Thinking about Transparency, the image that immediately comes to mind is that of a window pane; clean, clear and visible. Everyone ought to able to see through it. This is its natural characteristic or quality. And to ensure the window performs its ‘duty’, we are self-tasked to keep it clean, giving it the regular wipe with the ‘soap and sponge’.
In the workplace and society, this is no different. It is no different because as human beings, there is something about the clarity, cleanliness and see-through character of the window pane that we expect professionally and socially, and indeed, are self-challenged to role-model in our day-to-day relations with each other.
Take the issue of financial reward and equal pay, for example, an issue that has now been brought to the forefront of all best practice organisations globally. It is approximately four decades since Equal Pay became a recognised issue across the globe, yet men still earn more than women in nearly 90% of job categories in the UK specifically – according to analysis carried out by the Guardian. This is replicated across other world economies. Indeed in the UK, men take home higher pay than women in 370 of the UK’s 426 job classifications. Furthermore, in Australia, there have been recent questions with regard the absence of women in the decision-making process in issues to do with Defence, an issue linked directly to pay inequality, amongst other things. Continue reading
We do have to provide a response to this:
I am not really overly concerned, as difficult as this may sound, on whether John Terry did in fact say what he is allegedly accused of saying to Anton Ferdinand – the courts will decide that. Nor am I too worried about the immature behaviour Luis Suarez displayed on Saturday’s match between Manchester United and Liverpool when he choose wilfully not to shake the hands of Patrice Evra post his 8 match ban due to accusations of racist language – the Liverpool establishment will no doubt deal with that.
What I am really concerned about is the fact that in a sport where there have been, literally, heaps of talented Black British players going well back over 4 decades, and for a sport that has such a prolific fan base from across a very wide demographic range, that the fact that there apparently remains no ‘qualified’ Black managers, at all, in the either the Premiership or the Championship is only symptomatic of the lip service the FA, in my view, appears to be paying to the real issues above. Continue reading
David Cameron stepped into the issue of Executive Pay last week on the Andrew Marr Show, and the topic has once again graced the media airwaves. Frustrated at what he called ‘excessive executive salaries’, Cameron argued that his concerns were not so much that Directors within the FTSE 100 earned what they did, but that they earned what they did despite clear corporate market failure. Here are some statistics: between 2008 and the end of 2011, a period of deep economic downturn, figures suggest that whilst pay for the average worker either fell sharply or at best flat-lined, that of Board Directors almost doubled, going up by 49%. Indeed, further evidence suggests that pay rises were born more out of the somewhat accepted state of affairs whereby fellow Board Directors simply rubber-stamped each others inflated s alaries or what is termed ‘Merry-go-round capitalism’ based on a cronyism of ‘old boys’ networks. Of course, this is all to be understood within the backdrop of the fact that executive pay in the UK over the last 20 years has gone up 8 times, the highest in the world, even more than America
The intention here, however, is not actually to directly castigate the practices described above – am sure this has been done several times over. Rather, I actually want to highlight the implications of such practices showing how they negatively impact the very fabric of business ethics. David Cameron used two very interesting words in this regard which rang true to me: ‘Transparency’ and ‘Fairness’. I add a third, ‘Inclusivity’. Continue reading
“Building an inclusive organisation is not just about the balanced scorecard data we track to measure progress…it is as much about our attitude and behaviours and having a sense of empathy for different experiences.” – Gwen Houston, Global Diversity and Inclusion Manager, Microsoft
This question is often asked alongside the following questions: “What is the business case for diversity”? “How does it directly impact the bottom-line?” The business case for diversity has now been well established and there is so much evidence out there in terms of case studies, research papers, and published data on organisational metrics, so much so that when I am confronted with this question, an alternative question instinctively pops up in my mind which itself questions the very presuppositions of the question being asked: “Where is the ‘will’ or ‘readiness’ in your organisation to get the run started?”, I hear the voice in my head ask.
By ‘organisational will’ or ‘readiness’, I refer to the desire of an organisation to actually want to maximise the best of ‘people differences’ as part of a talent strategy linked to key business outcomes. This baseline understanding only arises out of an internalised appreciation of the ‘business case’ viewed from a broader context of creating a competitive advantage. It suggests a mental shift from seeing diversity as a ‘positive action’ and/or equality driven initiative aimed primarily at balancing workforce databases, to be actually about organisational performance driven directly by the effective and inclusive management of people.
