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What Is and Isn’t Diversity Management?

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Diversity has been surging into the scene with force in companies for years. Managing diversity has become a critical task for HR departments for at least tree reasons:

  1. The available workforce is increasingly diverse and this is reflected in the increasingly heterogeneous nature of the people within our organizations.
  2. The market demands new services and innovative approaches. It is much easier to respond to this changing demand with diverse employees. From this point of view, managing diversity is not only accepting the incontrovertible fact that we develop our activity in a plural society, but above all taking advantage of the opportunities this situation offers us as a way to improve our competitiveness.
  3. The policies we design in our companies to deal with diversity rely on beliefs that strengthen or weaken our actions in this field. Here I put forward some reflections on what diversity management is and isn’t.

WHAT IS NOT

  • To think that the diverse ones are the others. Describing someone as diverse is someone who is different from me. Think of as "normal" whoever is included in my age group, my culture of origin, my socio-economic environment, etc. It’s the other ones who must be managed as diverse.
  • Be patronizing or gracefully cede small spaces of power to "diverse" people or groups. Handle the differences on the sidelines, while the core of decision making is restricted to homogeneous groups.
  • Managing diversity as a sign of benevolence. Thinking that this way I treat other people or groups with generosity.
  • De-dramatize the differences through light-hearted comments or jokes that do away with the solemnity among each group’s stereotypes and ease tensions in possible conflicts.

WHAT IT IS

  • Accept diversity begins with self. If someone is different to me, notice this means that I am perceived as different by him or her. Managing diversity works in all directions.
  • To value people for their input, for the originality of their ideas, for the results they achieve, without conditioning judgment by personal or group characteristics that have nothing to do with the work they do.
  • Managing diversity as a sign of intelligence. When we handle differences well, who benefits first are ourselves. This allows us to capture the best talent of each generation, since we do not seek it only in those who are like us, but wherever the talent is, regardless of the characteristics that define that person.
  • Total rejection of all forms of discrimination. If a sentence begins with expressions such as: "I am not macho, but ...; I'm not racist, but ... ", then it’s better not to say it. And of course, there should be zero tolerance with any expression of harassment.

Businesses can do much to improve (or degrade) the society we live in. The battle against fanaticism and intolerance is fought in the great spaces of socialization: school and work centers. When we see discrimination growing due to identity reasons, when conflicts arise out of the rejection of difference and the attempt to impose unified thought, then we become aware that we are educating our children as "we" as opposed to "them" and that we are spending long hours in work environments where diversity is discriminated against. Managing diversity not only benefits the company, but it has a powerful impact on society as a whole. Social responsibility begins with oneself, at home. The good news is that companies, regardless of budget lines for CSR, can provide a service of incalculable value to the society where employees come from and to which products and services are directed.

 

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José Aguilar

José Aguilar López es Doctor en Filosofía (PhD) y Programa de desarrollo directivo (PDD) por el IESE. Socio Director de MindValue. Imparte seminarios y cursos numerosas Universidades y Escuelas de Negocios de Europa y América. En 2006 obtuvo, junto a Javier Fernández Aguado, el premio del Management Internacional Forum al mejor libro de Management del año, por la obra conjunta “La soledad del directivo” (Lid, Madrid, 2006).

Ha participado, en calidad de autor, coordinador o coautor en los trece libros. Es colaborador habitual en diarios, revistas de información económica, radio y TV.

José Aguilar is a Managing Partner of MindValue - a company specialized in professional services for C-level management - and the VP of the International Association of Management Studies (Asociación Internacional de Estudios sobre Management - ASIEMA). He is also a management coach and a senior member of the club, Top Ten Management Spain. He is recognized as one of the key Spanish experts in change management consultancy and training.

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