Diversity FAQ’s No 17: Should Managers be financially rewarded for meeting ‘diversity targets’??


This has always been a bit of a controversial question with differing views.

For example, Maggie Berry, Managing Director of Women in Technology suggests that diversity targets should be introduced similar to sales targets – the implication being that reward in the form of some kind of remuneration package, is offered when allocated targets have been met. Maggie further suggests that targets could indeed be a viable avenue for promoting greater diversity awareness by putting pressure on organisations so as to ensure they deliver set targets accordingly.

Whilst I understand the context of her argument, I disagree with her thinking for the reasons listed below:

Firstly, whereas sales targets for going above and beyond normal performance stipulations may be justified as a means of demonstrating particular workplace excellence, rewarding individuals for effectively ensuring that an organisation’s people are broadly reflective of the marketplace, to me, appears a different ‘kettle of fish’ as this should in fact be the normal state of affairs for any 21st century organisation?

Secondly, there is the thinking that if diversity is in fact about the wide range of talented individuals an organisation needs to ensure its continuous development, growth and sustainance, ‘why’ some have asked, should Managers be rewarded for doing what is in fact in the very nature of their job as Managers?.

Thirdly, the idea of ‘rewarding’ or ‘incentivising’ Managers for meeting diversity targets will ensure that diversity does not effectively de-shackle itself from the misguided thinking that as a strategy, it is simply a ‘tick-box’ functionality and/or an ‘equal representation’ agenda geared towards cosmetically balancing workforce databases – all in the name of equality of opportunity.

But to go even further:

At the heart of any organisation’s strength or USP (Unique Selling Point) are its people. People planning therefore, be that in the form of ‘resource and/or succession planning’ strategies (which form part of talent management processes), etc – need to have fairness, inclusivity and transparency – the core indices of diversity mainstreamed as an essential part of the overall planning process for it to truly have the ability to effectively deliver the organisational vision or USP. The ‘natural off-shoot’ of mainstreaming the indices of diversity within people planning strategies is not just that it will ensure that only the best suited are in fact  selected, but importantly, will begin to visibly represent a greater cross-section of individuals with a range of backgrounds,  experiences and skills reflective of the market place – as a ‘natural’ consequence. Essentially, the thinking is, if we get the fundamentals right, a bit like a jigsaw, everything else will begin to fall in its rightful place.

Rewarding managers for attaining diversity targets in view of the thinking above therefore not only appears to assist in perpetuating the very questionable thinking that engaging diversity is an ‘add-on responsibility’ of a Manager’s role, but in the medium-to-long term, mainstreams the fact of tokenism – which incidentally has characterised the Corporate response to inclusive people management over the last 40 years. Indeed, this is a key reason why the Equality Act 2010 has been brought in – to promote greater inclusivity – across all people in any business function or organisation.

So, with Lord Davies Report on Gender inclusivity and the recommendation that FTSE 100 companies should be aiming for a minimum of 25% female board member representation by 2015, and that FTSE 350 companies should be setting their own challenging targets with the expectation that they will achieve a much higher figure than this minimum requirement, what should be the approach of Management to meeting the suggested 2015 ‘targets’?

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Think OD, not ‘targets’ – change your mindset. This is about organisational development and change initiatives in line with the marketplace to ensure sustainability, c0mpetitiveness and service relevance – not about ‘diversity’ as such. Individuals leading on ‘diversity initiatives’ therefore need to go through a kind of ‘excorcism of the mind’ as it were, deshackling it from the stereotypical thinking that the agenda is about ‘minority improvements’. It is not. It is all about ‘people improvements’, thus ensuring your organisation remains ‘fit’ for purpose.
  • Develop processes that are fair, inclusive and transparent – think about conducting a quick audit of your people, processes, procedures and policies (what I call the ‘the 4 P’s) and ensure to secure the genuine opinion of your staff. They know what actually operates ‘on the ground’ and provide the fundamental starting point for making a strategic change
  • Adopt a strategic approach to change – upon finding out key issues, develop a plan, implement in phases, produce a report that shows actions taken and monitor and measure progress accordingly. Indeed, go beyond the stereotypical, don’t just involve your ‘diversity specialist’, but ensure the overall responsibility for the process involves key decision-makers who may not have ‘diversity’ as part of there everyday responsibility
  • Visible Senior Management involvement – this point cannot be over-emphasized. Senior Management involvement provides the impetus and drive needed to ensure overall employee buy-in and ensures it sits in the business as a strategic agenda
  • Celebrate even the minutest of successes – don’t hesitate to do this! Disseminate successes to all employees using a variety of cost-effective communication channels, internally and externally. Herein lies the ‘reward’ factor to be celebrated by all staff, including Management, off the back of hard work done. Everyone needs a pat on the back, a smile and a ‘well-done, great work’ once in a while!
  • *Finally, ensure to mainstream as part of overall business process – this is an important point to ensure the initiative is not seen as a standalone but as a core part of the overall business agenda. This will not just ensure greater inclusivity in line with best practice thinking on effective people management but will go a long way to ensure that diversity as strategy becomes an intricate part of overall business strategy – and not just about ‘targets’ or ‘quotas’ for temporarily plugging the gaps in particular areas for which a few are ‘rewarded’ – questionably.

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