Affirmative action is a plan to promote the efforts of employers, schools and other organizations to recruit and hire groups that have previously been discriminated against. It is important to note that affirmative action programs do not require employers to hire unqualified people for a job. Equal employment opportunity is used to describe policies that prohibit discrimination of any kind. Affirmative action is a program that analyses the make up of the current workforce, establishes guidelines to insure an employer is not underutilizing certain groups and identifies and removes barriers for employment. Equal employment is the legislation that provides the oversight and investigates any allegations of discrimination and unfair treatment.
To effectively implement an affirmative action program is important to have management support. This is not the type of program that can be successful at the grass roots level. The first step is to designate a high level manager as the champion. This person will be responsible for setting the overall tone for the program and will ensure that his managers at all levels throughout the organization take part in the implementation process as well as ensuring that the program is being effectively managed.
The next decision is what kind of plan will be implemented from the two basic strategies, good faith effort or quota. Good faith focuses on changing the hiring practices that have created these inequities. It is also aimed at removing any obstacles that might be in the way of hiring minorities, women or disabled persons. Quotas are focused on the results and getting certain groups hired by implementing restrictions. Employers are required to meet specific numbers to be successful. Good faith is the preferable strategy because it focuses on a more positive approach while still hiring the best candidate for the job.
There are many steps that are needed to roll-out an affirmative action plan. The following are the steps necessary in the development and implementation:
1. It is extremely important to develop the policy statement that will guide the entire program. In many instances this policy statement is also used as a clause on contracts as well as company newsletters and advertisements. Once the policy statement is completed the specific goals and objectives of the affirmative action program need to be established and disseminated throughout the organization. The goal of the program is to remedy the past and continued discrimination in hiring based on race, ethnicity and gender. The goal also addresses creating a work place that embraces the differences. Questions that must be answered are: What is the strategy to obtain the goal and what are the timelines associated with reaching our goal?
2. All the HR processes and job qualification standards to make sure that the job qualifications are consistent with the business need. Job analyses and job descriptions must be reviewed as well to ensure that they too are structured accordingly. Another aspect that should be done to ensure that the right protected groups are being targeted is the workforce analysis. What is the breakdown and make up of the employee population. This will help in the initial efforts. It is also necessary to audit this on an ongoing basis.
3. Detailed program initiates need to be written and communicated. The program should include details on recruiting, hiring and training employees as well as the company’s position on fair employment practices.
4. Develop the training program for HR managers as well as line managers at all levels. All employees must understand their responsibilities as they relate to an effective affirmative action program. How to effectively recruit and hire based on the program. Information should also be included in the company’s code of conduct booklet. Affirmative action should also be covered in employee orientation.
5. Training is the first step in forming a better understanding within the company, however unless the corporate goals and objectives are aligned with each department, the program will be harder to enforce. It is important to tie the affirmative action objectives to an individual’s performance and part of the review process. This will ensure adherence.
6. The communication plan is another crucial part of the program and involves many steps. Employers should get the word out that they are an equal opportunity employer. Communicating this message is great publicity. Unless it is communicated effectively no one will know.
Communications must be used to promote implementation internally. Posters can be put up throughout the facility or special edition newsletters to create enthusiasm for the program. The next level of communication is to go out into the communities by placing advertisements in local papers, talks with the local officials to gain support. Perhaps by establishing an arrangement to get applicant referrals through various state agencies, college placement offices and labor organizations perspective employees can be canvassed.
Develop the appropriate communication strategies to target the right candidates for openings. If women are being sought after, then perhaps placing advertisements in a journal or periodical that has a higher female readership.
Provide written notification of company affirmative action policy to subcontractors, vendors and suppliers and make sure that the company is partnering with the right mix. Today it is very important to align with other organizations that are minority owned.
7. Establish a training program for incumbents and current employees to supplement their skill set. An on the job training program as well as access to higher education will provide create the environment needed to be successful and will further eliminate obstacles for minorities and women. It is important not only to provide minorities and female employees with the educational opportunity, but to actively encourage participation.
8. Establish programs such as flex hours, child care and working from home to assist working mothers and or fathers with child care issues that would have precluded them from being successful in the past.
9. Design and implement an audit and reporting system to measure the effectiveness of an affirmative action program. If an affirmative action program is found to be deficient, actions must be taken to fix the problems. It is important to monitor an organization’s success on an ongoing basis and provide the necessary coaching when necessary.
Diversity goes a long way to enrich our lives. People bring varying levels of experience and knowledge based on their individual backgrounds. It is important to encourage employees and managers to view these differences in a positive light. Affirmative action should have a positive view in the workplace for it to be successful. In avoiding the use of a quota system, employers remove the negative connotation that has historically been associated with a program like this. The diverse culture in our workplace is about finding the right person for the job, not hiring based on a person’s gender or color.
The plan will be successful because it will become part of the corporate culture. When management endorses a program such as this and is dedicated to its success, line managers at all levels are also determined to make it work. It is important to communicate the details of the program in a manner that is understandable as well as non-controversial to gain the maximum amount of support. Ensuring that the hiring process removes all obstacles as well as working with contractors and outsource providers that also have affirmative action plans will further the success of the program.
Go to: http://www.apa.org/pubinfo/HowAffirmActBenAmerica.pdf
Go to: http://www.fca.gov/Download/AEP%20Inspection%20Report.pdf
Go to: http://hr.dop.wa.gov/wfd/guidlines.pdf