What the Dinosaur Teaches Recruiting Firms

Sep 1, 2003

In July the lively diversity recruiting postings on Electronic Recruiting Exchange, gave us plenty to think, wonder, and talk about. One made a subtle but between the eyes point. What do you think?

“I am a white male. I am afraid for my children’s future. Capital and opportunity are rushing towards my kids and away from the kids I pass every day when I walk home from work. Those dispossessed souls will not stay down for long. Either we get selfish and start taking the extra steps and risks to create more opportunity, or they will take it from us … I, as white male, still have a better chance of getting capital (and therefore opportunity) than anyone else on the planet. I agree with everyone here. I hope that I never get hired because of my gender or color of my skin. Oops … too late.”

Last month we began a discussion on why diversity and diversity recruiting continues to be under the spotlight. Let’s look at a few more reasons and facts and then see what this all means to the placement industry.How do most Americans perceive corporate diversity? Barbara Frankel, in a article published in October 2002, answered this question. “They believe their own companies care about the subject but that U.S. businesses as a whole still discriminate against people of color, gays and lesbians, people with disabilities and older workers. And they’re not yet convinced that a diverse workforce means a more profitable business.”In this article she quotes Toni L. Riccardi, Chief Diversity Officer of PricewaterhouseCoopers: “While we can take heart because most Americans believe that their companies are committed to an inclusive workforce, our recent survey makes it clear that a great deal of work remains unfinished regarding matters of diversity. The fact that older and disabled workers, gays and lesbians face a tougher road to career advancement is alarming. We’ve got a long way to go before we can realize the American dream of a workplace which truly affords equal opportunity for all employees.”Last November in another article, Ruth Zeilberger, answered the question: “Does being diversity-challenged indicate someone is a racist?” Not necessarily, says Roosevelt Thomas. He worries that the inability of corporate America to think beyond the ‘-isms’ indicates a lack of sophistication about the necessary remedy. “Our society has never said it wants diversity. Our society said it wanted representation,” says Thomas, who believes it’s time to start thinking beyond equal opportunity and toward addressing the challenge of empowering a diverse workforce … because we are going to have more and more diversity.One of the reasons for the focus on diversity is definitely the buying power of diversity communities. Here is a summary that is causing corporate America and the recruitment industry to do some planning. In the United States people of diversity have more purchasing power today than ever before. Companies are always striving to increase their market share; recruiting firms are continually looking for new avenues of business. You don’t need a Harvard MBA to figure out the next step.By 2040 half of all Americans will be multiethnic. People we now call “minorities” will be in the majority. The following startling facts and numbers from the 2000 Census were compiled by The Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy, the U.S. Census Bureau, and reported by

  • Latinos are the largest ethnic group in the U.S. with a population of 35.3 million and comprising 13.2% of the U.S. population with annual buying power ranging from $273 billion to $445 billion.
  • African Americans are the second largest ethnic group in the country with a total population of 34.7 million people; 12.9% of the population with buying power that will exceed $292 billion by 2006.
  • Asian Americans with a total population of 11.9 million are the third largest minority group in the U.S. and make up 3.6% of the population. Their buying power was over $255 billion in 2001.
  • Major studies estimate the total number of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people (GLBT) in the United States to be between 13 million and 17 million. Depending on the source, the percentage of GLBT people in this country ranges from 3% to 10% of the total U.S. population. The total annual buying power is estimated to be about $430 million.

How do all these facts and figures affect the bottom lines of major corporations? The Society of Human Resource Management and Fortune Magazine surveyed companies and answered this question very definitively in an article entitled: “Keeping Your Edge: Managing a Diverse Corporate Culture”.75% had recruiting efforts designed to expand diversity within the organization39% had diversity related career development34% measured the diversity performance of managers20% had explicit promotion opportunities to break through the glass ceiling19% had cultural orientation programs79% believe that diversity improves corporate culture77% believe that diversity improves recruitment of new employees52% believe that diversity improves client relations41% believe that diversity improves retention of employees28% believe that diversity positively affects profitabilityIt’s pretty clear that recruiting firms should take a hard look at their practices and specialty areas. Can you help your client companies solve their diversity recruiting problems? Is it worth adding diversity recruiting to your product mix so that your clients will not look elsewhere? The almost natural reticence to even consider diversity recruiting is an enigma. Most of us agree with the statement made by Robert Hughes in Culture of Complaint the Fraying of America: “There never was a core America in which everyone looked the same, spoke the same language, worshipped the same gods and believed the same things.”To lay the groundwork for some strategic thinking, examine briefly some of the maladies and stark realities of diversity recruiting in Corporate America. First, the maladies:

  1. White men who have been running U.S. companies have been less than enthusiastic about diversity. Lip service and tepidity is as far as they will go with diversity.
  2. Their succession planning is a reinvention of themselves. They perpetuate the same kind of leadership and simply ignore the facts staring them in the face.
  3. They miss the boat both from the people and revenue sides.

