June 22, 2021

While most organizations have policies and practices to prevent discrimination in the employment process, employers doing business either directly or indirectly with the US federal government must also implement written Affirmative Action Plans or AAPs. Affirmative action plans are not a new development — they’ve been around for many years. However, most people don’t really understand what they are or how they operate — underscoring the importance of AAP awareness training for employees and managers who do business with the federal government.

What are AAPs?
Affirmative action plans are a regulatory or contractual requirement for most government contractors and subcontractors – and the companies that do business with them. Designed to help ensure that qualified job applicants and workers are treated fairly, AAP’s are based on a simple idea: that, over time, an employer’s workforce will generally reflect the profile of the pool of qualified workers available to it. If an employer’s actual workforce doesn’t reflect the larger applicant pool, there may be a problem. 

For example, suppose the pool of potential qualified applicants for a position is 50% male and 50% female but only 10% of the people holding that position at an organization are female. The difference could be caused by intentional discrimination or it could be the result of other practices that unintentionally disadvantage female or other underrepresented applicants.

Misperceptions and myths
Many parts of an affirmative action plan rely on solid management practices that help any organization identify, hire and retain the best possible workers. Still, misperceptions exist about what AAPs are and aren’t, which can lead to conflict and distraction. Often, people incorrectly believe that affirmative action plans set hiring quotas or force employers to hire unqualified workers who happen to be in the “right” group. They don’t. The affirmative action process only requires employers to look at the pool of available, qualified workers

AAP practices
The AAP process requires organizations to examine their employment practices and identify and correct any obstacles that may exclude qualified workers. This involves looking at the available talent pool, the composition of the current workforce and recruiting, hiring, compensation and promotion practices. The AAP process is ongoing; organizations must provide a report on their progress to the federal government annually and create a new AAP for the coming year.

While many parts of an AAP are handled by specialists and leaders, employees will likely encounter at least some elements of an AAP, including:

○ Requesting demographic information about applicants and new hires
○ Ensuring subcontractor contracts contain clauses that prohibit discrimination
○ Maintaining personnel and employment records
○ Including an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) statement in job advertisements

Traliant Insight

AAPs are most effective when supported by the whole organization. That’s why it’s critical for all employees and managers to understand what AAPs are and the goals behind them. For organizations that work with the federal government, training employees and managers on the essentials of affirmative action plans and the practices that promote a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace is a win-win for everyone. Qualified candidates have a fair chance to work and succeed and employers can tap into the largest possible talent pool — key advantages in today’s competitive business environment.

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