Managing a Diverse Workforce: Challenges and Measures

Diversity Management
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Eugene James
Manager, Switzerland

Managing a Diverse Workforce: Challenges and Measures

There is consensus that in general, a diverse workforce is inevitable as much as it is beneficial to the general interest of an organization. Diversity can yield higher productivity in the case of greater representation of women. Diversity is also conducive to fresh and innovative thinking.
Yet managers can easily stray into taking diversity promotion for granted. Worse, it can become a burden as they are forced to comply with policies such as quotas and attend lengthy workshops.

There are steps managers can take in tackling the challenges associated with diversity management:
  1. BUILDING TRUST: Design tasks in a way that builds trust, such as establishing short term goals. This is crucial as it signals the added value of cooperating. Furthermore managers need to be sensitive and culturally aware that trust is built differently from one group to another. In some cultures, trust is developed by engaging directly with a task, while in others it is built through dialogue and establishing friendship.
  2. ADAPT ONE'S CULTURAL LENSE: In interacting with staff, managers must not assume that the same references will be shared with respect to language in general and the manner of conversing. In some cultures, being honest in voicing criticism in public is frowned upon and staff are unlikely to do so. In other contexts, when someone says "No", it may be construed as just the beginning of a discussion and mean that a better offer or proposal is expected.
  3. DEVOTION TO THE TEAM: Managers must guard themselves against merely fulfilling obligations related to diversity policy such as strict legal compliance with affirmative action laws. Instead a genuine effort is needed to build diverse teams, wherein individual members are properly integrated within their team and are able to make a real contribution to the work of the organization.
Source: "Diversity Fatigue", The Economist, February 13 2016


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