mood changed immediately. He began to look annoyed. “Women represent a large number of my staff, but none are part of the leadership team.” I took a moment to think before speaking, in an effort to not appear as annoyed as he obviously was. My response was something to the effect of, “Oh…ok (long pause). Are there any minority men who serve in leadership capacities?” His quick retort was, “No there are not, but I am still a fair employer who hires the best people for the job.”

Realizing the conversation was going in a direction different than I expected and he wanted, I said “I’m sure you are, however, people of different backgrounds have different perspectives that can make your company even more successful.” After that, we both engaged in a short and awkward dialogue about something as simplistic as the weather before we said our goodbyes and began socializing with others in the room.

Oh, how I wish I’d had Donna Brazile’s quote memorized at that moment! Unfortunately, the perspective of the Texan I spoke with a few years back is not as uncommon as we would hope. That is why human resources professionals are so important. As the ethical stewards of a company and the liaison between the companies they represent and the employees, HR folks must believe that companies have to expand beyond diversity by embracing inclusion. At all levels. All the time. Doing so is imperative.

Data from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development shows the state’s pool of available employees has shrunk drastically in recent years, with a continuous decline in the present and future of potential employees ages 15–44. The only way to combat such decline is by having inclusive and attractive hiring practices that give Indiana companies a competitive edge. Such responsibility falls in large part on the shoulders of HR professionals, because they are the gatekeepers. If their company is backwards in its thinking, HR professionals need to stress the importance of expanding company perspectives and practices. A dedicated commitment to inclusion is the best way to attract new employees and retain and promote current team members.

Needless to say, the field of HR can be incredibly daunting for professionals. Walking the inclusive walk can also bring its fair share of challenges. And this is only one aspect of an HR professional’s responsibility. There are countless other duties that fall under the HR umbrella. And as large as the scope of HR is, it can also be confusing for employees expected to adhere to various HR mandates.

This issue of Indiana Minority Business Magazine provides you with detailed information on various aspects of HR. We literally have something for everyone in this issue!