Lessons and opportunities to improve diversity at work

This year has seen a massive renewed focus on diversity and inclusion, due in large part to the social justice movements that swept the U.S. in June (in addition to the inequities exposed by the coronavirus pandemic).  

Our research this summer – in partnership with ClearlyRated and American Staffing Association – aimed to not only understand diversity within the staffing industry, but to also provide a glimpse and a few lessons for companies across all industries. 

While some of these numbers leave a lot of room for growth, there are a couple of key points for companies that want to take actionable steps. And in no way are these scenarios unique to the staffing industry; in fact, staffing firms are poised to help drive diversity and inclusion improvements in all sectors.  

Employers are prioritizing diversity initiatives – and they believe staffing firms can help 

More than 80 percent of hiring managers said staffing firms help reach more diverse candidates and that their company is planning to improve diversity and inclusion in hiring. Overall, at least three-quarters of hiring managers shared a similar outlook when it comes to improving diversity – the next 12 months will include a ramp up of strategies. 

How are careers impacted by diversity and inclusion (and the lack of it)? 

The self-reported responses are telling: women of color experience and witness discrimination more than any other group, and white men far and away say they do not experience or witness discrimination at work. 

The wage gap is alive and real – the self-reported median income is lower among women respondents – and workers of color are less likely to see themselves as having a career in staffing. Only 23 percent of women of color reported their firm offers a clear path forward and opportunities for promotion, compared to 50 percent of white men and 49 percent of white women. Both men and women of color sit firmly in the “neutral” category, which means there is ripe opportunity to actively support and encourage these workers in their career.  

These responses played out across hundreds of professionals from firms of all sizes, meaning this is not an isolated issue for one firm or even the industry. This data shows there is still work to do and to encourage employers of all kinds to evaluate how they support and promote diversity and inclusion at all levels. 

How can employers learn from these stats and address issues on their own teams? 

The data shows a promising stat – remote work and flexible hours might be the key to retaining workers of color and women.  

No matter what industry you’re in, there are a few questions to consider. HR teams should think about examining pay structures and ensure there are no discrepancies across demographic groups (gender, race, LGBTQIA+ and others), as well as benefits and holidays that support and recognize these groups. 

Consider surveying your employees and ask for their insight on: 

  1. Satisfaction 
  2. Witnessed and/or experienced discrimination 
  3. How they view their path forward at your company and their sense of belonging 
  4. How they perceive leadership’s investment in diversity 
  5. The ability to voice opinions without negative consequences 
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