Employee Relations and Diversity Go Hand in Hand

  • November 27, 2017

Employee Relations and Diversity Go Hand in Hand  (D&I Panel update Part 1)

Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) programs are becoming a key part of many employer’s positive employee relations strategy every day. Many people feel that this is in response to external factors and the “PC culture.”  CUE’s panel of diversity experts would disagree.

At CUE’s Fall Conference, our panel of Diversity and Employee Relations Experts included Noel Hornsberry, Yvette Hunsicker, Lorin Bradley, and consultant Arthur Johnson of Vision Inspired Performance Group led a session to address issues in diversity and inclusion.  Each of these specialists agreed that you cannot have a comprehensive employee relations program without a strategy that addresses diversity and inclusion.

Sexual harassment as an Employee Relations Issue

Countless stories on the issue of sexual harassment have appeared recently in the media, including national outlets like the New York Times, and the Washington Post. More recently, regional papers like the Chicago Tribune and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, both featured articles on pervasive sexual harassment in the retail and restaurant industries.

While there is no question that sexual harassment must be addressed appropriately by all employers from a legal and training perspective, labor relations staff should not overlook the potential of sexual harassment forming the core of a corporate campaign aimed at your brand.

A short op-ed from the website The Week published on November 27th lays out this approach very concisely.   “Going forward, national labor battles like the Fight for $15 movements need to become the front lines in combating workplace sexual harassment as well”, despite labors own internal on this front; labor organizations claim that they offer the best hope for workers to protect themselves from workplace predators. We know that unions are not the only solution, but it does mean that you must take steps to ensure that your employee relations plan addresses this issue directly with your supervisors.

What is Diversity?

What is diversity?  Each person had a slightly different take, but mainly it is recognizing and valuing the differences that each employee brings to the workplace – from more obvious traits like race and gender to less noticeable things like thinking and working styles – and leveraging those differences to drive business performance.  Without innovative and diverse thought, employees are less engaged in their work, and the company is less competitive in the market.   A good D&I program can drive employee engagement and retention, as well as performance and revenue.

Employee Resource Groups

Most diversity programs include Employee Resource Groups (ERG’s, also called Business Resource Groups or Affinity Groups), which are groups of employees who share particular characteristics or life experiences (e.g., job function, race, sexual orientation, generation).  Their purpose is to provide support to both the company and other employees in career development, addressing employee relations issues, marketing and product development, wellness, and even social responsibility and volunteering.  These groups are crucial for keeping your finger on the pulse of the environment within your organization, and their formation should be driven by the characteristics of your employees, not a pre-set list of groups you want represented.

How valuable are ERG’s?  Well, more than 90% of Fortune 500 companies utilize ERG’s for everything from refining their recruiting strategy for millennials to improving the product experience for customers with disabilities.  Companies with active ERG’s tend to be more competitive in the marketplace, and employees who are members of ERG’s have a 15-25% more favorable opinion of the organization than those who aren’t.  Higher engagement results because ERG participants are more educated about what’s going on with the company, they understand more about business strategy, and they build more relationships across the organization and different functional groups.

D&I programs should be based on the core values of the organization and communications with employees should be rooted in those values.  When we create a culture of respect and appreciation, each person can come to work and show up as their whole self.  The organization becomes more competitive and sustainable as a whole, and employee relations issues are identified more quickly and resolved.

Need some tips on getting started? Check out Part Two of our series Building the Business Case for Diversity and Inclusion.

Article by Lara Lawson