Thursday, October 15, 2009

Diversity Management

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 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!

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How to Develop a Training Strategy

Training that Counts

An Overview

Too often, training and its success in an organization is measured by the number of training sessions given and the number of people in the seats. This inadequately represents the value of training in an organization. Training needs to focus on improving the current performance in an organization, as well as ensuring that skill sets exist amongst employees for future competencies required by the organization's strategy....

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What is Corporate Culture?

Corporate Culture Defined

Corporate culture is one of those focus areas that are not always fully understood and are not optimally utilized either in an organization.

A basic definition of organizational culture is the collective way we do things around here. It involves a learned set of behaviors that is common knowledge to all the participants. These behaviors are based on a shared system of meanings which guide our perceptions, understanding of events, and what we pay attention to. As Sun Tzu, a Chinese military general from 3000 BC, indicated in his explanation of strategy, culture forms an integral part of any organizational strategy. It consists of Tao – the created and shared beliefs, values, and glue that holds an organization together, and it also involves the very nature of the organization. Culture is about individuals in a group sharing patterns of behavior. There is no cultural absolute. Because culture is relative, we have the power to create a culture that is the best fit for an organization’s future direction.

Observing Culture

Culture plays out in a variety of ways. We can identify the specifics of it from how information is communicated, feedback is given, performance is managed, and projects are co-coordinated within the organization. It is reflected in the way the corporation or institution is structured; whether work is conducted cross-functionally or within silos, how the hierarchical levels are set up, and the types of job titles used. Culture is often defined by the systems that are used, the processes that are followed, and the rituals, symbols, and stories that abound in the organization. It is even reflected in how meetings are held in an organization.

Corporate Culture as an Obstacle

When working towards company goals or when trying to effect change in the organization, your organizational culture can be the very thing that trips you up. If insufficient effort is put towards identifying aspects of the culture that may impact on what you are trying to achieve, then insufficient actions will be taken to circumvent obstacles in a timely manner or harness the way things are done in an opportune direction. This is best explained through an example.

An organization espouses that “people are our most important asset” as part of its new philosophy. However, employees witness a senior executive being escorted off site with his belongings by security guards after being laid off. They receive an e-mail explaining where they will be sitting and who they will be reporting to in the future restructure – with no fore-warning or personal contact. Training and development opportunities for employees are stopped in order to cut costs. Actions that consistently reflect a certain core culture will more effectively emphasize to employees what the leadership’s true values are than any widely publicized statement. If a direction is truly desired, then all actions that will reflect the required culture need to be considered and instituted accordingly.

Aligning Culture for Success

Once a strategy is set for the organization, the way deliverables are produced in the organization needs to be examined and challenged. This is to ensure that every process is geared towards achieving the strategy.

Every component of the corporate culture needs to underpin what is required from all stakeholders in order to realize the strategic goals. There must be a reinforcing stream of communications. All the actions in the organization need to translate into the cultural realities. A culture can be created or reinforced through the use of socialization. Avenues for socialization abound in functions like selection, placement on the job, job mastery, the measurement and rewarding of performance, and recognition and promotion. Reinforcing a culture can emerge through the stories told and the folklore propagated and, most importantly, through the adherence to chosen important values. The key to the success of the above is to ensure that the culture you wish to socialize others into is an ideal one, necessary for breakthrough performance in your work area or organization. If it is not, then you need to involve everyone in the evaluation and creation of a more suitable culture.

Strong Leadership is Required

One of the surest ways to align the culture to the organization’s strategy is to apply leadership practices that are also aligned. The leaders, at all levels, need to know what the required culture is and then determine ways of establishing practices and procedures in all operations that will closely reflect the desired culture. They also need to role model the very behaviors they wish exhibited by everyone in the organization and provide the necessary support to others that will enable them to function accordingly as well. Particular attention also needs to be given to all communications.

Leadership needs to be front and center to create a corporate culture that works.

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