Diversity Means Business: Q & A with Rita Mitjans

 

Rita Mitjans, ADP

Rita Mitjans was the head of Marketing at ADP when she set her sights on the organization itself. In 2013, she became its first Chief Diversity and Corporate Responsibility Officer, where she set about understanding the culture of ADP and working to make it more inclusive and diverse.

Mitjans will be giving the Women in HR Tech Opening Keynote: The Business Case for Diversity on September 11, 2018, the first session of the conference. She will be talking about the importance of diversity for building and sustaining a vibrant and healthy business, which means focusing on both the people and the bottom line.

Under Rita’s leadership, ADP has achieved significant improvements in hiring, promotion, and retention of women and minorities. After five years in the role, ADP increased the number of women in executive leadership by 7% points and the number of people of color in executive roles by 5% points, achieving a top 5 ranking on DiversityInc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity.

Here’s a preview of what you will learn about the business case for diversity.

What is diversity and inclusion and why are they important?

Mitjans: Diversity is the “what,” inclusion is the “how.” Diversity is the demographics of your employees. Inclusion enables diversity to thrive. Inclusion means everyone’s contributions are valued and everyone has the opportunity to do their best work and advance.

It’s not enough to hire a diverse workforce. If your culture does not embrace different perspectives, you will not be able to retain that diversity.

This is not just important because of legal compliance, or even because it’s the right thing to do. Representation is a big factor in hiring talent in a tight job market. Candidates want to see others that look like them at the top and work in a culture that values different perspectives and supports authentic, respectful behaviors.

When you first began as Chief Diversity Officer, where did you start?

I started with data. One of my favorite sayings is: What gets measured gets done. So, I dug into our employee engagement scores. While the company’s overall engagement was good, when I isolated the data for different demographic groups, the picture was not as encouraging. So, I went out to talk to people to find out what was going on and how ADP could be more responsive.

I also did significant research on the business case for diversity and inclusion, so I could demonstrate to senior leadership that making changes were good for innovation, for employee retention, and for attracting great people, which all affect the bottom line.

What can organizations do to improve diversity and inclusion?

Mitjans: It’s important to focus on both hiring new talent and retaining and promoting the talent you have.

In recruiting, train leaders and people involved in hiring decisions to recognize and address unconscious bias. Make sure you have diversity in your hiring managers and interview panels.

Show potential candidates that diversity matters with images and stories about the people who work there in your employer brand and recruiting materials. Actively seek diverse candidates by establishing recruiting partnerships with organizations focused on improving opportunities for specific groups such as LGBTQ, women, people of color, veterans, and the disabled.

To help retain diversity, implement a voluntary self-identification program that allows employees to confidentially share their demographics including sexual orientation and identity. This allows you to develop baseline measurements and establish goals for improvement. Then integrate your goals with current talent and business processes.

Also, sponsor employee resource groups. I make sure to engage with those groups, listen to what they have to say, and consider their suggestions.

What questions should organizations ask themselves in addressing diversity and inclusion?

Mitjans: Every organization will be different. Improving diversity and inclusion is an ongoing process. I would look to a few indicators: Does the leadership of the organization reflect the available talent pool in the market? Are women and people of color advancing at the same rates as white men? Do our hires reflect the skilled talent in the market across all roles? Do our pay practices support pay equity? Do all employees feel like they’re treated fairly? And is the organization committed to advancing diversity and inclusion?

Having specific goals for diversity and inclusion, and regularly measuring progress against those goals is key.

What challenges exist for workplaces implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives?

Mitjans: It’s important to anticipate and address that there may be backlash from majority groups who may feel threatened or uncomfortable with the focus on diversity. Diversity almost always means change. For example, white men make up only 37 percent of the population but over 70 percent of senior leadership. If we are looking to have leadership reflect the population, that will mean a rebalancing of those opportunities resulting in a perceived loss for the in-group.

This is where education and awareness come in. It’s important to help leadership understand that diversity is essential for continued operations, growth, innovation, and the bottom line and be able to back up those claims with data.

The business case for diversity and inclusion is about ensuring that all qualified talent has the opportunity to contribute, grow, and thrive because the population we serve and who consumes our products and services is diverse, and innovation by definition requires a different way of thinking.

Hear more about the Business Case for Diversity at Rita Mitjans’ opening keynote, September 11, 2018 at 8:30 am. It’s a perfect start to a great conference.