Business case for diversity
Hereby a case from chapter 1 of my book, describing managers’ struggle to see diversity as a business case:
“I do have a Moroccan secretary myself, the business manager said to the project leader of diversity. They had an appointment to talk about the development of a diversity vision for the organisation. It had been quite difficult for the project leader to get this appointment as the business manager was very busy. Of course the top of the organisation wanted to have a clear vision regarding diversity, but they also wanted the business manager to meet his targets. Thus the business manager had cancelled the appointment already twice due to other priorities. Now that they finally sat together, the conversation was complicated. Instead of talking diversity and strategic development for this business managers part of the organisation that employed hundreds of people, the business manager kept talking about his personal experiences and contacts with migrants. The key of the message seemed to be: look, I don’t discriminate, I am open to all kinds of people: I am OK! Only 30 minutes were given to the project leader and that was not enough time for him to (re)turn diversity into a business issue. It was clear that this business manager, responsible for services in a increasingly diverse region of the country, saw no relationship at all between the services his employees worked on for many customers every day and the region becoming more and more diverse. The simple fact that he had to talk to a project leader about a vision regarding diversity meant for him that he felt involved as a person. Therefore he tried to convince the project leader that his intercultural attitude was OK… The implicit assumption was: when the moral attitude of managers and employees is OK, then diversity in the organisation will automatically go well.”
This case is not an exception, it is a symptom of a more common trend that diversity managers and consultants often meet with. Diversity is so far away for business managers that it won’t play any role in their business considerations. Their first association when confronted with diversity initiatives in the organisation lies on a personal, moral level. They usually think that it is an interesting discussion from a societal point of view but it has no relation whatsoever with their aims or results.
> The challenge is to match diversity with what managers see as their ambition. It is of vital importance that (top)managers have a clear and unequivocal vision on diversity policy concerning their business goals. Diversity policy is usually a long term strategy and moreover demands a certain investment. Probably this subject will disappear from the agenda slowly and unnoticed, or it will be overshadowed by other priorities.
Therefore organisations need a clear phrasing of the need for a diversity policy. To develop a vision for your own organisation you must be fully aware what interests are related to diversity initiatives and what reactions, like the one in our case above, will be met with. If you want to start a discussion in your organisation to develop a vision for diversity that can be implemented, you better know what are the trends in the way organisations deal with diversity, including the consequences. That will save you a lot of time, because you can lay your finger more easily on the different assumptions that lie underneath the discussions. Is it about justice or about business interests?
Chapter 1 of my book elaborates these different approaches of diversity worldwide while showing concrete examples from different countries. It gives tools how to handle a case like above and a format for the steps to be taken to turn diversity into a business case. Good luck while reading it and if you have any comments: they are welcome, let me know!
Other interesting blogs for you:
Diversity management – progress?
Diversity in hotels: it exists in Stockholm!
Seba culture and diversity workshops in Malawi
Palmpasen in Jordanië – daar waar je invloed hebt…