Human resources is responsible for many duties, most of which directly or indirectly affect diversity and inclusion efforts. Many company leaders still cringe a little when trying to improve diversity and inclusion. In order to include some people in your organization, you have to exclude others. Infusing your organization with perspectives and experiences from a variety of backgrounds is important. Organizations are stronger when perspectives from a wide array of ethnic, religious, sexual orientation and differently-abled backgrounds are contributing. HR should have a direct impact on this through recruiting and retention efforts, as well as career-advancement practices. When we broaden our definition of diversity and inclusion in a corporate context, we see the larger impact HR can have.
The topic of diversity and inclusion generates a range of reactions and opinions whenever it’s raised in a corporate setting. But many people, HR executives included, talk about diversity without fully understanding what it means.
To truly understand diversity in a corporate context, we need to break down the two types: inherent and acquired diversity.
Inherent diversity is the type we all know about and likely think of first when we hear this buzzword. It’s the diversity you’re born with, comprised of your ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation and other parts of your identity. I should also mention that inherent diversity in a corporate space depends on who’s included in that specific space. For example, an office staffed entirely by black women isn’t inherently diverse, the same way an office staffed entirely by white men isn’t.
Creating an inherently diverse staff is beneficial to organizations because that workforce has many different perspectives. People of differing backgrounds and perspectives are likely to challenge each other and help one another gain perspectives and insight beyond what they were born with. Inherent diversity helps organizations grow by helping their people grow as individuals.
Inclusion makes everyone feel at home and welcome. When people feel welcomed and valued, they work harder and do what it takes to maintain that internal community. For some employees, their inherent identity and background aren’t as important as the background they’re developing for themselves. Acquired diversity is the range of skills and traits acquired from experience. The wider the experiences in the workplace, the more skills employees possess. Which also positions that company to better innovate, develop and market.
HR’s Influence on Both
The human resources department has immense influence over both types of diversity and inclusion. HR leaders and staffers can make changes to their recruiting methods, making sure to scour potential employee pools for underrepresented backgrounds in their workforce. They can help women and people of color break through to management and leadership positions. They can develop onboarding materials that are more welcoming to people of all backgrounds. There are hundreds of things your HR department can do to promote inherent diversity.
But HR can help develop acquired diversity, too. HR can create better training and development programs, implement internal and external mentoring relationships, and offer ways for employees to continuously improve and acquire skills. These help add value to employees and what they bring to the company. Get HR to work on acquired diversity in these ways and you’ll soon see a workforce with skills and experiences that can handle almost anything. Improving diversity and inclusion should be one of HR’s top priorities, and it should focus on both inherent and acquired diversity.