Building Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion into Your Workforce Practices

women in manufacturing

This is the second of a 2-part blog series that will discuss how adopting digital human capital management (HCM) technology can support a manufacturing organization’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) agenda.

In mid-January, UKG published a blog that focused on corporate social responsibility (CSR) in manufacturing and how organizations can take steps to move their sustainability agendas forward. The first blog highlighted the fact that there are two common targets when it comes to CSR, that being the organization’s environmental footprint and its impact on society. While that blog focused exclusively on the environmental side of CSR, this blog will tackle the societal aspect, specifically enhancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the manufacturing workplace. 

We’ve all heard the term, or at least some version of it. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion has been a hot topic for many in HR for quite a while now, but over the past year it’s been brought to the forefront across the organization, rightfully so. Now more than ever, organizations are laser-focused on creating cultures that support and embrace diverse perspectives and making sure everyone has the same opportunities. In fact, 96% of CEOs now consider DEI to be a strategic priority according to a Deloitte study.

Different industries are at different points in their DEI journeys. While some organizations are farther along than others, holistically the manufacturing industry seems to be trailing the pack in employing a diverse workforce. In 2020, the manufacturing industry was represented by only a 10% Black workforce and a 30% female workforce. While there are manufacturers ahead of this curve, it’s safe to say, as a whole, there is some work to be done.

Why should manufacturing care about DEI?

Over the last decade, the manufacturing industry has been challenged with a widening skills gap caused by an increase in retirements of the Baby Boomers coupled with a lack of interest in manufacturing careers from millennials and Gen Z. The shortage of skilled talent presents a significant threat to the industry and minimal diversity may be exasperating the situation. According to a 2020 Monster survey, 83% of Gen Z candidates said that a company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is important when choosing an employer. If manufacturers want to recruit the incoming generation, they need to make DEI a top priority. 

Having an enhanced focus on DEI initiatives can also have a major impact in terms of financial performance. Modern day consumers are extremely educated thanks to the amount of available information, and many prefer to support brands that take steps to make the world a better place. According to several studies, 83% of consumers preferred diverse brands and 70% of consumers in the U.S. and Canada believe it is important that a brand be sustainable. This is an important consideration in business-to-consumer manufacturing environments, and it’s also becoming a larger part of the conversation when manufacturers are deciding on suppliers for business to business transactions. 

From a performance standpoint, manufacturers can also reap major benefits by promoting DEI. In a manufacturing environment, solving problems is the norm. Whether it be caused by supply chain issues, machine down time, or a labor shortage, every minute that these issues persist can represent a major financial impact. Even when everything is running smoothly, manufacturers are always striving to find a better way of doing things. By incorporating diverse perspectives and giving all employees an equal voice at the table, manufacturers can quickly find innovative solutions to drive continuous improvement.

How can technology help?

As with the environmental aspect of CSR agendas, HCM technology can help with the societal side as well. When building a diverse workforce, it is important that all applicants are provided with equal opportunity to earn the job. By automating the recruitment process, any biases are removed from the equation and employees are selected for interviews based on merit. 

The same concept can be said for bidding on schedules and requesting time off. In the past, favoritism could play a role when managers decide which employees get the most desirable schedules, who gets first dibs at available overtime hours, and who gets approved for days off when two employees request the same day off. Automating the process removes the ability for unfair treatment to take place. When it comes to time off requests, with the right workforce management technology, organizations can allow for automatic approvals/rejections based on business rules, removing the manager from the equation.

Building an organization that embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion is not just about saying the right buzz words. It requires the practices to be engrained into the organizational culture and supported by leadership. There needs to be consistent training and a commitment to educating the workforce on why diversity matters and how to create and sustain a work environment where everyone feels like they belong. Leveraging learning management technology in your HCM solution allows HR leaders to automatically assign recurring trainings and ensure everyone is completing the educational courses. 

The most important aspect of any DEI program is to understand the sentiments of the workforce. After all, what good are your executive-level DEI initiatives if the frontline manufacturing workforce doesn’t feel they are effective? By leveraging technology to consistently and anonymously gather employee feedback you can assess the situation, measure your results, and take actionable next steps based on employee sentiment.  

Closing thoughts

I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Jarik Conrad, Senior Director, Human Insights & HCM Evangelism at UKG, about this topic and his final advice was that, while technology is a tool that can augment DEI efforts, ultimately it requires a mindset shared across the organization where everyone truly values the initiative or it will fall short. Organizations can’t just be reactive, they need to be proactively investing in and following through with initiatives designed to promote diversion, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.  

To learn more, check out the on-demand UKG HR & Payroll eSymposium which includes sessions on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

You'll find more resources on how UKG can provide WFM and HCM solutions for your manufacturing workforce here.