Does Your Company Need a Strategic Diversity Intervention?

Updated: December 07, 2010

If a Diversity and/Inclusion manager is in an organization where diversity is considered synonymous with the term Affirmative Action, this plan will become a useful tool to integrate diversity into the strategic planning process as well as create on-going metrics for use in the evaluation of the tools effectiveness and efficacy.

Critical to the application is the understanding of how the diversity defined within the organization. Has it been relegated to the Human Resources department with no ties to the strategic development and future planning of the company? Are human capital and talent management considered afterthoughts which have no really ties to the corporate ROI? In some cases the Human Resources or Diversity Manager has even been asked to create an ROI for diversity but has no idea where to start? These are the types of challenges which require a manager to initiate a Strategic Diversity Intervention.

Strategic diversity is defined as the corporations ability to analyze and develop strategies around all aspects of its corporate culture and climate which include both internal elements of human capital functional expertise, productivity, historical background and cultural diversity as well as the diverse corporate product mix, demographic, consumer base and globally diverse market conditions. Strategic corporate diversity should be both vertical as well as horizontal. In a Horizontal diversification model, corporate diversity expands the capacity of the organization by aligning and acquiring talent which is a correlate to the vision of the corporation. Vertical diversification offers the opportunity to find synergies across functional lines and business units which enhance the profitability of each.

In today's economy smart diversity executives want who want to create change in the organization and emphasize the importance of diversity in strategic planning can use Strategic Diversity Inventions as method to create a pattern interrupt (pattern interrupt is a term used by psychologist to re-frame problems and recharge energies) in the current climate of dissatisfaction with diversity programs. If a diversity manager wants to ensure the continued existence and importance of the Diversity and Inclusion unit; they must raise the bar that of a inclusion of corporate culture as a part of a strategic organization planning process (Loden, 1991).

Here are the 6 ways to shake up the status quo of diversity:

  • Do a cultural audit. Don't just look at the race, gender and creed of it. Take a look at the corporate culture. "A corporate culture can be defined by a company's hiring practices, management style and the physical space it provides to employees (Rose, 2005)".
    Dig in the corporate backyard and see what is buried in the teams and cross-functional plans, challenges and strategies.
  • Is the company made up of predominantly age group; hiring from one talent pool limits the perspectives which are taken into account in the planning process?

Conduct a leadership assessment. Managers are notoriously territorial. Owning territory generally means turf wars abound. When managers, teams and business units hold on to the us vs. them mentality productivity and profits suffer (Tobias, 1990).

  • Mixing up cross-functional teams allows for brain-draining and visual leaping to happen.
    • How diverse are the customers, products and markets and do the corporate leaders reflect this diversity; in function, creed, experience and personality?
    • A diverse management team can lead to innovative thinking, skills and development of new trends, markets and profit centers.
    • Create a Culture Creation Team with a multi-year plan. Assign team members who can have a functional, situational, demographical, and multi-dimensional input to the plan. Establish critical milestones on the path to cultural greatness which includes a detailed picture of the new cultural vision.
      • Spending dollars on lunches and daycare may be the fad of diversity and inclusion in yesterday's market place. Valuing employee diversity and allowing a work, life balance can create a corporate culture that is more profitable because of highly motivated and innovative employees who are valued and included in the planning of the corporate future (Rose, 2005).
      • Expose the Culture Creation Team to organization change methodologies. Create cultural achievement awards and rewards for participation and creation of new ideas, goals and outcomes.
        • Training dollars should become a part of the corporate resource which can be used to invest in the corporation's most profitable resource: human capital. Establish a method to value human capital as a capital investment.
        • Create strategic diversity initiatives which impact the corporate bottom line. Establish a Progressive Cultural Initiative which brings together participants from all levels including senior managers, line managers and employees who will positively promote diversity through-out the organization as method to maximize the organizations talent pool (Jackson & Alvarez, 1992).
        • Create a schedule of cultural diversity change and intervention by creating business unit strategic diversity visions, uses, applications and achievements. Empower business unit leaders by examining current practices, policies and goals and allowing individuals to confidently promote change (Sims & Lorenzi, 1992).

To start the process: companies must be willing to stand up to the challenge. Shaking up the diversity climate and culture in and organization means that you need to do an intervention.

The six stages of intervention are:" confrontation, discussion, acknowledgment, challenge, coaching and change (Gant, 1996, p. 123)". Generally, the most uncomfortable state is confrontation. Confrontation appears as condemnation of the current situation.

In a Strategic Diversity Intervention, confrontation is the easiest and hardest step because it simply looks at the current situation to determine the status quo of the corporate diversity mixture and how it is reflected in the corporate culture. (If you don't know where you are, how will you know how far you have gone?)

Progress is measured by the ability to implement the change that the Diversity manager and the corporation seeks. This will require that corporate leaders, managers, HR managers and employees spend time discussing the current situation until they are able to arrive at an acknowledgment of and acceptance of the current status. Acknowledgment also allows the Diversity manager to receive buy-in from the participants in the process. As each of them acknowledges the current state they will also begin to accept the integration of diversity into the corporate mission as a strategic advantage which can increase profitability.

Challenges will be found as each department, business unit, functional area, employee and manager begins to acknowledge the similarities and differences in the way each has interpreted the corporate strategic plan. Strategic direction and implementation requires an integration of the diverse aspects of all participants in order to be effective.

The challenge is to emphasize how strategic uses of diversity in function, product, service, talent, demographics and resources will help the corporate teams become more effective and efficient. Exposing the teams to diversity challenges and evaluations tools will be a critical tool that you can use to coach them through the process of change (Thomas, 2006).

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