CHROs: How to Fix a Hidden Diversity Issue That No Ones Talking About

February 04, 2020 by Josh Hrala

As all CHROs know, layoffs are a fact of life in the business world. Companies hold downsizing events for many different reasons and most of them, according to research into the matter, are ‘neutral,’ meaning that they do not select individuals to be let go based on race or gender.

Despite this, diversity is impacted by nearly every layoff event.

Recent reports show that minorities and women are typically among those let go during layoff events even at companies that have successful diversity initiatives in place.

So what’s going on here?

Why Layoffs Impact Minorities and Women More Often

According to the study, women and minorities are adversely impacted by layoffs because of the positions they hold. Typically, these groups end up in more ‘non-essential’ roles that are the first to get cut during times of pressure.

The researchers say that this can be boiled down to the fact that many women and minorities remain ‘segregated’ in their roles – oftentimes taking positions that are lower level or in departments that can get cut the most often (support positions like HR and others that are not part of the ‘core’ management chain).

Put another way, it’s not that these groups are specifically targeted by layoffs. It’s because their positions are historically the first to be cut. The researchers also say that yes, many companies have diversity programs that get people in the door, but many of them fail at true inclusion, keeping minorities and women in roles that are on the chopping block.

“We see that they get in, but they remain in their segregated positions, assigned to support or non-core management jobs or they’re assigned to line management in failing parts of the company, failing lines, struggling locations,” said researcher Alexandra Kalev, from Tel Aviv University.

“So that’s not integration. That’s not inclusion. That’s exactly one big reason why they lose their jobs when downsizing comes.”

The team underlines the fact that many organizations are not specifically targeting these groups, though. When asked, many business leaders were quick to say that they typically let go newer hires and roles that do not drive business growth.

However, experts say that businesses should also take a look at the way that they let individuals go during layoffs because ‘first in, first out’ is clearly not working. In fact, it’s backfiring and destroying what small victories diversity initiatives have achieved in the first place.

“If I’m leading this company and all of my senior people are white males and all the new hires are minorities and women, then I’m not going to use a ‘last hired, first fired’ approach,” Chandra Childers, from the Institute of Women’s Policy Research, told CNN.

“I will find something that I can base it on that doesn’t have a disproportionate impact on any group.”

The team also cautions that diversity initiatives only work if employees are integrated fully into the company. Inclusion, in other words, is the name of the game. If women and minorities are simply hired to check a box and not given the ability to get higher-level positions, they will remain the first to be cut during an event.

How Outplacement and Best Practices Can Help

When a layoff does happen, it’s very important that organizations hold the event to the best of their ability. This includes offering all displaced workers a great benefits package containing a strong severance payment and outplacement services.

Outplacement helps workers find a new role outside of their original company, getting them back to work faster thanks to the help of expert career coaches, professional resume writers, e-learning tools, networking tips, interview prep, and more.

Outplacement and severance are not meant to be used for only higher-level employees, especially when in discussion about diversity. These groups need the same level of help and care that top-notch execs do.

We’re Here to Help: A CHRO’s Secret Weapon

A proper, well-crafted outplacement service can go a long way in helping keep your diversity initiatives from crumbling during a layoff.

Careerminds’ outplacement services go above and beyond that of traditional providers. We are many CHROs’ hidden weapon when it comes to performing any layoff event be it big or small.

If requested, we will work directly with managers to teach them RIF best practices, aid them in notification prep, and help provide support to both those let go and the survivors that remain.

Our outplacement service is delivered virtually, meaning that we can reach more workers more quickly, enabling them to use our service on their own time. The kicker is that we provide until placement support, working with participants until they land their new job no matter how long it takes.

All of this, plus expert coaching, resume writing, e-learning tools, and more makes us the CHRO outplacement provider of choice.


Josh Hrala

Josh Hrala

Josh is an HR journalist and ghostwriter who's been covering outplacement and offboarding for over six years. Before pivoting to the HR world, he was a science journalist whose work can be found in Popular Science, ScienceAlert, The Huffington Post, Cracked, Modern Notion, and more.

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