Now is not the time to kill your diversity program. According to new research from George Mason University, workplace discrimination actually increases in an economic downturn. A recent study by Eden King, an assistant professor of psychology at the Fairfax, Virginia, college, found that competition for fewer jobs and resources often forces minority groups to the outside.
For instance, King and her coresearchers found that when white women and men were told that the economy was going to tank and were then asked to evaluate four equally qualified job candidates, the majority selected the white male candidate. When they were told that the economy would improve, however, they tended to favor the female Hispanic candidate.
“In good economic times, people know they are supposed to support diversity and will tend to hire a minority candidate to get affirmative action points,” King said in a release. “But when times are tough, people tend to look out for their own group and isolate outsiders, and that’s when discrimination can begin to rear its ugly head.”
Diversity Programs: First to Go?
A real economic downturn doesn’t help matters.
“The reality is, diversity programs and disadvantaged groups may be the first to go in times of economic uncertainty,” says King. “This causes real problems for people of socially disadvantaged groups.”
Indeed, Paul Facella says companies need diversity initiatives â€” now more than ever. He led diversity initiatives at McDonald’s for 11 years as regional manager for the New York area. Now he heads up consulting firm Inside Management, which helps companies such as Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield develop high-potential minority employees.
“Diversity isn’t something companies can afford to ignore,” says Facella, the author of the 2008 bestseller Everything I Know About Business I Learned at McDonald’s: The 7 Leadership Principles that Drive Break Out Success. “Organizations that continue to hire, develop, and promote minorities consistently outperform their competitors â€” in good economic times as well as bad.”
Here are five ways Facella says a business will benefit by investing in diversity initiatives:
1. Promoting diversity creates happier employees. “Employees who feel their unique contributions are appreciated â€” and see that their company wants them to develop, excel, and move up in the ranks â€” have high morale, positive attitudes, and remarkable loyalty,” he says.
2. Diverse workforces are smarter. Companies with employees from varied backgrounds can take advantage of a wider range of experience, perspectives, skills, and ideas. “Diverse teams are more creative and innovative,” Facella says. “Diverse workforces are better equipped to problem-solve and handle change.”
3. Investing in minority employees produces high achievers. People respond to positive reinforcement. “When people who have routinely heard ‘no’ start to hear ‘yes, you can â€” and we’re going to reward you for trying,’ they work harder and more diligently than those who take recognition for granted,” he says.
4. Multicultural workforces are more competitive globally. “The majority of people on the planet â€” your potential customers â€” are not white men,” says Facella, adding that employees from different cultures, belief systems and socioeconomic backgrounds have access to a wider customer base and give their company an edge in marketing and sales.
5. Diversity-minded companies have a better public image. Earning a reputation for fairness, diversity, and inclusion boosts your image among customers, prospective employees, clients, and competitors. “You can’t buy PR that’s more positive and valuable than that,” he says.
Excerpted from Florida Employment Law Letter, and written by attorneys at the law firm of Harper Gerlach PL. FLORIDA EMPLOYMENT LAW LETTER does not attempt to offer solutions to individual problems but rather to provide information about current developments in Florida employment law. Questions about individual problems should be addressed to the employment law attorney of your choice. The Florida Bar does designate attorneys as specialists in labor and employment law. Contact the attorneys at Harper Gerlach PL.