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Managing Diversity Is Key to Running a Company



Question: How can I manage diversity within my workplace?


Answer:

The differences in social and cultural identities, such as age, gender, ethnic heritage, physical ability/disability, and sexual orientation, within companies have become of considerable importance. That’s especially true with the recent trends of increasing use of work teams, a change in work force demographics, and globalization of business. Those who fail to truly leverage diversity may miss out on their potential for increased productivity and morale, and decreased work/life imbalance, absenteeism, and turnover.

Managing diversity begins with awareness. Understanding how diversity is playing out within your company will give you a benchmark to work from. Benchmarking can be done through interviewing, focus groups or surveys. Keep in mind that it is important to obtain perspectives from employees at all levels of the company. Once you have an understanding of the role diversity plays in your company, you will be able to design diversity action plans to improve the overall climate and consider your diversity as an organizational strength.

Examples of diversity action plans can range from a broad-based culture change, encompassing the entire company, to companywide inclusion training, to a formal mentoring program available to high performing and at-risk employees. The type of action plan implemented should directly address the ways diversity is mismanaged or under utilized. Remember, the key to any action plan is follow-through. Identify what you want to achieve, how it should be achieved, how to measure it, and track your progress. Only then can you determine the bottom line impact that leveraging diversity has on your company.

Managing diversity can be a powerful tool. Research shows that diverse groups make better decisions, tend to have better problem-solving skills, are more creative, and are more effective when solving complicated business matters. Many companies manage diversity poorly, define it ineffectively, infrequently track their efforts, and therefore may not be obtaining the benefits leveraged diversity can bring. Those who do will benefit by attracting, retaining and utilizing the skills of diverse employees, thereby increasing their competitive advantage.


Written by Anna Storms, M.S., founding partner of ICG Innovation Consulting Group, a San Diego-based organizational development firm. ICG specializes in individual, team and business development for profit and nonprofit companies.

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