The realities:

  • Diversity is here. Future generations of workers will be people of diversity. The workforce of the future will not be a white majority.
  • Companies that are recruiting and hiring diversity candidates today will have the edge in hiring the best talent in the future. Top diversity candidates in the future will seek out companies that strongly recruit and develop diversity workers today.
  • Retention of multicultural workers has to be a major part of today’s strategic planning. Losing the best and the brightest costs money.

Remember that women and diversity people will make up about 70% of all new workers by 2008. The logical conclusion is that when diversity is not a priority, companies lose. They lose opportunities to enter and capture emerging markets; they lose opportunities to gain new customers and to attract talented employees. It is obvious and reasonable that if companies don’t allow all people to participate, why should they buy their products or join their team? Companies that ignore diversity today will leave a legacy: “the dinosaur legacy” gone and forgotten, or gone but remembered with a cynical smile. America is changing before our eyes. Companies that don’t understand the ramifications of these changes won’t be around to regret their disdain for diversity.Retention says it all. Retention is the best recruiting tool. Retention is the flip side of recruiting. When an organization lacks diversity in leadership roles, recruiting and retaining top diversity talent is difficult. Keeping productive employees saves money and time.Here is a practical checklist for evaluating your entry into the diversity recruiting marketplace.

  • There is an expressed need for diversity talent; the demand is high.
  • Companies want to hire diversity candidates and they are receptive to working with recruiting firms.
  • Contrary to the myth, diversity candidates exist.
  • Diversity candidates have choices today; they can be selective.
  • Diversity recruiting is a worthwhile service to offer client companies.
  • Will you get a significant return on your investment of time?
  • Target some companies to work with; test it out; do your homework: are your target companies serious? Select national companies initially.
  • There are few recruiting firms that excel in diversity recruiting. Have to stick with it for the long haul.
  • If you’re good at diversity recruiting the word spreads

Keep a few things in mind, and, remember the dinosaur. How well a company works; how productive and successful it is in a highly competitive global economy, depends on whether it has the best people, and has people who are comfortable working across lines of race, class, sexual orientation, age, gender, religion, and background. The days of insularity and parochialism are gone. Companies that are not inclusive, welcoming, and inviting are not getting the best workers. Diversity is a business imperative because it affects competitiveness.There is another reason for seeking diversity at all levels. Companies today will not be healthy unless their environment is healthy. A healthy environment in the twenty-first century is one that has the most challenging, the most rewarding career possibilities, and an environment that is truly open to people of diversity.Pressing for diversity without a good business reason does more harm than good. Pushing for diversity without a good business reason makes as much sense as a fish riding a bicycle. Companies need to hire and develop the best people they can find. Diversity, then, should be a natural outcome of an inclusive hiring process that was based entirely on business reasons.Mamphila Ramphele, a leader in the anti-apartheid activism of the 1960s in South Africa, was among the first to be detained and then banned to a remote corner of the Transvaal. She was also a colleague of Stephen Biko. Across Boundaries tells of her childhood in the northern Transvaal, her daily experience of apartheid, and of her early determination to become a doctor despite being black and female. Her words should serve as a standard for diversity recruiting: “Everyone deserves opportunity, no one deserves success!”I hope before I die that I witness a couple of things: I would love to see The Red Sox win the World Series, and, to experience America believing that diversity is not a compromise but a step forward.Finally, I ask you to think of the dinosaurs ? not “Barney” of television fame, but the ancient dinosaurs. Can you imagine them prancing up and down the streets of Boston and New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles?Picture these dinosaurs roaring to each other as the universe moves forward without them. Today’s dinosaurs are the titans of industry, even the recruiting industry, who ignore diversity. These 21st century dinosaurs talk and roar to each other as the world of commerce becomes more diverse. One day, sad to say, they will wake up and find themselves quite alone because the world of business will have passed them by.

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