When employers began implementing affirmative action plans in the workplace, there were several growing pains they had to overcome. Affirmative action compliance training required difficult conversations, as HR professionals had to evaluate areas of unconscious bias that the company might have previously ignored. In many cases, companies were only interested in doing the bare minimum required by law. However, the “bare minimum” is not enough to eliminate discrimination and toxicity in the workplace. As a result, compliance professionals and compliance training partners today feel tremendous pressure to counteract the rapid rate of change.
One of the biggest challenges facing compliance professionals is that most people have to ask, “What is a compliance professional?” Compliance is a non-revenue function that receives little staff and a barely-sufficient compliance budget. Additionally, compliance professionals often have other roles in their organizations, meaning their compliance work ends up being more of a “side gig” than legitimate corrective measures. A compliance professional’s job is to ensure the organization adheres to affirmative action laws and regulations. Unfortunately, many employers wrongfully assume they are “good” if their programs meet legal requirements. Yet the work of compliance professionals is much more complex and is difficult to navigate with limited resources. In other words, compliance is much more than ensuring organizations follow the black-letter law.
Despite the confusion surrounding compliance and affirmative action compliance training, it’s important to remember that compliance professionals are working to foster a healthier, more equitable workplace for everyone. Because the goals of compliance professionals are so important, they need adequate support and resources to help make affirmative action plans effective. To fully support compliance professionals in the future, employers must understand why so many people are still confused about affirmative action in business and the role of compliance professionals in general.
The Source of Confusion About Compliance
One of the biggest sources of confusion surrounding affirmative action compliance training stems from the terminology. When people hear the phrase “affirmative action,” many negative ideas come to mind. One common misconception associated with affirmative action in business is that something will be taken from one group and given to another. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Affirmative action benefits every employee and executive while also opening up the work environment to honest discussions, thereby creating a healthier workplace.
Thanks to federal courts, affirmative action gets a bad rap and is associated with negative things like hiring quotas. However, these practices are examples of “corrective affirmative action.” This type of affirmative action should be avoided if at all possible because it is harmful to people and organizations. Instead, organizations should focus on preventative affirmative action, which ensures corrective action is never needed.
With preventative affirmative action, employers can reward positive behavior and discuss harmful behaviors that need to stop for everyone’s benefit. In turn, preventative affirmative action creates a naturally more diverse workforce. This distinction is important because employees are more likely to support preventative affirmative action, ensuring successful affirmative action plans and initiatives.
Another important distinction employers should make is the difference between goals and benchmarks. Benchmarks fall under corrective action because they measure how many of each “type” of candidate are placed within the company. This type of phrasing is confusing and harmful. As such, companies should focus on affirmative action goals instead. Goals, like preventative action, are items that the entire company can work toward, which increases the likelihood of employee buy-in and effective affirmative action plans.
The Positive Impact of Affirmative Action in the Workplace
Often, compliance professionals chase down red herrings or items that look like potential issues but turn out to be benign. Fortunately, unless your workplace is rife with discrimination, finding actual issues should be rare. When done correctly and supported by the right tools and resources, affirmative action can improve any workplace. Here are three of the most positive impacts of affirmative action in business:
1. More collaboration with diverse perspectives
One of the main goals of affirmative action is to foster true diversity in the workplace. With diversity come unique ideas and perspectives. Affirmative action programs ensure your company is both complying with the law and opening the door for people to share their thoughts and opinions without judgment. The more willing people are to collaborate and share ideas, the stronger your organization will be in the long term.
2. Increased engagement and retention
Now more than ever, employees are demanding diversity in the workplace in order to properly engage with work. They want to see their organizations live their values from the top down. So if an employer touts diversity in the organization, it would do well to have the investment, opportunities, and numbers to support those claims. Once employees understand that their organizations practice what they preach, they will be more likely to feel invested in their work and want to stay with the organization.
3. Attracting top talent
According to an industry survey, almost 70% of job seekers say that workplace diversity is essential in their job search. If you want to attract the best talent, affirmative action might be the answer. Effective affirmative action plans communicate to prospective employees that your company values voices from all backgrounds. In a tight labor market, affirmative action implementation could mean the difference between five qualified applicants for one role versus 20.
Despite the negative stereotypes associated with affirmative action, affirmative action plans and compliance professionals provide numerous benefits for organizations overall. Not only can affirmative action help your company keep and attract the best talent, but it can also ensure your team members are working together efficiently. If you want to reach affirmative action goals in the near future, support your compliance professionals and contact us at Biddle today.