January 9, 2017
It is highly important to create measurable goals to implement diversity in
accordance with the company’s vision. This could include a monitoring system to measure diversity in terms of ensuring a balanced workforce.
– By Krity Sharma
In a globalized world, a diverse workforce is widely regarded as a business imperative, one that should be incorporated as a strategy in every organization. A diverse workforce can deliver improved decision-making, increased productivity, superior products and services, happier customers, and a better bottom line, thus becoming an important business opportunity for organizations.
Taylor Cox in his book, “Cultural Diversity in Organizations” defines diversity management as “planning and implementing organizational systems and practices to manage people so that the potential advantages of diversity are maximized while its potential disadvantages are minimized.”
Irrespective of our thought process about managing diversity, the conversation always veers towards what organizations are doing to make this happen. While strategic changes towards diversity and inclusion may transpire at the organizational level, percolation to the individual has a perennial role to play as well. I firmly believe that while the managers have a key role to play, everyone must be
accountable for managing and setting diversity in motion. Leaders and managers must create a strategic plan to ensure that this happens.
How Well Do You Manage Diversity?
The quest towards a more diverse workforce begins with an assessment on facilitation. Some of the assessments that must be made to manage diversity in your organization are-
1. Are your assumptions tested before they are acted upon?
2. Is there only one way or numerous means of doing things right? Has the same message been conveyed to the teams as well?
3. Is there an honest relation with the team? What is the level of comfort, motivation and recognition of goals?
4. Is there an extra effort made to ensure that a diverse pool of candidates have applied?
5. Is the new employee oriented towards the organization culture and the unwritten rules?
6. Is a patient ear lent to your team’s views over ways of improving the work environment? Are these actually implemented?
7. Is decisive action taken against team members who disrespect or offend others?
8. Are advancement opportunities equally accessible to all?
Strategic planning for diversity It is highly important to create measurable goals to implement diversity in accordance with the company’s vision. This could include a monitoring system to measure diversity in terms of ensuring a balanced workforce. These measures may be in the form of responses to employee surveys, media features, improved percentage representation of diversity at all levels, and awards and accolades. Accountability towards achieving each of the goals is also equally important.
Strategic planning for diversity should percolate through all levels recruitment & hiring, performance management, career development, coaching and mentoring, flexible work arrangements, and training & education. Apart from the traditional levers, companies can also consider aspects such as flexible work arrangement since these are functionally different from a ‘work from home’ policy. This is also about workplace design – creating an open space concept to enhance collaboration among the employees. Five years ago, one could state, “this is a how start-up company office looks like”. Today, traditional offices must introspect as to what they wish to convey through their workspace design. Communicate the vision of diversity. The leadership must communicate the diversity vision to every individual in your organization by your members. This can be articulated during management meetings, company events, or informal sessions with employees and reiterate the importance that the organization holds for diversity.
Diversity then becomes a top priority and personal responsibility for leaders in every capacity.
Further, it is pertinent to communicate any significant achievements to emphasize the organization’s commitment to creating a more diverse workforce. Unless this happens, diversity only remains a vision with no authenticity and actual implementation. Additionally, it is imperative that the importance of diversity is communicated to everyone in the leadership. In order to achieve this, it is essential to create an environment that is based on mutual trust, respect, openness, teamwork, innovation and encouragement. Employee involvement and wellbeing, while employing a diverse workforce, long-term satisfaction is dependent on the levels of your engagement and involvement with the employees. It is pertinent to seek feedback and employee inputs for diversity initiatives.
Some ways to seek feedback are through cultural diversity surveys among the employees, internal communication channels or diversity summits. In addition, mentorship in an organization is a great way to indicate to the people that their growth is being invested upon, and this can be achieved through weekly meetings. Reverse monitoring; the practice of encouraging junior employees to mentor their seniors on skillsets such as social media, technology usage, industry jargon and so on can facilitate more inclusion and openness in an organization. An employee’s wellbeing in the organization is equally important, and it is important to keep an equal check on the wellbeing of all employees in terms of work-life balance activities, dependent care funds, alternative work scheduling, and life cycle assistance. This will help in increasing their loyalty in the long-term.
Two simple things that work well in ensuring well-being of employees in diverse environments are the Buddy System, a practice of pairing new employees with someone who is well integrated into the organization. An individual from a seemingly different background can integrate better into
the system without ill-feelings and misunderstandings. In addition to this, regular workplace bonding activities such as team lunches and celebration events for cultural holidays can communicate the strong investment in the employee’s inclusion and well-being. Conflict Management Strategies for better conflict management and resolution play an important function to a diverse workforce. In any environment with differing perspectives, conflicts are bound to arise. Depending on the degree, they can easily go out of hand and have a long term impact on a company’s reputation with reference to diversity. While resolving conflicts at the workplace, the objective should not be to drive anyone out, but to resolve the issue in a manner that future conflicts are overcome in the future. This will be beneficial towards promoting greater teamwork and collaboration between the individuals. Genuine workplace relationships cannot be built on shame, and the conversation should inspire change and learning, and discovery of more inclusive ways to interact through differences. Most people believe in the golden rule: treat others as you want to be treated. But, when you look at the same statement through a diversity perspective, the question that arises is – ‘what does respect look like? Is it the same for everyone? Instead of the golden rule, perhaps we should be using the platinum rule, which states: “treat others as they want to be treated.”
Moving our frame of reference from what may be our default view “our way is the best way” to a diversity-sensitive perspective “let’s take the best of a variety of ways”, will help us to manage
more effectively in a diverse work environment. In terms of diversity, globally organizations have progressed significantly. Mass media has been a great facilitator of diversity by allowing for globalization-the positive outcome of which has been the ability to empathise with diverse groups.
Some time ago, diversity was just a ‘good to have value’ in organizations, but this has changed to ‘must have’. The next level of progress would be for organizations to realise that diversity is more than just a moral or business obligation-it is critical to growth owing to the immense value it offers to organizations. Effective implementation of diversity and inclusion programmes taking into consideration all factors mentioned will be instrumental towards achieving this goal.
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