DIVERSITY: Delivering Promise and Profits.
By Peter C. Woolfolk Published: July 2009, Nashville Business Journal
As the composition of the American population continues to evolve, leading businesses in Tennessee and the nation are reaping the benefits of an established aggressive, sincere and operational diversity strategy. Diversity in the workplace is far beyond just the basic numbers of women, seniors, disabled and minorities on staff. Forward thinking managers recognize the multiple benefits this inclusiveness brings to company advancement.
Tennessee is on board. Governor Bredesen has established the Governor’s Office of Diversity Business Enterprise which reaches out to women-owned, veteran-owned, small and other disadvantaged businesses to become certified to do business with the state. This process begins to level the playing field for those firms seeking to provide products and services for a slice of Tennessee’s annual purchasing dollars.
A look at some numbers will indicate why a diversity strategy is particularly important. As of 2005, population estimates are that 1-in-3 Americans are either Hispanic, Asian-Pacific-American or African American. By 2050 estimates are that these three groups alone will constitute 55 percent of the U.S. population. Can you say, new workers, or new customers.
In 2003, spending power among these groups was impressive: African Americans contributed $688 billion to the economy, Hispanics spent $653 billion, Asian American added $344 billion. By 2007, the combined buying power for people of color is estimated at $2 trillion. Baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) are 78 million strong. Of boomers earning $50,000 or more annually, 61 percent are Asian American. Latino and African American are 39 and 36 percent respectively.
Leadership must begin at the top and supported by policies, budgets and accountability
if diversity is to be taken seriously and implemented effectively.
In 2003, PEPSI attributed about $250 million of its revenue growth to new products inspired by creative input from its diverse staff. The company believes that firms solving the diversity challenge will have a competitive advantage.
JPMorgan Bank, (2004 sales: $44.4 billion) questioned its ability to effectively service people with disabilities. They launched a new business unit in 2003 which upgraded its ATM network to include talking ATMs, and recruited people with disabilities. Thus far, the company has attracted the attention of customers with disabilities, their families and care-givers.
Locally, NES and Fleetguard are among those seriously engaged in inclusiveness through both personnel and procurement policies and practices.
Mature workers are seldom in the diversity discussion. Some industry sectors are experiencing a shrinkage of skilled knowledge workers. Rethinking how to recruit, train and retrain older workers has now become a priority. Competition for skilled talent will soon become fierce.
A tangential benefit to many inclusive firms is the public relations boost from listings in such national publications as Forbes, Hispanic, Working Mother, Diversity and others. This certainly facilitates recruiting and procurement efforts.
Thankfully, Nashville is populated by many enlightened executives and leaders who know the difference between Equal Opportunity Employer, and a diverse, inclusive company. This city continues to move forward.
Peter C. Woolfolk is President & CEO of Communications Strategies. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.