Is there a place for diversity professionals in the ’21st century organisation’?

As a ‘diversity professional’, some may question the reasons for engaging the chosen topic as it may appear to inadvertently question the very profession I have chosen as my area of expertise – which ultimately puts bread and butter on my table every day. Indeed, given reported cuts to the ‘diversity agenda’, diversity training programs, coupled with the fact that a good number of diversity jobs were amongst those cut off the back of restructuring programs in response to prevailing economic conditions, should this be a topic that we address at this time given clear sensitivities??

I think so. Indeed, the demise of diversity managers as explained above, itself serves as the precise reason for taking a step back to reflect on what may have gone wrong with regard the actual value organisations perceive diversity brings, which may have lead to the cutbacks in the diversity profession, and by implication, its initiatives and key services.

But before proceeding, there may be a need to address a key aspect of this question: What is the ‘21st century organisation’? What does it look like and what are its prevailing needs?

The 21st century organisation is symptomatic and characteristic of the following post-modern realities: Continue reading


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Diversity FAQ’s No 19: How is Diversity connected to Business Strategy? Part II – ‘Change and Downsizing’

Change in organisations is inevitable

Charles Handy, author, philosopher and specialist in organisational management and behaviour.

It seems pertinent that in pursing Part II of our discussions on how diversity is connected to business strategy, that we spend some time discussing the phenomena of ‘change’, a reality of business strategy, more so within the context of organisational change and downsizing – a very present reality in the UK workplace.  Indeed, the global world of business, precipitated by the fall of Lehman Brothers on September 16th, 2008, is arguably the spark that commenced the beginning of what we now understand as the global financial crisis, which played itself out before our eyes as organisations either folded or embarked on restructuring processes.

As of early 2009, organisations were still reeling from the effects: the Daily Mail reported that in the UK,100,000 people a month were made redundant, that a job was being lost every second, and that a typical organisation like MacDonald’s, for example, was receiving approximately 22,000 job applications per day. Indeed, figures from the Office for National Statistics (the ONS) showed that 302,000 people were made redundant in the three months to April 2009 – that is 36,000 more than in the previous quarter and the most since records began in 1995.

Indeed, coming closer ‘home’ – and as of the second quarter of 2011, 56% of the public sector and 29% of the private sector had made redundancies according to a recent KPMG survey, with further downsizing and restructuring predicted. Continue reading


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Diversity FAQ’s No 19: How is Diversity connected to Business Strategy? Part 1

By deliberately seeing (new) ways to more effectively reach a broader range of customers, (businesses like)…IBM have seen significant bottom-line results” – David Thomas, Professor of Business Administration, The Harvard Business School.

It may be important to begin with a clarification of terms: What actually does ‘business strategy’ mean? What are its essential components that make it ‘tick’ and remain sustainable? Indeed, how are the ‘components’ intertwined with strategic diversity, thus ensuring the continuity of the ‘ticking process’ leading to business growth and sustainability?

There are a range of suggested ‘components’ put forward by a number of business professionals, entrepreneurs and academics, all of which are arguably key to ensuring sustainability, however I feel that those suggested by Ian Heller, and which I have adapted below, are very pertinent. Heller suggests five components of business strategy – I have added a sixth: Continue reading

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Diversity FAQ’s No 18: How is Diversity connected to ‘Globalisation’?

Globalisation refers to the process of the transnational circulation of ideas, languages, or of ‘popular culture’ through acculturation (or the assimiliation and association of cultures), driven by economic unification – making the world move into the proverbial ‘global village’.

Diversity is connected to globalisation through the following 4 main 21st century realities or drivers:

  • The Phenomena of ‘World Immigration’,
  • New Technologies
  • The Internet
  • The breaking down of geo-political borders between countries

The Phenomena of ‘World Immigration’

In the 1980’s and the early 90’s, most ‘talk’ on immigration tended to focus and convey pictures in our minds of ‘refugees’, ‘asylum seekers’ and those that were ‘economically displaced’ as a result of war, etc.

This thinking has now radically changed: With globalisation now a full reality of the modern world, the migration of people from across all cultures driven by the ‘processes’ of globalisation as they interconnect with the social, political, economic and cultural dimensions of countries across the world, what I call ‘world immigration’ has naturally sprung up and gradually replaced the traditional conceptions of immigration we previously tended to have. Continue reading

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Diversity and the Idea of ‘Difference’ – Same or Different??

I was raised in a family that really loves and enjoys a good, tasty meal! I think that my experience of seeing my Mother cook, the ‘natural’ precision with which she added key ingredients to ensure taste, lead to the passion I have today for food and cooking food. I remember in my very early twenties, and whilst abroad on holiday, which was a good number of years ago (!), I was told by friends and acquaintances from other nationalities that the UK compared to other countries had a very bland and basic palate, and was only known for cooking Fish and Chips, and even that, my acquaintances suggested, we cooked badly! Not something I was happy to hear, though at the time, I must admit, there was some truth in it…

Well, I challenge those friends and acquaintances now to re-examine their thinking: In London alone, there now exists over 70 different cuisines, all serving great food as part of the British identity. In fact, a leading analyst has declared that London in particular has been undergoing a “golden age” with more restaurants launched than ever before in its history. Continue reading


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Diversity – The Absurdity of Non-Practice: A Reflection

I liken the above topic to the following story:

Two friends, Jack and Jill were on their way home from a party in the early hours of the morning. As they sat in their cab ride home Jack said to Jill, “Remind me to get some milk at ‘The 24hr Shop’ around the corner from home”. Jill replied: “We’re at least 30mins away from home, its 2am, will it be open?” Jack looked at her disbelievingly and responded: “What kind of a question is that Jill? It is called ‘The 24hr Shop’. Of course it will be open!!”

