Workplace Diversity: What’s the Big Deal?

You run postings for your open positions.  They are posted on your web site.  You offer a referral bonus.  Surely everyone, regardless of nationality and gender, knows you’re hiring!  You have some people on staff who aren’t from this country.  What’s the big deal?!!

Utah has a remarkable history of welcoming those from other cultures.  Brigham Young has been referred to as Utah’s first refugee, a nod to the sometimes-violent persecution suffered by Mormons for more than 15 years prior to fleeing Missouri.  The Perpetual Emigration Fund, established by Latter Day Saint pioneers just a couple years after arriving in the valley, helped fund the immigration of over 100,000 settlers from other countries.  Part of the motivation was gathering up the flock, but part was gathering up the talent.  The percentage of foreign-born people in the Utah population was, compared to the US as a whole, unusually high late in the 19th century.  In 1870, 35 percent of Utah’s population was born somewhere other than the United States.  The US overall number was 15 percent.  By 1890 the Utah number was down to 26 percent, and the next 100 years continued the steep decline.  The foreign-born population in Utah had declined to a wimpy three percent by 1990.

World political and economic developments of the last two decades have again changed the direction of Utah’s immigration pendulum.  Cold war politics warmed, and civil wars (they don’t seem very “civil”) have created the largest refugee crisis in modern history.  US economic success attracted job-seekers, both legal and illegal.  Immigration numbers began to increase again.  By 2015 the US percentage of foreign-born workers was 13.5 and the Utah number was 8.2.

By the end of 2017, 269,239 foreign-born people called Utah home, 8.7 percent of the population.  Almost half are white, and nearly 48 percent have graduated from high school and/or attended some college.  Evidence suggests they are eager to work.  At the end of 2017 the labor participation rate for the foreign-born workforce was 3.7 percent higher than native-born workers.  They are here, educated, and willing to work.

Hiring foreign-born workers, or even candidates presenting a non-American nationality but born in the US, brings some obvious benefits.

Numbers.  With talent increasingly difficult to recruit and retain, why would you want to exclude more than a quarter of a million people from your prospect pool?  Dumb!

Attitude.  Immigrants tend to sit a little lower on the entitlement index.  If your family, like many of our 65,000 Utah refugees (and the early Utah settlers), suffered life-threatening persecution and years of miserable prospects generally, you might be pretty darned grateful for a decent job.

Economics.  In 2015 the McKinsey organization studied 366 public companies across a range of industries in Canada, Latin America, the United Kingdom, and the United States.  They found “companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.”

Competitors.  Michael Flynn, the COO of EDC Utah, says, “Diversity is regularly a point of discussion” when companies are looking to relocate.  Intel has established diversity hiring and retention goals consistent with the ethnic and national origin of the talent in the communities in which they operate.  Their management bonus structure is tied to the achievement of the diversity initiative.  Many of the most successful companies in the US, and likely many of your better competitors, are serious about creating a diverse workgroup.

Millennials.  Population trends suggest millennials will comprise 25 percent of the workforce by 2025.  A study by the global PR firm Weber Shandwick said, “one of the standout findings was that 47 percent of the millennials surveyed believe that diversity and inclusion is important criteria they actively look for in potential employers”.

Marketing.  A commitment to diversity in your workgroup, then marketing that commitment to your prospective customers and employees, is good for business.  Women purchase upwards of 70 percent of all consumer goods and African Americans spend half a trillion dollars a year in the US.  The Hispanic population is growing rapidly, as is their spending power.  How can a reputation for fair treatment and human decency be bad for business?

It’s time for all of us with talent acquisition responsibilities to give more than cursory consideration to the broad and nuanced meaning of diversity in our hiring, nurturing and employee develop practices.  It’s good for business, good for the community, and it’s the right thing to do.

Great article from Utah Business magazine offering a statistical overview of foreign-born workers in Utah.

Here’s a configurable table on foreign born populations in the US.  Can drill down to the state level, and below.

Summary of current statistical information related to foreign-born people in the US workforce.   Also contains links to other useful information.  Source is the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Report about the impact of globalization in Utah, prepared by a very cool outfit called the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.  Much bigger topic than diversity in the workplace, but these topics are all close cousins.  Very much worth digging through.

Interesting perspective on the role of benefits planning when promoting a diverse workgroup.  Will make you think.

What role does a diverse workgroup play in keeping millennials happy?  This is a must-read.

A well-executed plan to foster and nurture a diverse workgroup leads to more profitable operation.  Don’t believe it?  Read this one.

Steve Pluim

Steve Pluim is the president of TalentTeam, a Salt Lake City based staffing and recruiting firm.

Steve can be reached by email at [email protected]

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2 Responses to “Workplace Diversity: What’s the Big Deal?”

  1. Samantha

    Thanks for sharing! As a disabled employee, I can attest to the importance of workplace diversity and the need for companies to provide accommodations and resources that support the needs of all employees. It’s crucial for companies to create a culture that values and embraces differences, including those with disabilities, and to promote inclusivity in all aspects of the workplace. By doing so, not only will all employees feel supported and included, but companies can also benefit from their unique perspectives and experiences, leading to increased creativity and innovation. Overall, embracing workplace diversity is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also good for business.


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