Your customer base is changing.

You’ve been noticing it for the past few years: the face of your average client isn’t what it used to be, not surprisingly. These new customers are savvier, they’re men and women of all age groups; they’re smart about where they shop, and they look like they’re coming from around the world.
Let’s face it: doing business today isn’t like it was even 30 years ago. Your customers are different, but what about your staff? In the new book “The Diversity Index” by Susan E. Reed (c.2011, Amacom, $27.95 / $31.95 Canada, 294 pages, includes index), you’ll see how you can strengthen your workplace by letting go of certain archaic practices in hiring.

It doesn’t take a leap of thinking to understand that a business that implements diversity is stronger in a global marketplace. Still, says Reed, almost “50 percent of the Fortune 100 companies employed no African American, Asian, Hispanic or Native American men as executive officers in 2009.” Furthermore, even today, workers are stymied by a “white ceiling” that may or may not exclude women in places of power.

So why aren’t we doing better?

Fifty years ago, the president and vice president of the United States thought we could. Called the Plans for Progress, several contracts were signed by Lyndon Baines Johnson and the presidents of several large defense corporations, including Lockheed, Boeing and others. The contracts stipulated that the contractors would make efforts to locate, train, and employ minority workers and put them in management positions.

The NAACP dismissed the idea as “nothing but hype.”

As you might expect, politics got in the way of progress but the companies involved did succeed in integrating their all-White management teams. Consumers always helped the effort a little: when African Americans learned that there were no Black salesmen at Coca-Cola, they boycotted the product.

So what can you do to promote diversity in your business?

Fuse diversity goals with business strategy and provide diversity training to all employees. Create a global feedback system, affinity groups, and a way of measuring all managers. Cultivate new talent by encouraging education. Invest in the local community, promote people based on talent and never stop trying new ideas.

Looking for a few solid ideas on readying your business for the global future? You’ll find it here, but not until the end of the book. “The Diversity Index” is really more of a history of how we attained the progress we have.