I have often wondered why many organisations remain hesitant at placing Diversity at the very heart of overall business strategy. Indeed, many organisations request a business case for diversity to further justify reasons for ‘engaging’ it as a business area. What this may point to, I suggest, is a gap in understanding. It is not business that creates diversity rather it is the very fact of diversity that creates business. Diversity is the coming together of different individuals from cross socio-cultural backgrounds and the different creative ideas they possess that leads to the development of new and fresh strategies needed to create, and keep businesses afloat so that they remain sustainable and competitive.

It is little wonder then that organizations that do not see the fundamental connection between diversity and overall business strategy commit a fundamental flaw in the logic of business strategy akin to the story above: Just as ‘The 24 hrs Shop’ implies within its title that it ought to be open for 24hrs, so too business practice ought to imply the practice of diversity as fundamental to its very existence. Indeed, a 24 hrs shop that is not in fact open for 24 hrs creates a logical absurdity in our minds regarding the choice of the name of the shop. In the same vein, I argue, businesses that do not have diversity as fundamental to business practice commit a logical absurdity in understanding business creation, development and continued sustainable operational success. Continue reading

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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? Continue reading

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Diversity FAQ’s No 16: What is the strategic importance of ‘Keeping candidates warm’ during the recruitment process?

It is clearly evident that since the economic downturn there has been a big drop in recruitment followed by a corresponding dip in industry turnover. According to recent figures taken from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), there was a drop in industry turnover to £19.7 billion from £22 billion in the year 2008/9 – a 12.4 percent decrease.

Viewed from a workplace perspective the offshoots have demonstrated themselves in a drop in both permanent, temporary and contractual placements, with the total turnover for permanent staff, for example, shrinking from £4.276 billion to just £2.609 billion. And the story is not too dissimilar from other countries around the world, including the US according to market analyses carried out by Reuters. But things are beginning to pick up. Indeed, the Coalition Government recently suggested that there have been approximately 400,000 new jobs created in the private sector.

So what is the impact of these figures for recruitment? Continue reading


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Some more interesting statistics: Did you know that??

With the forthcoming Easter celebrations (and the 11 day bank holiday kicking in this week in view of the Royal Wedding – thank you and indeed congrats Will and Kate!), I spontaneously began thinking about Religion and Belief and thought it interesting to look at the various world belief systems across board that form an essential part of who we are as ‘groups’ of people and individuals. So…

Did you know that??

  • The approximate Christian world population is 2.1 billion (about one-third of the total population of the planet)
  • The approximate Muslim world population is 1.5 billion
  • The approximate Non-religious/Agnostic/Atheistic world population is 1.1 billion
  • The approximate world population practising Sikhism is 23 million
  • The approximate Buddhist world population is 376 million
  • The approximate Hindu world population is 900 million
  • The approximate Jewish world population is 14 million
  • The approximate world population practising Neo-Paganism is 1 million
  • The approximate world population practising Rastafarianism is 600,000
  • The approximate world population practising Scientology is 500,000

Did you also know that the top 10 world’s most populated countries (taken from the US  Census Bureau, International Data Base) ranked in order are rated thus:

  1. China – with a population of 1,323,591, 583 (has 1/5 of the world’s people)
  2. India – 1.156,897,766
  3. The US – 307,212,123
  4. Indonesia – 240,271,522
  5. Brazil – 198,739,269
  6. Pakistan – 174,578,558
  7. Bangladesh – 156,050,883
  8. Nigeria – 149,229,090
  9. Russia – 140,041,247
  10. Japan – 127,078,679

What are the implications of these statistics for…?

Just some thoughts for you to think about as we celebrate Easter; a word which itself is derived from a variety of cultural and religous traditions (Paganism, Judaism and Christianity), and which as a consequence doesn’t just symbolise the Christian celebration of the death and life of the historical man called Jesus, but which from a diversity viewpoint, pulls together the dynamism of the human spirit, regardless of particular religious beliefs, convictions or peoples…


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Diversity FAQ’s No 15: Should I be ‘afraid’ of recruiting and/or assessing ‘disabled’ individuals?

There may be an inherent presumption that our question appears to suggest: that ‘disabled’ individuals are a different ‘type’ of person, such that we need to manage them differently from everyone else. Indeed, the question may also appear to suggest that we ‘know’ what ‘disabled’ individuals ‘look like’.

Here are some facts from a recent study for us to initially consider for helping assist with dealing with some of these presumptions:

  • 10 million people in the UK have a disability (according to the Office for National Statistics, ONS)
  • Nearly 1 in 5 people of working age have a disability (defined as physical, mental or sensory impairments), which equates to approximately 7 million or 18.6% of the UK workforce according to a Shaw Trust report
  • Statistics suggest that 2% of the overall UK workforce (approx 29.11 million) becomes disabled every year, with 78% acquiring an impairment from the ages of 16 or older
  • 1 in 10 people have dyslexia to some degree
  • 2% of the UK population have a learning related disability
  • 20% of the UK population require online reading support

The simple point being made via the statistics above is that disability is both a visible and invisible reality, and importantly, that anyone (you, me, we) can acquire a disability at any point of our working lives – we therefore need to strategically embrace it in our organisations as a reality of our human identity. Continue reading


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