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    Diversity Management - How to Make it Happen and How to Benefit From It

    "Opportunity for all, Responsibility from all, Community of all"

These wise words spoken in the South African parliament not long after democracy was embraced in the country. As much as this sentiment has had immense implications for South Africa, so too can we all draw meaning for our efforts at harnessing diversity in the workplace.

Opportunity for all

Is it not every individual's right to be afforded opportunities to put forward their best efforts? To develop their potential? And to show their worth through the results they produce? Not only is this a moral and ethical imperative but, within many countries, a legal one too.

Simple statistics clearly indicate that in this way we can exponentially enhance the performance within our organizations. It would be a fool who ignores the potential of all employees and does not allow the competence levels to be increased, nor the performance to be realized. By implication, it means that those previously disadvantaged in a global or national context need concerted efforts to accelerate their development and exposure so that they can more fairly compete in an extremely competitive global job market.

The danger, of course, is that through these efforts, a mass produced "sausage" product emerges that solely reflects the existing culture in an organization. A strong message emerges then that "we will tolerate your diversity here so long as you behave just like us!" By this very action, we lose out on the true richness that diversity can offer us in the way in which we do things (our organizational culture) at work. We need to open ourselves up to new and different ways of doing things, not prematurely judging them. Then we need to embrace those aspects that will give us the competitive edge in our markets, and impact positively on our company results and profile.

Responsibility from all

Diversity is termed "The condition of being different" (Webster's Dictionary). This definition conjures up images of a dreaded illness, whereas, in fact, the management of diversity is the process of successfully managing people who are different. It is the act and practice of leading different people in attaining organizational and personal goals.

How much better it is then to view diversity as the opportunity of being different. But with opportunities come responsibilities, in any situation.

The condition of being different does not mean that one is right and the other is wrong, or that one is superior and the other is inferior. Being different only adds another perspective or dimension to a situation. The responsibility that goes with managing diversity is to identify and use the added value of individual differences in a positive way to meet the needs and objectives of an organization. Each individual and grouping has added values that need to be identified and utilized in order to improve productivity and efficiency, and reduce the interpersonal dysfunction that inevitably seems to plague different people who must work together.

There also exists mutual responsibility with regards to diversity. It is not just within the realm of management to ensure diversity is effectively harnessed. Diverse individuals must also stand up and be counted. Only by everyone working together and bringing their "added value" to the organization can a new enhanced organizational culture emerge.

Community from all

Having a strategic shared vision in any company helps to keep all employees focused on the goal. However, having the strategic vision is not enough. There needs to be strategic alignment throughout the organization to ensure that individual and team efforts will result in the goal being realized.

In order to integrate efforts, cohesion amongst the workforce becomes an important issue. However, what we must not confuse is "cohesion" and "sameness". Sameness will engender a group think mentality. Without new and creative ideas, the growth and potential of any organization will be stifled. Cohesion gained with diverse people will create energetic, creative and innovative teams working towards a common goal - an unbeatable combination!

For is it not as M. Scott Peck writes in his book The Different Drum: "In and through community lies the salvation of the the only way to achieve international peace...(is if) we learn the basic principles of community in our own lives and personal spheres of influence."

Have you ensured that you don't have a melting pot scenario at work? It is time to move away from blandness to a mixed texture in the workplace that enriches not just the organization, but each of us as human beings as well.

Take up the challenge now!

 How to make it happen


We have worked with many organizations that have a diverse staff compliment, and can help you transform your diversity management program, and enhance your business and strategy objectives.

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