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New Report: How Does the Government Manage Diversity And Inclusion?

In the fifth installment of their Best Places to Work in the Federal Government analysis of 2012 federal employee survey data, Deloitte and the Partnership for Public Service explored how men and women, different racial and ethnic groups, and veterans and employees with disabilities observed the workplace. This report, entitled Diversity and Inclusion, provides extremely interesting insights into how different groups feel towards the workplace, such as job satisfaction, and how they believe the agency supports diversity. The report can be downloaded here!

David Dye, the Director of Human Capital at Deloitte, spoke with Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program in detail about the report and provides key insights into diversity and inclusion in the federal government.

How is the federal government in terms of diversity and inclusion?

“As far as the federal government goes, at the highest level, there are good things going on and things that they could do better.”

Why is this topic so important, especially right now?

“The topic of diversity and inclusion is an important one because when you think about where the federal government and economy is today, what better way right now then to leverage all the talents of the federal employees. We know from our data and research that the U.S. population’s demographics is shifting and it is important that federal agencies have their workforce align with the customer base. We also know that diversity and inclusion inspires great innovative thought that comes from different perspectives. For those reasons, diversity and inclusion is a terribly important topic for the federal government.”

Diversity and inclusion helps being people together, inspire thought, and devise the best plan

“We often do not leverage things quite as well as we should in the workplace. Diversity is about the demographics. However, different ways of talk, ways of thinking, getting people to think outside the box, whether it comes from our different backgrounds or just the way we think, that is an important part of creating and sustaining an inclusive work environment.”

Importance of mentorship in public service focused on diversity and inclusion

If identified relationships between leaders and employees are developed properly, “mentoring and coaching have a lot more impact [on diversity and inclusion] than some of the more official programs. Mentoring is an underutilizing, but very impactful strategy that agencies really should take to heart and find opportunities to leverage.”

The Big Take-Away

“First, the constituency that the federal workforce serves is becoming more diverse and the federal workforce needs to mirror and represent the customer base. Secondly, we know that innovation and good government practices are very much apart of diversity of thought and experiences. For those reasons, there is a good business imperative right now, particularly in an era of sequestration and furloughs, to think more creatively and innovatively, leveraging all the different experiences and viewpoints of the federal workforce.”

To learn more, listen to the interview above and download the report here!

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Mark Hammer

It is always important, with such analyses, to remember that the various target groups are not equally distributed across all work contexts, and that one’s work context can be a powerful predictor/mediator of attitudes.

As a case in point, when I look at the comparable data within the Canadian context, one of the things you see is that Aboriginal employees (what would be classified as “Native American”, stateside) are disproportionately situated in the prairie provinces. That automatically puts any employees at a disadvantage for upward mobility since developmental and promotion opportunities are more likely to be found in the capital and the major urban centers.

Women tend to have more positive views than men but also have higher promotion rates, primarily because of the kinds of jobs they cleave to and again where those jobs are located. The blue collar jobs are almost entirely held by men, and are situated primarily in smaller district offices rather than the major urban centers like the HR and office manager positions (HR is about 3/4 female) at HQ. So right away, women have a slight advantage when it comes to promotion opportunities, and there’s nothing like a promotion to make you think everything’s just ducky. Attitudes reflect the favorability of circumstances as much, if not more than, treatment.

Persons with disabilities tend to be older and have more tenure, simply because the probability of having a disability increases with age. We may tend to think of disabilities in terms of people with lifelong perceptual or motor challenges, but they only represent a fraction of all those who may legitimately be considered or self-identify as “disabled”. A significant share acquire their disability, or else a minor challenge turns into a disability, later in life. As such, the attitudes of disabled employees are partly the attitudes of those at the long-service end of the spectrum, and I think you’ll see in the FEVS data that employees with more tenure, as a group, tend to have more negative attitudes. There will still be some evidence of differential treatment, to be sure, but being disabled, or female, or a minority group member is not simply being different in ONLY that respect. There can be a lot that comes along with it.

I’m not saying that either positive or negative attitudes are illusory. But they ARE the outcomes of the circumstances people are in, and those circumstances can either enhance or diminish their experience and consequent attitudes. This is particularly important to understand when one’s best and most conscientious efforts to try and improve things for some groups appear to yield no benefit. It may not be your lack of effort, but simply the circumstances. A Clinton administration presidential report on the under-representation of Hispanics in the public service noted that some 85%, or thereabouts, of the American Hispanic labour market at that time lived in those states where only 34% of the federal jobs were situated. The people and the jobs weren’t in the same place, hence low numbers in hiring, despite honest efforts to do the right thing.

The Deloitte/PPS report doesn’t really acknowledge any differences in work context amongst the demographic groups it examines, and to my mind comes up a little short in that respect.


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Sharmane Baynard

Two suggestions, if you really want to have an open and honest discussion, do not be afraid to ask questions. Be open to learning about different cultures. Everyone has a gift and a story.