Diversity in local health care organizations has improved over the past decade, according to two high-ranking human resources executives.

"More health care companies are continuing to stay committed to diversity and inclusion," said Ouraphone Siri-Outhay, director of diversity recruiting at UnitedHealth Group in Minnetonka (www.unitedhealthgroup.com).

The bottom line
Attracting a diverse workforce not only makes an organization look good, it gives the organization a leg up in business, she added. "In coming up with different ideas of how do we continue to make sure we're a competitor in the marketplace, having that diverse team has really been a competitive edge for us," Siri-Outhay said.

Inclusion - leveraging the mix of thoughts, perspectives and ideas of people with various backgrounds - has taken a leap forward among metro area health organizations in the last two years, according to Siri-Outhay. "I've been doing diversity eight to nine years now and that's been one of the biggest shifts I've seen," she said.

Where the jobs are
Before their ideas can be included, people of diverse backgrounds must be recruited. That occurs through online job websites, professional association job boards, professional social networking sites such as LinkedIn, career fairs, colleges, staffing agencies, ethnic newspapers and word of mouth, according to Fred Owusu, who recently took over as vice president of human resources at Hennepin County Medical Center (www.hcmc.org).

"It's the responsibility of all of us collectively to make sure that we have a diverse workforce that's reflective of the diverse patient base that we serve," Owusu said. "It's ultimately about the patient, and that's why people come here."

People of color should consider not only the traditional health care jobs that require hands-on patient care, but those behind-the-scenes positions that keep an organization running, Siri-Outhay said. Insurers like UnitedHealth hire actuaries and underwriters. Health care delivery organizations also hire Internet technology developers, human resource and finance workers.

"All of those opportunities are part of a health care company which just makes us broader as it pertains to opportunities," Siri-Outhay said.

She advised job-seekers of color to continue to work on self-improvement, no matter what job level they've reached. "You never get to a point where you are done developing yourself," she said. "You need to do whatever you can to make sure that you continue to develop yourself professionally as well as personally."