Friday, April 22, 2011

Four Approaches to Diversity in the Workplace

The United States has been a melting pot of diverse people since its founding. Yet it has only been within the past few decades that companies have realized the value of a diverse workforce. Now thousands of companies throughout the country have implemented diversity programs within their organization in an attempt to capitalize on the strengths of multifaceted employees. At least that is what companies say they are doing.

There are various approaches to diversity appreciation in corporate America. Some act as if diversity is a passing fad, where one jumps on the bandwagon and then jumps off when the interest wanes. Others see diversity as merely a numbers game, where diversity is achieved my promoting the right number of minority workers into key positions in management. Some companies have created a culture that truly values its diverse workforce and removes barriers that arbitrarily restricts people within the organization. And there are a few companies who have learned how to get 100% from 100% of their employees because they know how to glean the full potential of their workforce regardless of the diversity of their employees.

Outlined below are four typical approaches to diversity management in the workplace. They are listed in ascending order of what I believe diversity management should entail. By reading through the descriptors you can identify at what level your company truly values diversity in the workplace.


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 of this approach 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 the company is a diverse company. If customers, employees, vendors, suppliers, shareholders, and general public believe the company is diversity champions, and hold the organization in high regard because of it, the 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 the company's name out as much as possible so people accept the message that the organization is 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 the company is diverse. The more examples one can give of where the company has provided opportunity and growth for diverse construction companies, vendors and employees, the better off the company brand image will be. Consequently, all one has to do is find a few powerful success stories of diversity, share those stories loudly and often, and the organization will be successful in creating the desired brand image.


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 paid fairly, 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. Vendor, supplier and construction contracts must also be awarded to a representative diverse group.

Indicators of Success: The key to this approach is the typical EEO issue of making sure the company has numbers that confirm it is affirmatively providing opportunities for people of diversity regarding pay, promotions, supplier contracts, and/or construction projects. Success is achieved when the company has the right numbers and percentages that indicate it is 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 the company wants and hire it, regardless of qualifications.


Desired Outcome
: This approach seeks to create a company that truly does value and appreciate the diverse nature of its workforce. It recognizes diverse 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 to this approach is getting 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 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.

(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 a person from reaching his or her 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 preconceived 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 the company 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 regardless of their diversity.

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.

There seems to be one final, higher level of diversity management that a company can attain. Perhaps it is too idealistic or Utopian to believe it may ever become a reality, but I dream of the day when people within the workplace no longer see different skin tones, hear different languages, perceive different cultures or feel any separation in the workforce because we focus on the similarities of people at work instead of our differences.

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Mac McIntire is the president of Innovative Management Group, a Las Vegas-based training and consulting firm that helps companies define their strategic focus, align their internal effort, and gain the commitment of their workforce to achieve long-term profitability and growth. If you would like more information about how we can help your company, please contact us at 702-258-8334, e-mail to, or visit us on the web at

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ten Things Every Employee Should Know: How to Increase One’s Personal Value at Work

Employees can make themselves more valuable and promotable by understanding ten key things


We continue to live in very difficult economic times. Companies across the country have laid off employees in droves. Businesses have clos-ed. The ranks of the unemployed are high. Employees are still fearful for their jobs.

As I walk the floors of client companies I hear concerned employees stressing about their future. Most feel helpless, believing their destiny is in someone else’s hands. They think there is nothing they can do to protect themselves from being laid off.

This may be true in some cases where poor management decisions have left companies with no option other than massive downsizing. But in most cases, management makes a decision of who stays and who leaves during bad economic times based upon some value judgment of the worth and contribution of the individual employee.

Therefore, every employee needs to fully grasp this simple concept: in most situations, the future of an employee’s job security rest squarely on the shoulders of the employee, not the manager. The key to maintaining one’s employment is to ensure one is employable. This applies to both one’s current job and one’s future position, should an employee find oneself out of work during tough economic times.

Employable employees will always have a job. Wise employees realize this. Astute employees know there are very specific things they can do to guarantee they remain employed and employable. Sadly, most employees never learn these basic precepts. They are seldom, if ever, taught in public schools or business management courses. Some people may be lucky enough to learn about them from a mentor. But most people either learn these principles the hard way — through experience — or they never learn them at all.

Listed below are ten important axioms I believe every employee must fully understand and internalize in order to better position oneself for success in the business world. These ten principles come from my more than 37 years of observations as a business executive and management consultant. They are ten unspoken axioms that apply in any organization. They are ten keys to an employee’s current and future success.

Axiom #1: Your work is a commodity. What you do as an employee only has value if someone is willing to pay for it. If you want people to value what you do, you need to deliver on the “implied promises” that are inherent in your job description. It’s implied that you will be honest. It’s implied that you will be on time to work. It’s implied that you will work hard and provide an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. It’s implied that you will do exactly what is expected of you by your boss. It’s implied that you will never exhibit inappropriate or off-purpose behaviors or act contrary to the good of your employer.

The better you are at delivering on the implied promises, the greater your value will be as an employee. And the greater your value is as an employee, the higher the odds are that you will always be employed.

