Human Resources and Workplace Diversity

“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” — Maya Angelou

In the world of Human Resources (HR), diversity plays an important role as it contributes to the organizational strength and competitiveness. In fact, many studies have shown that diversity can directly impact innovation, creativity and the overall performance of employees.

A common misconception about diversity is that it only deals with race. However, diversity can include ethnicity, gender, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation and more. Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) defines diversity as “The collective mixture of differences and similarities that includes for example, individual and organizational characteristics, values, beliefs, experiences, backgrounds, preferences and behaviors.”

For many organizations and businesses, managing workplace diversity is very much an HR role. According to a 2014 SHRM survey, more than 60 percent of organizations reported that HR is responsible for implementing diversity initiatives. While all organizations may not have HR staff dedicated to managing diversity, many businesses have found ways to run diversity projects and promote issues related to diversity by establishing employee volunteer committees. Beyond staff and volunteers, there are many tangible ways an organization can support diversity, from its vision statement to specific policies.

Nonetheless, diversity remains an important issue across organizations. For example, according to the SHRM survey, 35 percent of organizations reported they do not have a policy that addresses certain aspects of diversity such as sexual orientation discrimination.

Students who may be interested in helping to further diversity in the corporate world can pursue related careers within HR. Common HR job titles include diversity— consultant, director, manager, or vice president. SHRM suggests that individuals planning for a career in diversity develop intellectual curiosity­, business acumen and educational proficiency.

At Limestone College, students earning a Bachelors in Human Resource Management have the option of taking an elective, HR 324 – Managing Diversity in the Workplace. Through readings, case studies, class discussions, guest speakers and class exercises, students will learn about the complexity of today’s increasingly diverse workplace.