Diversity management: progress?
One of the problems I experience in this crisis for my company Seba is the fact that the concept of diversity management seems to fall back to the situation of 15 years ago, when I started my company Seba.
In that time, the world was divided in consultants working for man-woman issues (gender), or intercultural issues, or gay-straight issues. There were several so-called ‘target groups’ handling their own limited business. Apparently few people understood that all there is, is this: people are different and we have to learn to recognize that, face the consequences and try to create synergy. We simply have to do better than in the past when we thought everybody would be and expect the same in organisations. At that moment, inspired by Roosevelt Thomas (Harvard Business School) my company Seba came up with a fundamentally new way of approaching differences in organisations.
Since then, my perception was that we made a great conceptual progress. It became more common not to just think in terms of man-woman, gay-straight or black-white but in terms of benefits differences can bring to organisations. A friend predicted that it would take me 20 years to introduce the Seba concept in the market since that is the time conceptual innovations need to be fully accepted. After 12 years, I started to think: yes eventually we will be there.
However, in 2011 a new trend came up. Customers started asking for specific ‘target groups’ again: offers we made were refused because, as customer feedback said, ‘we want a more specific approach, not just diversity’. My analysis is that the crisis is bringing many organisations back to original basics, on a spot where they think they will have immediate success by reducing the subject to a single difference-subject.
A hiring company should always have the lead, of course. On the other side, it is not so easy for a commercial company like ours to just leave its truthful concept behind and adapt to concepts risen in times of crisis; because we do not believe in the effect and success that those customers hope for. We do not just work for money, we also want to realize the promise of benefits differences can bring to an organisation. It is a dilemma, because we also think that we should always listen to our customers, and we really lost assignments on this basis in 2011.
Considering it all, I think we will just stick to our concept of diversity management in 2012 and see where it ends. One can loose everything but not one’s truth! We’ll hope for the best in 2012, and I do wish you all the best for 2012 too, with your personal truth becoming true…