Workplace Diversity Suffers From Semantic Issues

February 27, 2008 ( - A new survey has found that while many employers place a high value on workplace diversity, only a third have designated a formal definition of the issue.

A news release from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) said its survey with the American Institute for Managing Diversity also found that there is a lack of a common language to help employers manage their diversity efforts.

The announcement reported that 52% of the more than 1,400 HR professionals and diversity practitioners polled believed to a “large extent,” that diversity practices created an environment allowing all employees to do their best work. Similarly, 48% said that to a large extent, the practices enhanced the ability of people from different backgrounds to effectively work together.

According to the release, respondents also said to a large extent diversity practices leveraged differences and similarities in the workforce (39%) and among customers and markets (36%) for the strategic advantage of the organization, and that they eliminated or minimized prejudice (38%).

“Our research confirms that most organizations currently have diversity policies and practices in place,” said SHRM President and CEO Susan R. Meisinger, in the news release. “But, while policies mark a significant step forward, challenges remain.”

While the survey found a greater awareness of the issue, respondents said that, among other hurdles to diversity management, the field is not well-defined or understood, focuses too much on compliance, and places too much emphasis on ethnicity and/or gender.

Some 75% of HR professionals said that, from a strategic perspective, leveraging the diverse talents of the workforce was extremely important to their organization and they would like to see greater emphasis made on the positive relationship between diversity and business results.

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