Diversity in the workplace is a hot topic. And here’s why. According to a Forbes survey, a vast majority of large global enterprises believe diversity is crucial to fostering innovation  as well as attracting and building their client base.
The most prolific startup markets in the US are flush with foreign-born founders. Data from the US Census Bureau’s Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs show that the percentage of immigrant-owned businesses with employees has gone up from 14.3% in 2007 to 16.1% in 2015, the most recent year for which data are available.
In the context of contingent workforce programs, diversity typically has two components: ensuring a certain percentage of spend is going through diversity-certified businesses as well as looking to ensure your contingent talent pool comprises a certain percentage or mix of minorities.
But many companies don’t have firm workforce diversity goals in place or even track such data. Just 44% of respondents to SIA’s Workforce Solutions Ecosystems Buyer Survey  track workplace diversity, though only about a third of those actually have goals in place.
Part of that low number is due to risk. “It’s a challenge for a lot of companies,” says Dawn McCartney, CCWP, SIA’s senior director of contingent workforce strategies and research (the Americas). These companies are trying to balance their desire for workforce diversity against the risk of running afoul of discrimination laws, she adds.
As a result, many companies focus on achieving supplier diversity instead, the thinking being workforce diversity will follow of its own accord.
Supplier diversity. According to SIA’s lexicon, a diversity supplier  is a minority-, woman-, disabled- or veteran-owned staffing supplier. Organizations often find that using diversity suppliers as part of their staffing supplier base is a good way to meet their diversity recruitment goals.
“I am amazed by how many programs, even very large ones, don’t have a target, or that they haven’t been told that diversity is important to their organizations,” says McCartney, who advises buyers of staffing services on how to get started. “They know it’s the right thing to do; they just don’t know what the end-game is.”
Validating certification. Many programs start small in their diversity spend efforts, McCartney says, selecting one type of diverse business to pursue, such as veteran- or woman-owned suppliers. To make sure the business you are working with is indeed diverse, ask to see their certification.
Because companies doing business with the federal government must account for a certain level of diverse spend, businesses should be prepared to supply requisite proof. There are several organizations that certify diverse businesses — such as The Global Diversity and Inclusion Foundation, National Minority Supplier Development Council, National Women Business Owners Corp.; Women’s Business Enterprise National Council; US Department of Veteran Affairs Center for Veterans Enterprise — and they tend to have rigorous processes in place to ensure validity. But be sure to review your suppliers’ certificates to ensure they are up to date — companies do change ownership and management, after all.
Once you’ve gotten started, though, don’t rest on your laurels, McCartney advises. “For those that are able to expand their diversity programs, they’ll find they are more successful in attracting not only diverse candidates, but their organization as a whole also will attract a wider range of candidates, as they view a diverse organization desirable to work for.”
And in today’s tight labor market, companies need all the tools at their disposal to get those candidates to their doorstep.