By David Casey

VP, Workforce Initiatives and Diversity Officer
CVS Caremark

As the field of diversity management continues to mature in the organizational environment, it appears to be universally accepted that diversity is more than just race/ethnicity and gender. While the breadth and depth of diversity management spans many mixtures beyond just these, race/ethnicity and gender are the mixtures most commonly discussed, researched, and reported on. There are many best-practice reports that speak to how organizations attract, retain, and develop leaders from historically under-represented groups, in the C-suite in particular. It is in this context that I recently explored the question with fellow diversity practitioners from around the country of paying for performance to increase the representation of women and people of color at the top of the house.

The question of tying diversity related goals to compensation is a frequently deliberated and highly debated issue. I recently posted a conversation on LinkedIn® to solicit input from diversity practitioners across the country (and globe for that matter) on best practices for linking goals to pay in order to increase representation of people of color in the C-suite. In particular, I was interested in the experiences of those who have linked goals to pay, as to whether or not this practice has driven quota mentalities and/or behaviors in their respective organizations.

“The bottom line is that the way things get done, rewarded and reinforced (aka company culture) varies from company to company.”

What I got back was a wide range of responses, as you might imagine. One respondent stated that if diversity management is truly seen as a critical business practice, it should be measured and rewarded the same way any other business practice is. At the opposite end of the spectrum was the perspective that diversity management is inherently a competency of a good leader and should simply be expected—like any other leader skill-set focused on driving business success. The latter emphatically stated that paying leaders for recruiting targeted groups is analogous to nothing more than “bounty-hunting.”

So, who’s right? They all are. But holding leaders accountable for diversity goals, whether through pay or not, is an idea that is still getting traction, because many companies have not reached the needed level of sophistication in their efforts to manage diversity holistically and as a direct enabler of achieving company objectives. As you contemplate the question of whether to start paying, continue paying, or not pay will work best for your organization, consider the following:

  • Does your leadership truly believe that having a diversity of gender and ethnicities in leadership roles adds value to the organization and its ability to deliver on its objectives? If so, how (continue answering below)? If not, why not? As you assess this question, think more about what gets done more than what gets said.
  • How are all critical business objectives driven to execution throughout your organization? What are the associated risks and rewards? Are they tied to variable pay programs such as bonuses or performance plans? Are stated diversity goals (whether workforce, workplace, or marketplace) treated differently?

The bottom line is that the way things get done, rewarded and reinforced (aka company culture) varies from company to company. While we commonly define some practices as “best,” there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Your ability to get and leverage accountability for your diversity strategies will be driven by your understanding of your organization’s cultural nuances. Remember, it’s only a best practice if it works as well for you as it does for another organization.

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