Axiom #2: The value of your work is determined by others, not by you. As an employee you cannot tell others how valuable you are. You cannot declare how hard you work. You cannot determine the worth of what you do based upon your own perceptions of worth. Your boss – and more particularly, your customers – determines the worth of what you do as an employee.

You need to find out what others expect from you in the workplace. Focus on your “customers” and what they want. Ask your subordinates, peers and superiors what their expectations are of you. Learn their definition of success for you so you can work toward it. Don’t assume you know what it takes to succeed. Solicit the input of others and then match your performance and behaviors to the feedback you receive. In the workplace other people determine the criteria for your success, not you. You will succeed when you deliver what others expect from you.

Axiom#3: You get out of life what you give. Make sure you give your honest best effort at work. Show more interest in meeting the needs of the business, rather than your own needs. When you do all that you can at work to achieve the company’s objectives – while suspending your personal agenda – you will find that your personal needs, more than likely, will also be met. When you watch out for others, they usually watch out for you.

Axiom #4: Be supportive of your boss. Do everything within your power and ability to make your boss a hero. Discern his or her needs and objectives. Do your part (and more) to meet those needs and achieve the boss’ objectives. Be responsive to the directives and commands of your boss. Express appreciation and show your support of your boss whenever possible. Very seldom in the business world can one succeed without the support of one’s boss. The more supportive you are of your boss, the more support you can expect in return, particularly in tough economic times.

Axiom #5: Be supportive of your teammates. Help out whenever possible. Chip in when work needs to be done. Never engage in gossip, back-biting, or criticism of the members of your work team. Talk positively about your colleagues. Offer encouragement and support to your coworkers at every opportunity. Recognize the accomplishments of others and praise them liberally. Be a team player in all of your actions, words and deeds.

Axiom #6: Recognize where and how others have contributed to your success. Few great achievements were ever accomplished individually. Someone helped you get to where you are. People around you are contributing to your success. Give credit to those who support you directly or indirectly. Take only a small piece of the credit for team accomplishments. Don’t toot your own horn too loudly. When you recognize and praise others for what they have done for you, more than likely they will sound your praises in return.

Axiom #7: Speak up. Be a contributor. Share your opinion and views. Provide input. Offer your perspective. Don’t be a “yes man” when no is the right answer. Help everyone to succeed by identifying and sharing where improvements can be made. But do so wisely and kindly. Know when, where and how to offer suggestions or provide critical analysis. Have sound, valid reasoning behind your statements and never push your personal agenda. Always offer your suggestions in a kind and respectful manner.

Axiom #8: Be receptive to and a champion of change. Change is inevitable in every job. Work processes continually evolve. Good workers are always looking for ways to accomplish their work easier, faster or cheaper. Never become complacent in your work. Always look for opportunities to improve. Never resist change. When changes come accept them eagerly and adapt to them quickly. Be an early adopter of change and help others to change as well. Show management that you are willing and able to do whatever is necessary to guarantee success in the new business model.

Axiom #9: Tolerate the idiosyncrasies of your organization. Every company has something strange about it. Usually there is some trivial (or significant) thing about the way a company operates that bothers the employees. Good employees are able to look past it; and it is this tolerance that makes them especially good employees. Bad employees whine and let it affect their attitude; and it is their bad attitude that makes them bad employees. The more employees complain or fight against the idiosyncrasies of their organization the less they become a part of it. Good employees seek to build up their organization, while bad employees tear it down. Do all you can to be a non-complaining, non-criticizing employee.

Axiom #10: Be a model of excellence. Produce quality results. Provide exceptional service. Model the appropriate attitude and behaviors. Make it happen. Get it done. Do it right.

High value employees are always “go-to” employees. They are the ones who managers know will get the work done on time, on budget, and within scope. Be an employee that can always be counted on. When you are viewed as the highest value employee, you will either be the last on the list for layoffs or off the list completely. But, more important, high value employees can easily transport their high value to any organization for whom they work. There is always a place for high value employees.

Employees who consciously remember these ten axioms, and model them daily, will find their value to their company increasing. High value employees are seldom let go. Even during severe economic downturns, most companies will do all they can to retain their highest value workers.

I wish to stress that these ten axioms should constitute “normal” behavior for all employees at all times. Clearly they are important during a downturn in business, but, even in the good times, employees who model these principles – for in good times high value employees are the most likely to get promotions and pay raises. Management tends to reward employees who deliver on the implied promises, meet expectations, and focus on business results. Management appreciates those employees who support their boss and their fellow workers. Management prefers employees who speak up and offer suggestions for improvement in a kind and respectful manner. The best candidates for promotion are those who are receptive to change, tolerate the company’s idiosyncrasies, and who model the appropriate performance, attitude and behaviors each and every day at work.

Wise employees realize their employment future is within their own hands. To a great extent they control their own destiny in the workplace. They can choose to accept these ten axioms or reject them; and, by so doing, either reap the rewards or suffer the consequences of their choice.

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Mac McIntire is the president of Innovative Management Group, a Las Vegas-based training and consulting firm that helps companies define their strategic focus, align their internal effort, and gain the commitment of their work-force to achieve long-term profitability and growth. If you would like more information about how we can help your company, please contact us at 702-258-8334, e-mail to, or visit us on the web at