perjantai 1. marraskuuta 2013

Diversity is good for people and good for business - when well managed

Today’s economy calls for diverse human resources, significantly more so than most organizations are used to managing. It’s not simply a matter of workforce, it’s a question of gaining competitive edge, strategic leadership of the best available talent and growth potential.

Inclusive diversity introduces rich perspectives and multiple approaches: the more diverse viewpoints are considered in the planning process, the better the organization is prepared for changes and threats in the business environment.  When fully empowered, diverse staff also offers a wealth of contact points to the external world. Diversity serves as a critical safeguard in helping the company observe weak signals, foresee market changes, and respond to them in innovative ways.  

Balanced diversity with full inclusion is also an essential element of corporate social responsibility and external image - a business imperative from many angles. It’s an issue of credibility that has an impact on staff recruitment and retention, as well as customer trust. If not empowered, the talent is not just wasted, but it becomes a ticking bomb that may ultimately carry a high price tag: increasing turnover, absenteeism, lack of engagement, quality problems, security hazards, and productivity losses.

Although diversity tends to enrich the organization, it’s not always simple. Experience shows that, unless wisely managed, staff diversity may increase tension, cliques, and unhealthy competition. As long as imbalance exist between majorities and minorities, management must pay special attention to leveling the playing field - not only by addressing and eliminating discrimination but also by proactively ensuring equal opportunities for growth, visibility, and recognition. The most critical instrument in this is a Diversity Strategy that clarifies the business case, sets the standards and rules, and inspires everyone to take action. Yet, regardless of excellent strategies, people don’t always do what is right or strategically wise, but rather what is beneficial to them. Therefore, diversity management must be built in every manager’s performance appraisal criteria.

Diversity cannot be effectively managed by homogeneous management, the communication and credibility gaps are too many and too wide. Diverse staff must have highly regarded role models they can identify with. If a company wants to take full advantage of diversity, this has to be integrated across the organizational hierarchies and operational functions, up to line managers, top management, and the board.