Your Diversity Tactics [Probably] Aren't Working
U.S. manufacturers have been dabbling with diversity for nearly three decades, but their efforts have done little to increase the sector’s diversity. The diversity tactics that most companies use aren’t working and in the worst cases may do more harm than good. As the workforce participation rate of minority individuals increases, so too should their representation in manufacturing—but it hasn’t. Manufacturers aren’t moving the needle on gender diversity either—in the last 20 years, women’s participation in the sector has shrunk by 3%.
MAPI’s research has found that the problem lies in how companies implement their diversity and inclusion strategies. Many businesses make the mistake of tackling D&I across too many fronts too quickly. This leaves many manufacturers stuck in a programmatic mode in which efforts are led by human resources but no cohesive strategy exists and programs are deployed ad hoc. As a result, diversity and inclusion are often seen as just another HR initiative and too few leaders and employees understand the link to business results.
A small minority of manufacturers have successfully embedded their D&I strategies into the operational fabric of their businesses. A review of these businesses highlights some key differences in their operating models. Here are some guidelines executives can follow to build an integrated and effective diversity and inclusion strategy:
- Focus on diversity and inclusion equally. Diversity alone isn’t enough. Diversity management aims to increase the representation of different groups in the workplace, but without creating an inclusive (open, fair, and respectful) environment, these hard-fought minority group hires can quickly become regrettable attrition.
- Establish a collaborative governance model. Diversity and inclusion have a human resources component but are not simply HR initiatives. Collaborative leadership of the D&I strategy between HR and business leaders is key. Business leader participation improves the execution of supporting programs and signals to employees that the strategy supports business objectives.
- Build the business case first. Without a clear business case, it’s difficult to get employees to understand the importance of diversity and inclusion and make them a priority. Both employees and business leaders need to understand how the strategy will benefit them and their business objectives in order to lend their support and enthusiasm.
- Make D&I a priority. Any objective that is not a priority has a slim chance of fulfillment. Teams’ capacity is stretched and economic uncertainty plagues businesses across industries, making it hard to prioritize anything that doesn’t have a clear personal or business impact.
- Emphasize the importance of D&I to the business. All business leaders and employees need to understand the business imperative for D&I. This can be achieved by having executives speak about its importance and impact frequently and reinforcing the message with training and tracking progress against goals.
- Hold leaders accountable to progress. Tracking and reporting performance metrics isn’t enough; businesses need to develop holistic accountability models that combine leadership and employee accountability with a public acknowledgment of the importance of diversity and inclusion as well as their progress.
To learn more about the study's findings, review the executive summary. MAPI members can download the full report to learn more about the current state of diversity and inclusion at U.S. manufacturing companies.