What happens once an employee has been hired? This section discusses training and developing employees and the importance of having a diverse workforce.

Diversity in the Workplace

The makeup of the U.S. workforce has changed dramatically over the past 50 years. In the 1950s, more than 60 percent was composed of white males. Today's workforce, however, reflects the broad range of differences in the population – differences in gender, race, ethnicity, age, physical ability, religion, education, and lifestyle. As you can see in Table 7.1 "Employment by Gender and Ethnic Group", more women and minorities have entered the workforce, and white males now make up only 36 percent of the workforce. Their percentage representation diminished as more women and minorities entered the workforce.

Most companies today strive for diverse workforces. HR managers work hard to recruit, hire, develop, and retain a workforce that's representative of the general population. In part, these efforts are motivated by legal concerns: discrimination in recruiting, hiring, advancement, and firing is illegal under federal law and is prosecuted by the EEOC. Companies that violate antidiscrimination laws not only are subject to severe financial penalties but also risk damage to their reputations. In November 2004, for example, the EEOC charged that recruiting policies at Abercrombie & Fitch, a national chain of retail clothing stores, had discriminated against minority and female job applicants between 1999 and 2004. The employer, charged the EEOC, had hired a disproportionate number of white salespeople, placed minorities and women in less visible positions, and promoted a virtually all-white image in its marketing efforts. Six days after the EEOC filed a lawsuit, the company settled the case at a cost of $50 million, but the negative publicity will hamper both recruitment and sales for some time to come.

Table 7.1 Employment by Gender and Ethnic Group

Group Total (%) Males (%) Females (%)
All employees 100 52 48
White 68 36 32
African American 14 6 8
Hispanic or Latino 13 7 5
Asian/Pacific Islander/Other 5 3 3

There's good reason for building a diverse workforce that goes well beyond mere compliance with legal standards. It even goes beyond commitment to ethical standards. It's good business. People with diverse backgrounds bring fresh points of view that can be invaluable in generating ideas and solving problems. In addition, they can be the key to connecting with an ethnically diverse customer base. If a large percentage of your customers are Hispanic, it might make sense to have a Hispanic marketing manager. In short, capitalizing on the benefits of a diverse workforce means that employers should view differences as assets rather than liabilities.