Buyers’ interest in the use of diversity staffing suppliers remains strong. Given the changing demographics in the U.S., corporations are looking to use diversity suppliers as well as to have diverse workforces.
“People want to win and how you win is you have a more inclusive workforce that looks like what your customers look like,” says Glenda Gill of Rainbow PUSH/Citizenship Education Fund Initiative. “If you’ve got all kinds of customers in your business, you’ve got to have a workforce that reflects those customers.”
Gill is executive director of the automotive project for Rainbow PUSH/CEF. It’s part of Rainbow PUSH’s Wall Street Project where it reaches out and works with large corporations to help promote diversity.
She has worked with large corporations such as Toyota, assisting the company in launching a diversity strategy that had a focus on dealerships, supplier spend and alternative dispute resolution policies as well as other aspects of diversity.
A 2013 Staffing Industry Analysts survey of large companies that use staffing services found that 66 percent had a program in place for diversity firms. That compares with 66 percent that said the same in a similar 2012 survey and 65 percent in 2011. And it's typically the largest companies that are most interested in diversity suppliers.
Some firms are seeing other trends as well.
Gene Waddy, CEO of information technology staffing firm Diversant, says many large, nondiverse managed service providers and similar users are coming forward with greater interest and actively seeking partnerships with diversity suppliers as they come under greater pressure to do so. Diversant was named supplier of the year in 2013 by the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council.
When it comes to diversity staffing firms, they can be diverse based on one or more categories:
- Ethnic minority-owned firms
- Women-owned firms
- Veteran and service-disabled veteran-owned firms
- LGBT-owned firms (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender)
Certifications as a diversity-owned firm exist for all the categories. However, while most of the categories can be certified by third-party organizations, veteran-owned firms are certified by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Jean-Paul Renard of Distinctive Workforce Solutions, a certified service-disabled veteran-owned staffing firm, says he’s seeing more interest among buyers in the designation. While the government has measured it, more private-sector firms are now becoming interested.
“It isn’t a designation that was really on the radar years ago,” Renard says. “I would say that in the last three or four years we have seen companies make a shift and have some recognition of veteran-owned organizations.”
Renard is CEO of New York-based Distinctive Personnel and Distinctive Workforce Solutions, which provides staffing and VMS/MSP.
The shift may be happening as men and women come home from war and raising an awareness, he says.
One of the biggest trends in diversity right now is interest in hiring veterans. Diversant has even begun a program that partners with clients to train US Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan in client specific skill sets and places them onsite as IT consultants. To date some 35 Vets have been through the program.
One of the newer types of certifications is by the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, which certifies firms as being at least 51-percent owned and operated by an LGBT person.
Tim DeWitt is an owner of OBOX Solutions, a Dallas-based IT staffing firm certified by the NGLCC.
DeWitt also says he is seeing more interest in the certification, although it’s still new. When adding information to some supplier databases, in some cases there’s still not an option for firms to indicate that they are LGBT-owned. But the fact that it’s relatively new also provides opportunities for conversation.
“It’s a new frontier,” DeWitt says. “It’s really interesting to teach people a different way of thinking about minority.”
The important thing is to provide good staffing services, he says. Still, employees are more productive when they are comfortable and openly out. And when working with a diversity firm, employees can be comfortable knowing they are working with a firm that supports equal rights.
Laura Berry, director of communications at the NGLCC, says the number of certified NGLCC business is also seeing growth with around 200 firms certified in April 2011 to approximately 500 firms now. That includes all types of suppliers, not just staffing suppliers.
Women-owned firms also, of course, represent a major sector of diversity staffing.
Kristen Harris of Portfolio Creative, a certified women-owned staffing firm, also says she is seeing greater interest in use of women-owned firm. It is larger companies that typically seem to be the most interested.
“I think ever since we started, we see it continuing to increase,” says Harris, who is chief operating officer and co-founder of Portfolio Creative, a Columbus, Ohio-based firm that provides marketing and creative staffing.
The firm decided to become certified as a woman-owned firm when it began in 2005 after a large client asked that it become certified.
Certification is typically important to staffing buyers. Private organizations that certify staffing firms include the National Minority Development Council, the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, the National Women Business Owners Corporation and the NGLCC. There are also government agencies that certify.
Certifications are valid for a set period of time, and staffing buyers will often request copies of updated certifications.
Staffing suppliers interviewed also stressed the need to deliver value. While a certification is a plus to many staffing buyers, staffing firms still have to be great and provide the right talent at the right price.