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Musings on Diversity Management
by Christina Morfeld

 
   
 
   

I recently had the pleasure of working with Julie O'Mara (www.omaraassoc.com), a well-respected organizational development consultant specializing in diversity management issues. I learned a great deal as I reviewed Julie's material and conversed with her - first and foremost about myself. One of my more humbling experiences was when I used the term "wheelchair-bound person," only to be gently reminded that "person in a wheelchair" is more appropriate. In my quest for brevity, I unknowingly defined this hypothetical individual by his or her disability!

The moral of the story? Good intentions aren't enough; we must carefully examine our predispositions to ensure that we don't mistakenly offend with our words and actions.

I also gained an appreciation for all that diversity management involves. It goes far beyond assembling a workforce composed of varied backgrounds and experiences. Rather, it is the cultivation of an environment that, by design, honors and capitalizes on these differences. Successful initiatives are deeply rooted in a company's values and are undertaken because - moral and social responsibility aside - it makes good business sense.

Unlike programs carried out for the purpose of compliance or litigation-avoidance, an effective diversity management effort benefits all parties. Employees experience personal growth as they learn from one another's insights and perspectives, and the organization's ability to innovate, solve problems, and meet the needs of an increasingly diverse customer base is greatly enhanced.

But one of the most compelling reasons of all for implementing a diversity management program is demographics, pure and simple. The workforce is changing, and only organizations with a demonstrated commitment to nurturing the uniqueness of its employees will successfully attract and retain top performers.

Providing training does not qualify as a diversity management initiative in and of itself. While helping employees raise their personal diversity awareness is a vital element, it must be supported by other corporate activities such as changes in recruitment practices, introduction of a flexible work arrangement policy, and/or launch of a mentoring program (to name just a few). An organization otherwise risks losing credibility or - worse yet - alienating its workers.

Lastly, it is essential that a diversity management effort not be perceived as yet another one of HR's pet projects (i.e., "flavor of the month"). On the contrary, it should be clearly communicated as an executive-level priority. And, despite my use of words such as "program" and "initiative" throughout this article, it should not be a stand-alone endeavor. Instead, it should be just one component of a fully-integrated business strategy. In other words, diversity management should be tied to the "bottom line" along with a host of other business pursuits.

Diversity management is a serious undertaking that places strong demands on time and resources. An even greater requirement, however, is the willingness of an organization to challenge the status quo and make sweeping changes to its culture.

It's difficult to even know where to begin! That's where a consultant, such as Julie O'Mara, comes into play. And for those brave "do-it-yourselfers" out there, a wealth of useful online resources is available to guide you every step of the way.

Know that whatever approach you choose - if it is done right - will no doubt result in improved employee morale, business productivity, and market competitiveness.


     
   
     
   

The Author

 

Christina Morfeld is president of Affinity Business Communications, a provider of high-quality instructional design, technical writing, and content development solutions. Whether writing to instruct, inform, or persuade, our work is reader-focused, benefits-oriented, and results-driven.

     
   
     
   
Many more articles in Diversity in The CEO Refresher Archives
     
   
     
   
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Copyright 2003 - Christina Morfeld and Affinity Business Communications, LLC.
Originally published by Suite101.com
. All rights reserved.

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