As most of you know, I am frequently asked to speak to recruiting groups all over the world. One of the most frequently requested topics is diversity. Recruiters struggle with keeping a balanced workforce and with giving everyone a fair opportunity for a position. While all recruiters are focused on the laws that help to integrate our workplaces, most recruiters I work with genuinely want to foster a great environment for everybody regardless. They just have a hard time figuring out how to do it. Corporations struggle to attract and retain skilled people, in general, and the struggle is even greater with Hispanic, black, Native American, and Asian candidates. The demand for Hispanic, black and Native American engineers and scientists is huge, but the numbers of minority students choosing to major in those fields is very low. Rural areas suffer because they are not as attractive to diverse candidates. Rural areas often lack religious institutions, ethnic foods, and social opportunities for many minorities. Yet urban areas are highly competitive and expensive. American corporations have been “up-skilling” jobs for the past decade, and the majority of layoffs over the past three years have been in the manufacturing arena. There are fewer jobs for unskilled and semi-skilled workers, who are often minorities. As jobs continue to be enriched and require greater skills and education to perform, recruiters will face additional challenges in finding diverse ó and qualified ó candidates. Here are a few ideas and thoughts that I hope will help you in your struggle to be a great employer of minorities. 1. Know the facts and educate your management. America’s Hispanic population has been on a growth path for decades. Hispanics are now the largest minority group in the U.S., comprising 13% of the total population. Los Angeles gained more than 1.8 million Hispanics from 1990 to 2000. New York gained almost a million, with Chicago, Dallas, Houston and Miami following closely. In parts of America, Spanish is as easy to use as English. But education levels among Hispanics are not as high as among whites, blacks, or Asians. Only 8% of Hispanics have a Bachelor’s degree, compared to 19% of whites and 12% of blacks. Many Hispanics are not aware of the opportunities that exist for them in corporations. Blacks make up 12% of the population ó a number that has remained constant for a decade. But the black populations in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, New York, and Miami all grew over the past decade through immigration and migration from rural America. Blacks are better educated and much more aware of opportunities today than they were even a decade ago, but fewer study engineering and other sciences. This leaves recruiters challenged to find enough people to fill those positions. Asians account for 4% of the population (up from 3% a decade ago), and they are generally educated to a higher level than other minorities. Over 30% of Asians have a Bachelor’s degree. However, they are primarily located in coastal cities, which makes it much more challenging to convince them to move to rural areas or even to smaller cities. The cities with the greatest gain in Asians over the past decade are New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. So, the issues are very clear for employers. If you are located in a rural area, the number of diverse candidates falls rapidly. The vast majority of Hispanics, blacks and Asians live in urban America where their cultures flourish. If you are looking for highly educated engineers, scientists, mathematicians, physicists, and so on, the numbers of minority candidates shrinks to a handful. The key to ongoing success in building a recruitable minority workforce will be in education. 2. Support education as a corporate strategy. In the long run, supporting education is the most fruitful policy you can pursue. The more minority students that enter into universities and technical schools, the more graduates there will be and the more potential candidates you will have. Programs that recruit from part-time schools, community colleges and other post-high school educational programs can pay big dividends. It may also be cost effective to hire minorities with lesser skills and provide educational assistance for them while employed. 3. Cast a wider net. Recruit everywhere possible. Especially in college recruiting, you will be well advised to go to smaller colleges and universities and reach out, using email and other technologies, to schools everywhere. Competitive intelligence ó finding out where minorities are now working and at what jobs ó can also be useful in helping you market to them and offer them whatever it is they do not have at their current employer. 4. Adjust your work policies. Minorities tend to cluster in urban areas, but many corporations are in rural America or far enough away from a major city to discourage minority candidates from joining. Turnover is also higher among minority employees in these rural firms. It’s time to encourage telecommuting and virtual work. Some leading-edge firms have set up small offices of just a few people in urban areas so that employees can live in the city and yet still be employed by them. Other firms offer extensive flexibility to where employees live and how they access their work. As more work becomes knowledge work, physical location becomes more of an issue of mindset than of anything that affects the work performed. As Dee Hock, the founder of Visa says, “The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get the old ones out.” 5. Craft your messages and pick your media wisely. Know what minorities are seeking. Tailor a message to them. Don’t think that one advertising message will reach all candidates in the same way. Advertising positions and making them compelling to minority candidates is not the same as it is to majority candidates. Each minority candidate has a unique set of concerns and issues that need to be addressed, and each responds differently to marketing messages. You need to work with your minority population to decide what messages work best and about how to position each opportunity you have. You will also have to determine what they read and where they get their information. While television may be important for some, the Internet, social networks, or even church may be the primary source of trusted information for others. 6. Demonstrate commitment. Last but not least, it’s critical that you offer more than just advertising and hope. You have to develop a track record of working with minorities and of helping them overcome the barriers of education and prejudice that they are confronted with. You need to put in place programs that are tailored fairly to the minority groups you are seeking. These programs might be mentoring or coaching activities, ongoing educational assistance, firm promotion policies and a focus to making minority employment a cornerstone of your corporate success. By the year 2010, over 50% of Americans will represent a minority. It will be an economic survival imperative to have a diverse workforce, as these minorities already have almost $2 billion of spending power ó a figure that will rise to more than $3 billion by 2008.
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