What works, what doesn’t and why

first_img Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos. In the second of a series of three articles, Professor Amin Rajan and SharonHarris narrate the experiences of companies that have sought to create adiverse workforce to raise the bottom lineIf diversity management is about accessing the best talent and leveraging itto deliver targeted business outcomes, all HR practices need to be open andfair: meritocratic yet sensitive to inter-personal differences. With these considerations in mind, companies in our sample have implemented12 distinct measures under three headings. Although listed separately, theyhave been treated holistically. They are targeted at three aims. The first is to ensure fairness in recruitment and selection. Jobs arewidely advertised, using both conventional and unconventional sources, andduplication is minimised in the selection process. The second provides customised training to managers and employees, andmentoring support to women and ethnic minority groups entering seniorpositions. The last seeks to promote work-life balance for all employees – men as wellas women – forging links with local communities and special interest groups. Embedding diversity in processes Some companies in our sample have overt initiatives on diversity, othershave relied on an unusual degree of common sense. Either way, they have soughtto incorporate their ideas into day-to-day management practices, so they occuras part of daily business routines. The main emphasis is on: – Seeking new ideas – Creating or joining support networks – Building diversity into sales and marketing campaigns – Receiving clients’ buy-in – Observing national laws – Forging links with disadvantaged business suppliers – Changing the composition of teams at every level to reflect diversity ofpeople and/or style. The following examples illustrate how companies are embedding diversity intoeveryday practices: – In a pharmaceutical company, eliciting new ideas has had a two-prongedgoal: to ensure the diverse workforce does lead to innovations that improveprocesses and products; and to make line managers realise innovation relies ondiverse styles and approaches – Joining external networks in one bank has led to three aims of goodpractice: to gain insights into the latest thinking; to swap ideas; and to usemembership of an external body to generate subtle internal pressures for change– Reflecting diversity in sales and marketing campaigns was introduced at anIT company with two aims in mind – to emphasise that the company is in tunewith changing customer demographics, and to project the image of a progressiveemployer that reflects the social mix of the wider society – In an aerospace company, getting buy-in of diversity principles fromclients has had three effects: generating external pressures for internalchange; spreading good practices in the supply chain; and creating a nationalpool of women and minority candidates for senior jobs. This demonstrates that embedding diversity into day-to-day practices hasbeen a matter of sound business practice, not big, costly initiatives. Creating leadership culture If there was one point that came through repeatedly in our research, it wasthat management leadership at all levels made a huge difference. The companies in our sample are attempting to create a leadership culture byhelping managers at all levels to develop a style that shows sensitivity todifferent groups of employees, their specific needs and work styles. They arealso creating certain formal mechanisms to reinforce that style. As many as 60 per cent of medium and large companies in our sample carry outstaff perception surveys: and increasingly questions on diversity and inclusionare featured on them. Such upward feedback has proved especially useful increating a leadership culture and some organisations have gone even further, asindicated by the following examples. A global company with an ambitious initiative has revamped its list ofleadership competencies to include diversity. Among others, these focus on howto: – Value differences and improve business performance – Learn about yourself and deal with any bias you may have – Build inclusive relationships by active listening and understanding – Build inclusive workgroups and teams – Cope with behaviours that exclude and limit people. A financial services group has revamped its competencies to focus on how to:– Encourage creativity in a structured work environment – Overcome ingrained barriers to creativity – Convert new ideas into product and process improvements. Knowing the blockers At the same time, it is worth emphasising that not all diversity initiativeshave been successful. Paradoxically, the internal and external forces thatpromoted workforce diversity are also the ones which can constrain progress. In today’s high-pressure work environment, numerous constraints haveemerged. The key ones include: – Time pressures on managers – Ingrained attitudes and inexperience – A culture of presenteeism. It is worth emphasising that in many organisations, the culture ofpresenteeism still exists, despite overt initiatives on flexible working,annualised hours and remote working. Employees still feel they may be perceivedas not pulling their weight if they do not work the same hours as their boss orpeers. The out-of-sight, out-of-mind syndrome is proving hard to shift. Four examples serve to underline these constraints: – In an insurance company, a combination of trading difficulties anddepartures in the top team led to managers losing interest in what wasotherwise an enlightened initiative to increase the share of women in middleand senior jobs. Sustained interest at the top proved essential for it tosurvive – One asset management firm paid so much attention to recruitment andselection issues that line managers saw diversity as yet another fad; heretoday, gone tomorrow. Emphasis on an inclusive management style is just asimportant – The whole infrastructure of a diversity council was created to underpinthe corporate vision in one engineering company. But the firm failed to pass onthis communication to the line managers, most of whom found out about the initiativefrom the corporate intranet. Consultation and communication are vital – A retail bank promoted numerous women and members of minority groups tomiddle and then senior positions in different regions in the UK. Two unforeseenproblems subsequently arose: the individuals suffered a sense of isolationsince they did not have personal networks on which they could rely for adviceand support; and their bosses found it difficult to manage them, as they hadnever had to manage anyone different from themselves before. Personal networksand mentoring support are important. Harnessing the power of perception In the final analysis, line managers are seen to be the key to success.Accordingly, a significant effort is going into raising their awareness onthree aspects of human nature. First, intelligent reasonable people think along the same lines, but theirperception of reality can be very different. That does not mean they have to be‘brought into line’. Second, the greater the differences in people’s styles and approaches, thehigher the scope for creativity. This is because creativity is not simply a linear process of knowledgecreation, but rather a random explosion of energy often borne out offrustration and curiosity not normally associated with individuals with similarminds, persuasions and perceptions. Third, stereotyping is nothing more than a shortcut to forming judgementsabout people without getting to know them or their unique strengths. Tominimise it, managers need to: – Cultivate the ability, willingness and self-discipline to listen – Question their own values and bias when difficult situations arise – Recognise that clarity of goals leads to clarity of actions. Amin Rajan is the chief executive of CREATE and Sharon Harris is the UKhead of diversity at Deutsche Bank Next week… The third and final article in this series will look at how theseinitiatives have affected the corporate bottom line. This article is based on the report Harnessing Workforce Diversity to Raisethe Bottom Line, available from CREATE. For further details contact JennyLatham on 01892 526757, fax 01892 542988, or e-mail [email protected] What works, what doesn’t and whyOn 9 Sep 2003 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Articlelast_img read more