Diversity Matters

Cultural competence becomes more important with each passing day in the United States, because with each succeeding generation, this country becomes more racially and ethnically diverse. Based on the 2000 Census, 25 percent of the U.S. population was considered non-Caucasian. By the year 2030, according to projections, this figure will rise to 43 percent. What does this mean for business? It means they need to prepare to meet the challenges of a more diverse workforce and customer base.

This past year, the Institute for Diversity in Healthcare Management (IFD) partnered with HR Solutions, a Chicago-based human capital management consulting firm, to conduct an assessment titled, “The State of Health Care Diversity & Disparities: A Benchmark Study of U.S. Hospitals.” As part of this initiative, the IFD adopted the perspective of “diversity” as a term which encompasses all of the ways in which someone can differ from someone else. For example, diversity can be used to refer to any of the following demographic categories: age, gender, education, socioeconomic status, religion, physical ability, and, finally, race or ethnicity. The study found that of the approximately 200 participating organizations, just more than half had developed measures to improve the delivery of care to diverse populations, despite the fact that about 90 percent of their executive teams and trustee boards were comprised of Caucasians. What does this tell us? It illustrates that, although in its infancy, healthcare leaders have begun to realize the importance of measuring the cultural competence of employees and educating them on this topic.

HR Solutions’ national employee survey data indicates that there is indeed a relationship between overall job satisfaction and organizational diversity. According to survey findings, organizations which score well on diversity-related items also appear to score well on items related to overall job satisfaction (see the following chart). An analysis of this relationship revealed significance in the correlation between the items (Pearson r = +0.41).

Such a finding provides evidence for c-level executives that may have considered diversity initiatives as non-essential or “warm and fuzzy.” This study indicates a potential link between diversity initiatives and employee engagement, which, by extension, drives bottom-line financial results and organizational performance.

My university statistics professor drilled into my head the manta: “correlation does not imply causation,” so I stop short of definitively drawing any conclusions that satisfaction with organizational diversity will result in overall job satisfaction. However, it is hypothesized that organizations which foster a culture that is deemed to be fair in its treatment of diverse employees and customers, will, in turn, be considered fair and just by all employees. This hypothesis is consistent with the research of David Pollitt (2005), which found that organizational environments that foster inclusion (of which equity is a large part) were more likely to:

Promote innovation.
Create a safer work environment.
Drive employee engagement, commitment, and pride.
Positively impact customer satisfaction.
Benefit financial performance.

Diversity Item correlated to “All in all, I am satisfied with my job” item.

Pearson Correlation
Diverse customers (differences in race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, etc.) are treated fairly at this organization. 0.415
Diverse employees are treated fairly with regard to their career advancement at this organization. 0.410
Diverse employees (differences in race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, etc.) are treated fairly at this organization. 0.400

One example of this type of business practice is The Boys & Girls Clubs of America. This organization has made it a practice to code for race and ethnicity and to ask diversity-related items on its employee opinion surveys. The organization values the ability to analyze data by race and ethnicity as part of its diversity initiative. Terri Dorsey, director of Organizational Development, explains that, “over the past five years, we have focused our benefit programs, training programs, and our employee relations programs on creating just that environment [that promotes a sense of competence, belonging, influence, and usefulness]. While we are not there yet, we were pleased to see that on our last employee satisfaction survey, we scored in the 92nd percentile [with regard to overall employee satisfaction.] I believe our diversity efforts, focused on creating that positive environment for everyone, have much to do with our current success.”

As evidenced by the last U.S. presidential election, we have begun to see a shift towards a more multicultural America. It behooves all leaders to work proactively to prepare their workforces to embrace the demographic changes which are underway.

Murat Philippe is a principal consultant with HR Solutions. With more than a decade of survey research experience, he has conducted research identifying a positive linkage between employee engagement and organizational diversity. He can be reached at [email protected].