As diversity increases among citizens and employees, human resource practitioners in the public sector have come to view diversity management strategies as essential for the effective performance of organizations. An examination of best practices among private and public organizations reveals common components necessary for successful diversity initiatives. While there have been numerous studies on diversity management in the federal government, far less is known about diversity management at the state and local level. In light of the best practices research on the factors necessary for successful diversity management, this study examines the extent of diversity initiatives at various state and local government agencies. Measures used to develop diversity strategies, diversity management practices, professional development initiatives, organizational policies, and perceptions of effectiveness are considered. The findings demonstrate a few variations based on level of government, region, and size of agency. In addition, the majority of respondents believed that the organization's diversity strategy was effective at recruitment, retention, development, and promotion; however, there was uncertainty about the effectiveness of the diversity strategy on organizational performance.
The subject of diversity has become salient to employers, as demographics have changed within American society. In 2007, labor force participation rates of women were at 57%, of which 71% had children less than 18 years of age. (1) African Americans comprised 11% of the labor force, Hispanic and Latinos accounted for 14%, and Asians represented 4%. (2) Among the 30.6 million individuals between the ages of 21 and 64 who have a disability, 57 percent were employed) Although labor force participation among workers typically declines with age, employment among workers over 65 years of age is expected to double, increasing from 3.6% of the total labor force in 2006 to 6.1% by 2016. (4) As employees increasingly represent a wide variety of different backgrounds and preferences, human resource practitioners have come to view diversity management strategies as critical for the effective performance of organizations.
The concept of diversity management is originally attributed to Roosevelt Thomas (5) and most definitions today include some variation of his original definition, which emphasizes inclusiveness and performance (see table 1). The emphasis on inclusiveness expands social identity categories beyond those that are legally protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Primary dimensions of diversity are factors that are unchangeable (e.g., race, ethnicity, gender, age) and secondary dimensions are described as "malleable factors," which may include marital status, parental status, educational background, socio-economic status, geographic location, and work experience. (6) A similar model by Johnson incorporates organizational dimensions including: work location, functional level-classification, division or department, seniority, management status, and union affiliation. (7)
Workforce diversity has the potential to improve service delivery and performance by way of understanding the values and norms of target populations the organization serves, particularly for public employees in service delivery organizations. Recognizing the importance of diversity, many organizations have developed policies and professional development initiatives to attract, retain, and develop employees, as well as facilitate communication and understanding among employees. Recognizing the various factors that make organizations unique (e.g., purpose, size, structure, location, etc.), diversity management initiatives vary.
There has been a wealth of information on diversity initiatives in the federal government, however, less is known about the state and local levels. This article examines diversity initiatives among a variety of state and…