In recent history, the government has taken many steps to ensure equal opportunities for all in the workplace, but that doesn’t always guarantee a diverse company workforce. In an effort to prevent professional discrimination and increase general diversity, many employers have implemented affirmative action plans. These strategies focus recruitment and outreach efforts on minorities. The laws regarding these plans is constantly evolving as court ruling and public opinion continue to shape policy.
The Fundamentals of Affirmative Action Plan
Beyond a general aim to incorporate more diversity into the workforce, what is an affirmative action plan, or AAP? The plan is a detailed action plan describing exactly how the organization will achieve the objective of a diverse professional team. Steps for increasing company diversity might include:
- Publishing job advertisements in multiple languages
- Targeting predominately minority neighborhoods during recruitment
- Policies favoring a minority hire when all other applicant qualifications are equal
The Requirements for Private and Government Enterprises
For the most part, government agencies and contractors are required to implement an affirmative action plan in their hiring processes. However, this isn’t a blanket requirement. In fact, if government contractors have less than 50 employees or contracts under $50,000 in value, they aren’t obligated to develop an AAP plan. As private industries aren’t subject to such thorough government regulation, they are generally free to make their own decision. Though, if government business is a possible option, it may be in the company’s best interest to use an AAP plan.
The Components of an Affirmative Action Plan
Federal government agencies and contractors must abide by the Code of Federal Regulations. More specifically, they must pay close attention to 41 CFR 60-2, which directly pertains to affirmative action regulations. However, many private companies design their AAPs with these guidelines in mind, especially if future government work is an option. To comply with the federal code, AAPs must have these components:
- Organizational profile: The agency must maintain a database containing the gender and ethnicity information of every employee. Furthermore, the database must map the relations between these identities.
- Availability determinations: Looking through the organizational profile, calculate the percentage of target minority professionals with the necessary skills and experience for available posts.
- Problem areas: The organization should make a list of diversity-related issues within company culture.
- Compare availability to incumbency: Using gathered data, determine realistic recruitment and promotion goals.
- Corrective measures: The company must develop action-oriented measures for correcting the identified diversity issues.
- Responsibility designation: The company must define the responsibilities of each management professional in implementing the AAP and realizing the plan’s objectives.
- Internal audit with report: Management should measure the effectiveness of the plan, keep record of related activity, target any possible plan issues and determine the plan’s level of success.
For full samples of AAPs, visit the Department of Labor’s website.
Voluntary Affirmative Action in the Private Sector
While private companies might not be legally required to implement AAPs, most are required to follow an equal opportunity employment policy. This means the company doesn’t have to actively recruit minority employees; however, they cannot discriminate against minorities in the hiring process or in company policies. Essentially, companies cannot fire or hire a professional based on his or her racial identity.
Regardless, many private employers voluntarily employ AAPs and actively seek diverse workforces. Even if companies don’t intend to work with the government, they are encouraged to follow the federal code regarding AAPs. It circumvents the risk for discrimination-related lawsuits and further protects the health of the organization.
Are you required to have an AAP for your company? That depends on the size of your operation, your clients/partners and the type of enterprise you have. However, your best bet from a talent and legal liability standpoint is to start developing your diversity plan.
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