By Michelle Benjamin
Feb. 7, 2013
Twenty years ago, workforce diversity meant that women and people of color were represented in the workforce. Today, workforce diversity has expanded to include those groups as well as people with either physical or mental disabilities, people of various generations, and people with different sexual orientations. As workforce diversity has grown, so has the business infrastructure to support diversity.
Where there once was a single human resource (HR) professional handling a corporate diversity program, today there can be entire departments dedicated to diversity and inclusion (D&I). In addition, universities are now offering degreed programs in diversity studies. This change and the delineation between HR departments and their initiatives and the D&I team and their initiatives can benefit companies but can also cause issues if the corporate vision is unclear.
Understanding where HR handles and where diversity directs
D&I initiatives have their history within HR and in some cases are still managed as a part of that department. Employee recruiting for diversity is an area that relies heavily on both HR and D&I professionals. D&I professionals provide the road map for their initiatives whereas the HR professionals act on those initiatives. Another facet of business where these areas collaborate is on corporate activities and celebrations. Since both affect employees directly, HR has the lead here, but in order to adhere to D&I initiatives, D&I representatives need to be involved in all aspects of these programs from planning to execution. It is critical that the diversity vision and the vision for HR are clearly defined so they can work together productively.
There are, however, some aspects of D&I programs that do not require HR involvement. Assisting with tutoring of disadvantaged students is an example that supports a corporate diversity strategy, but since the activity occurs outside of the office, it doesn’t require HR involvement. Other areas that fall primarily under D&I include: offering volunteer programs to assist others in the community; allowing the use of corporate facilities during non-work hours for community activities, meetings, receptions, or school tutoring.