Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Four Approaches to Corporate Diversity

There are four primary approaches to corporate diversity programs ranging from the mere image of being diverse to a culture that maximizes the full potential of all of its employees.

Here are the four approaches:

Brand Image

Desired Outcome: The purpose of this approach is to create a brand image of being a company that values the diversity of its employees. The focus is on getting name recognition and awards for the company’s diversity programs. The primary goal is to be viewed as a benchmark company when it comes to diversity programs. Under this scenario it is only necessary to achieve a perception that we are a diverse company. If customers, employees, vendors, suppliers, shareholders, and general public believe we are diversity champions, and hold us in high regard because of it, our diversity program can be considered a success.

Indicators of Success
: With this approach the key is getting the company’s name in the media, obtaining industry awards, and being at the top of mind regarding all diverse issues. The focus is on getting our name out as much as possible so people accept our message that we are a diverse company.

Achieving the Desired End Result: If a message is repeated loud enough and often enough, people begin to believe it. This approach requires a strong marketing and public relations component to make sure the company’s name is at the top of mind in all of the important venues of interest regarding diversity. The key to success is having anecdotal stories that show we are diverse. The more examples we can give of where we have provided opportunity and growth for diverse construction companies, vendors and employees, the better off we will be. Consequently, all we have to do is find a few powerful success stories of diversity, share those stories loudly and often, and we will be successful in creating the image that we want.

Affirmative Action

Desired Outcome: The goal of this approach is to create a company that truly does provide equal opportunity for people of diverse backgrounds and characteristics to be promoted, obtain supplier and vendor contracts, and/or to win construction projects. It entails more than just consideration for such things, but rather an affirmative and aggressive desire to achieve diversity in the managerial, supplier, vendor and construction company ranks. The goal of this approach is to have a representative number of people in key positions throughout the company that match the diverse demographics of the community.

Indicators of Success: The key to this approach is the typical EEO issue of making sure we have numbers that confirm we are affirmatively providing opportunities for people of diversity regarding pay, promotions, supplier contracts, and/or construction projects. Success is achieved when we have the right numbers and percentages that indicate we are a diverse company.

Achieving the Desired Results: This is a relatively simple approach to diversity. All it requires is identifying viable employee, supplier, and construction company candidates who can be hired or developed into qualified individuals for key management positions, supplier contracts, and/or construction projects. All that must be done is to search for candidates in the obvious places where they might be found (e.g.: black colleges, suppliers from minority communities, etc.). Or, even simpler, just identify the right diversity mix you want and hire it, regardless of qualifications.

Culture of Acceptance

Desired Outcome: This approach hopes to create a company that truly does value and appreciate the diverse nature of its workforce. It recognizes that people have different needs, different values, different characteristics, different styles and different desires in the workplace; and it seeks acceptance and tolerance for these differences in order to create a healthy and productive workplace. The key is to get everyone to be aware of and accept these differences in order to reduce conflict, maximize performance, and allow people to reach their full potential by removing diversity barriers in the workplace.

Indicators of Success: The key to this approach is helping everyone within the company to become more diversity conscious; to become aware of their personal believes, biases, and actions regarding people of diverse backgrounds; and to alter their actions in order to provide equal opportunity and a work culture that meets the needs of every employee in the company. It also includes removing the barriers that limit growth opportunities for certain people because of diversity issues.

Achieving the Desired Results: This approach requires people at all levels of the company to become introspective and aware of their belief-systems and actions regarding diversity issues. It requires specific policies, procedures, processes, practices and systems that create a culture that accepts and assertively values the diversity of its employees. This acceptance, then, must also lead to opportunities for diverse people to raise their potential, be promoted, and take on different roles and responsibilities that previously may not have been available to them in a less diverse-sensitive company.

Maximize Performance of All Employees (regardless of individual differences)

Desired Outcome: The purpose of this approach is to maximize the performance of each employee by removing barriers that limit their potential, regardless of whether those barriers are diversity issues (e.g.: race, culture, gender, etc.) or other barriers that hinder one’s progress (e.g.: language skills, education, work ethic, off-purpose work behaviors, social skills, etc.). The goal is to raise the productive output of each individual by understanding their unique differences and over-riding whatever keeps them from reaching their fullest potential. Likewise, this approach seeks suppliers, vendors and construction companies who can produce the desired quality products on time, on budget, and within scope.

Indicators of Success: The success of this approach is witnessed when each individual within the company has achieved the highest level of performance of which he or she is capable. It is also seen when barriers are removed and people go beyond what anyone had previously believed was possible because of what seemed to be insurmountable diversity issues. Success entails helping diversity suppliers, vendors and construction companies raise their productive output to a level where they are capable of winning company contracts and successfully delivering their goods and services as specified in the contracts without us lowering the requirements of the contracts. In other words, success of this approach is not in raising people up, but in raising their performance up so they are viable candidates for future promotions and contracts.

Achieving the Desired Result: This approach entails a mature and sophisticated approach to managing the business using proper management techniques. It entails an acceptance that diversity is a normal practice of good management wherein managers are charged with increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of all of their employees so they can produce more. This approach requires good management systems that create a productive work environment where all employees feel comfortable, confident, proud and included. It requires managers to deal with employees as individuals (rather than ethnic groups, genders, etc.) and to implement individual development plans so every employee can overcome barriers that inhibit the achievement of their highest potential. It also requires working with diverse vendors, suppliers and construction companies who currently do not qualify as acceptable resources to help them raise their performance capabilities so they can qualify for contracts with the company.

Which approach a company takes depends upon how serious the company is in its desire to create a truly diverse workforce that values the contribution of each and every employee.

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