Major Ben's articles

Below is a list of articles by Major Ben Brooks that have appeared in the Times Herald.

 

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Diversity is About the Bottom Line

By Major Ben Brooks

Diversity is a term that has been bandied about for many years. The mere mention of the word conjures up discrimination, different treatment, unequal treatment, reverse discrimination, and a myriad other choice phrases. Because it has become such a hot-button issue, many organizations resist it with the tenacity of a pit bull.

What is really behind the resistance? Why are organizations slow to embrace the concept? Why do we even have to consider it? In my many years working as a state police commander and more recently as an independent consultant specializing in the area of diversity, I have studied many of the stated reasons for this resistance. I have come to the conclusion that many organizations resist dealing with diversity because they simply do not understand its implication.

Diversity is the full utilization of all available human resources within an organization. It is not a white, black, male, or female issue. It is all about the wonderful mix of people who make up today’s workforce. Instead of a melting pot, today’s workforce should be viewed as a salad bowl in which every culture can bring what it has to offer to the table while at the same time maintaining its own cultural identity. When viewed together as individuals, these various cultures can form an effective work team.

Why the resistance?

Historically, most organizations have operated from the left-brain concept of placing a strong emphasis on policies, procedures and the bottom line. As a result, little energy was placed on the people part of the business, and organizations became ill-prepared to handle the many issues that evolved as a result of a diverse workforce.

Some years ago, the Carnegie Institute did a study in which it found that only 15 percent of an organization’s success can be linked to technical skills and mental ability while 85 percent involves dealing with people. Let’s examine this premise: If 15 percent of an organization’s success involves technical skills and mental ability, what percentage of time do organizations spend on that part of their success quotient? Unofficial surveys indicate that organizations spend roughly 80 percent of their time on a part of work that reaps them 15 percent success.
The big question that the leaders of organizations have to ask is what is it that causes you pain and keeps you awake at night? The answer inevitably becomes the people issue. If organizations are spending only 20 percent of their time on the issues that give them 85 percent of their problems, one does not have to be a rocket scientist to see that something is wrong with this picture. So what is the answer? Organizations must begin to realistically address those areas that have a greater impact on their bottom line—the people issues.

Why do diversity awareness education?

Anne R. Carey and Dave Merrill in USA Today in a survey of a number of large corporations offer the following reasons for making diversity an integral part of strategic planning for organizations:

Increase productivity

Diversity involves the full utilization of all available human resources. When an organization ignores those individuals who are most capable of connecting with the diverse customer base, it loses big time.  An organization is like a spoked wheel.  When all of the spokes are in place the wheel can operate at its greatest capacity.  When there are spokes missing, it impacts the efficiency of the wheel.  Like a wheel, organizations cannot afford to ignore those critical resources that will enhance their ability to be more productive

Stay competitive

Attempting to compete in the global market place with a monocultural work force will make your organization as effective as a top rated football team with sixty-four lineman, despite them being All-American.  If your organization is not looking seriously at the make up of the multicultural customer base, you will not be in the game.

Comply with personnel policies

When an organization attempts to address their diversity concerns simply to comply with a company police, it is clearly out of touch with the multicultural realities of the next millennium.

A demographic reality

There are six major changes that have occurred recently in the workforce that bear some serious consideration in addressing diversity within your organization:

  1. There are many different age groups that produce both communication and generation gaps. Each of these groups brings its own challenges and values.
  2. There are more women in a wider variety of jobs. It is estimated that women comprise around 52 percent of the workforce. Approximately 10.6 billion businesses are owned by women, and they employ 15.5 million employees, 35 percent more people than all of the Fortune 500 companies. Women are more successful in investing (commitment) and outperformed men in nine of the last twelve years.
  3. There are more racial and ethnic groups. The prediction for the year 2050 is that Latinos will comprise 24 percent of the population, Blacks 13.6 percent, Asians 8.2 percent, and American Indians 0.9 percent. Whites will make up 52.8 percent of the workforce. The combined purchasing power of the minority groups is in the neighborhood of $700 billion. With those numbers and that much buying power, isn’t it important for you as an organization to visit all neighborhoods?
  4. Many values and lifestyles are out of the closet.
  5. There is a widening gap in the educational levels of employees. The skill level of many employees does not meet today’s necessary qualifications.
  6. More people with disabilities are part of the population. Yet people with disabilities are grossly underrepresented in today’s workforce, in spite of the fact that they spend around $700 billion each year. Consider this: 40 percent are wired to the Internet where they spend twice as much time as those who are nondisabled. With this group’s strong reliance on technology, organizations are overlooking a valued resource.

What is the economic cost of not embracing diversity?

Diversityinc.com reported discrimination cases that ended in the following settlements:

  • January 25, 1993, Shoney’s Restaurant, $132 million
  • March 21, 1997, Texaco, $176.1 million
  • January 1999, CSX Transportation, $25 million
  • July 16, 1999, Winn-Dixie supermarket, $28.1 million
  • November 2000, Coca-Cola, $192.5 million

What is the answer?

Many organizations’ mission, vision, and values statements showcase their commitment to understanding and valuing diversity. Those words look great on an organization’s hallowed walls, but too often they ring hollow when employees are forced to resort to drastic measures such as grievances and lawsuits because they feel devalued and are not being heard. When diversity is viewed as an economic survival issue, everybody within the organization wins. When it is viewed in any other way, everyone loses. If your organization is not embracing diversity, it is courting economic disaster.

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