The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

Diversity and Inclusion Is So Much More Than Affimative Action! Higher Ed HR Professionals Play Key Role!

From a recent New York Times article regarding mixed-race growth across the country …

  • “In North Carolina, the mixed-race population doubled. In Georgia, it expanded by more than 80 percent, and by nearly as much in Kentucky and Tennessee. In Indiana, Iowa and South Dakota, the multiracial population increased by about 70 percent.”
  • “Census officials were expecting a national multiracial growth rate of about 35 percent since 2000, when seven million people — 2.4 percent of the population — chose more than one race. Officials have not yet announced a national growth rate, but it seems sure to be closer to 50 percent.”

As many of you know, the CUPA-HR national board and national office staff are working with higher ed HR leaders from across the country to more clearly emphasize the important role for higher ed HR leaders in creating diverse and inclusive working environments. Here’s a comment I recently heard. “Our institution has wonderful diversity programs and our student population has become increasingly diverse.” Congrats to this institution. Those are great accomplishments, but these types of programs typically have little to no impact on the higher ed workforce … members of the faculty and ALL staff.

Why is this greater emphasis important for higher ed HR professionals?

  • A changing higher education environment
    • The workforce is changing.
    • Our higher ed employees are becoming more diverse on a broad range of dimensions (e.g., gender, sex, sexual orientation, language, age, ability status, national origin, religion as well as race/ethnicity and heritage).
    • Those who manage and develop the workforce need to be prepared to address the environmental factors that influence performance and affect employees’ overall wellbeing.
  • The changing role of higher education human resources (HEHR) professionals
    • At every institutional level, leaders who manage and develop the higher ed workforce need assistance in improving employee performance in such a rapidly shifting environment.
    • The workforce and the student bodies of member campuses are changing rapidly, yet many who are positioned to influence performance at various levels are stuck in a mid-20th century mindset that some talent can be dismissed while other talent should be valued.
    • This mindset serves neither employers nor students well, nor does it help build the interpersonal and performance competencies that all individual employees need and the capacities for agility that higher education institutions need to thrive in an increasingly complex world.
  • The evolving position of HEHR professionals to lead this work
    • This work is familiar to some and unfamiliar to many HEHR professionals. It is familiar in that we have always provided talent development opportunities to our employees around compliance with affirmation action laws. However, a clear and unabashed focus on diversity, equity and inclusion to advance institutional excellence may be unfamiliar to some. We seek to instill a new mindset within our employee communities with the “Inclusion Cultivates Excellence” action plan. The new mindset is one of commitment to our values and beliefs that by providing guidance, every employee has the capacity to perform at high levels, not merely compliance with non-exclusionary laws.
    • The plan also recognizes the historical legacy of racial and ethnic discrimination and places a priority on addressing these legacies with new educational resources and practice tools whose development is informed by our members.

Why now?

  • We must do this work because it is needed now and because we can
    • It is because we sit at a crossroads in every institution that every employee comes across that puts us in a position to take a leadership role and proactively influence action now.
    • The expertise and assistance that HEHR professionals are best suited to provide differs at different levels within our institutions, so we must equip ourselves now to provide the best guidance possible to all employees to make certain that our institutions achieve their excellence goals and remain vital well into the future.

The national board and the national office staff invite your feedback to the Inclusion Cultivates Excellence Plan. We are creating key statements that emphasize what we believe and key actions to demonstrate our commitment. We invite you to help us develop the actions that help CUPA-HR with this work and the actions that will help higher ed HR professionals with their work on campus.

Andy Brantley