Agencies should link diversity and retention goals, says EEOC

LAS VEGAS -- Federal agencies should rethink how they approach diversity and link recruitment and retention efforts to their current workforce structure, the acting chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said on Tuesday.

"There's always been a tension between the equal employment opportunity side of the house and the human resources side of the house, and the equal employment opportunity offices are seen as complaint processors," Stuart Ishimaru said at a leadership conference in Las Vegas sponsored by the Los Angeles and San Francisco Federal Executive Boards. "But it's more than that. The equal employment opportunity officers are part of the solution to how do you, in creating the federal workforce, get the best possible workforce using new sources of people for the future ahead."

Ishimaru said rigorous diversity programs could ensure that agencies have a reputation for fairness and enable talented employees to feel comfortable in their workplace. It is not enough, Ishimaru said, to hire an employee of a particular background simply to fulfill diversity requirements. Instead, creating diverse communities within offices will make minority employees feel at ease and increase the chance that they stay at that agency.

Management Directive 715, which requires agencies to assess their diversity programs, can be a great deal of work, Ishimaru acknowledged, but they can be a useful starting point for discussions about diversity.

He said EEOC's recent efforts to hire 250 front-line employees changed some of his own ideas about diversity and hiring. Between 2001 and 2008, the agency's staff was reduced by 25 percent, from 2,850 employees to 2,150 workers. Ishimaru said he had been unaware of how complicated it was to simply classify positions, much less reach out and recruit the right employees, because it had been so long since EEOC experienced a major hiring wave.

But Ishimaru said he was optimistic about the Obama administration's approach to diversity, particularly the appointment of his former acting deputy, EEOC Commissioner Christine Griffin, as deputy director of the Office of Personnel Management. OPM Director John Berry has said that when she is confirmed, Griffin will lead the agency's diversity reform efforts.

"Chris will go there…to make sure that the diversity efforts by the federal government actually work, and work for the government on the employer side, not as a compliance issue, but making this part of the way the government does its business," Ishimaru said.

The Los Angeles Federal Executive Board paid Rosenberg's travel expenses to the conference in Las Vegas, where she is delivering a speech.

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