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Can Companies Survive Without a Concern for Diversity?

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Indications are that corporations will continue to increase their focus on diversity management. Participation in The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity increases each year: We had 587 companies in 2012, up from 535 companies in 2010 and 449 companies in 2009.


There are macro trends that clearly favor increased attention to diversity management:


1. White people are going to be less than 50 percent of the U.S. population by 2043. Latinos will be 30 percent of our population by then. Aside from the obvious–our culture will continue to change rapidly–here’s an indication of how powerful this is: Look back at what chances the press gave President Barack Obama.


2. Driven by increasing educational achievement, household income for Black, Latino and Asian households is rising at twice the rate of white households.


3. Members of the millennial Generation –including white, heterosexual men with no ADA-defined disabilities–look for pluralistic and open work environments. That’s what diversity management is all about. Therefore, diversity management is good for overall human-capital health.


4. Baby boomers are retiring. (They may want to stick around now that portfolios have been reduced, but human nature being what it is tells me that skill sets are probably stuck at the original retirement date, which makes many baby boomers uncompetitive.) Companies are facing huge retirement staffing hurdles in the near future. The demographics and psychographics of the new work force demand diversity management. Your diversity posture will determine recruitment success, engagement and retention.  


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5. Obama won the election with a very broad and diverse coalition. Although this speaks to his talent, keep in mind that the growth segment of this country, young people and/or people of color, tended to strongly support him. Business sustainability is about anticipation. Obama’s success is a powerful marketing lesson.


6. The Democrats now control the executive and legislative branches of the federal government–EEOC commissioners, federal attorneys and judges, and congressional inquiries are all going to be very focused on diversity. No intelligent chief executive is going to want to apply for the public-works business (or bail-out) without anticipating the questions he or she is going to get. Look at the leadership of our government–they are going to ask about your diversity programs.


7. Telecommunications, especially cell phones and Internet access, have shrunk the world dramatically in just the last few years. The world is 70 percent non-white. There are now more than one billion cell-phone users in Asia, and the fastest growth rate for new cell-phone customers is in the continent of Africa. The overwhelming majority of people on the planet are literate. The delta between the U.S. GDP growth rate and the growth rate of China and India has increased in this economic crisis. The global nature of business will continue to grow exponentially–and talent will flow to where it’s best treated.


Overall, business is about people. Your company’s ability to command a superior margin over a competitor is directly due to your company’s relationship with your customers, investors, suppliers and employees. Diversity management isn’t about “looking” like your customers, it’s about thinking like your customers, investors and suppliers. Bad management is exposed in tough times because a rising market masks many flaws.


A company that isn’t focused on diversity management isn’t a good long-term prospect.

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