Effective people management cuts across all organisational levels. Understanding how diversity can be measured therefore, must first and foremost begin with understanding the ‘complexity’ of ‘what’ is to be measured?? Measuring diversity is not simply about taking a look at observable ‘workforce representation’ datasets – that is a pretty basic measurement. It is rather, as Ed Hubbard, an OD Consultant suggests, about developing strategic tools for effectively measuring the following 4 key inter-connected layers – in tandem: Continue reading
“Culture to an organisation is what personality is to an individual”
Organisational culture can appear to be one of those ‘fluffy’ terms we hear spoken about in the workplace, but which tends not be given as much ‘air time’ as ‘Business Development’, ‘Sales’, and ‘Financial Planning’, etc. I often hear business professionals say, ” I really need to focus on the ‘bread and butter’ at the moment, all that other ‘culture stuff’ frankly can wait”
A bit like a dog, dizzied by running around in circles chasing its tail, we can at times tend to ignore that which really matters and which has long term consequences, in favour of chasing the immediate and short-lived. Organisational culture is like the rails upon which a train runs. Though ensuring the comfort of passengers is of immediate importance, of even greater importance is the regular maintenance of the rails to ensure the safe and continuous running of the train. Indeed, where there exists a slight relaxing in the focus on the safety of the rails themselves, the consequences can be catastrophic for passengers – as we already know from unfortunate experiences.
These are economically challenging times: Europe is in a deep financial crisis – and the impact on organisations in the UK particularly, in terms of redundancies and reduced staff investment, is widely acknowledged. It is of course a natural human reaction of leadership to consistently focus, sometimes unknowingly, on the ‘hard’ bottom-line organisational functions which directly influence how the Profit and Loss Corporate balance sheet ‘looks and feels‘. But “what about the people”, I ask?? It is equally important to remember during these times that just like the train that needs a safe track to run on, so too do organisations totally depend on their people to ensure they emerge from through these challenging times – unscathed. Continue reading
I am attending a roundtable discussion tomorrow on ‘maximising the potential of women in organisations’. It will be attended by stakeholders from within the FTSE 100 and other organisations in the public and voluntary sectors – and for me, is symptomatic of the progress being made by businesses to deal with the gender gap at Board and management levels in UK based organisations.
Indeed, such discussions are not only happening here in the UK. It was only a couple of days ago, a colleague and good friend forwarded me a link to an article which reported on the bold steps the New Zealand Stock Exchange had taken to begin addressing the gender balance through ensuring that publicly listed companies mandatorily reported on gender by 2012, putting in place development programs as well as a range of other initiatives, etc
Now, I am very much in favour of the practical steps and initiatives being taken by governments, international organisations, and senior stakeholders on this important agenda. Indeed, I have designed programs aimed at promoting greater gender diversity myself. But I do, nonetheless, have a niggling question, which some of my readers may also have, and which we have to ask: What about the other equality ‘strands’ or ‘protected characteristics? – those living with disabilities, those from a range of ethnic minority communities, those with a ‘different’ sexual orientation, the socially and economically disadvantaged, the ‘younger’ and ‘older’ talent who find workplace mobility difficult to positively navigate, etc. What’s happening to them? What initiatives are being put in place for them? Is there even the slightest possibility that they feel left out of the ‘inclusivity’ picture here?
Whilst at University, I spent a lot of time studying feminist philosophical and theological arguments Continue reading
In the papers this week, it has been reported that the US Federal Housing Finance Agency has put the process in place to sue 17 banks over the subprime mortgage crisis – a key element which arguably lead to the global recession, a term we are all now very acquainted with. It made me think about the topic above linked to our recent themed discussions on the connection between diversity and business strategy. We all have our opinions and theories on what actually lead to the global economic crisis, but I think there is something more endemic that ought to be pointed out…
Let’s re-look at the Toyota case discussed in our last posting: On the 11th of February, 2010, the Economist in an article entitled: ‘Toyota – Accelerating into trouble’, reported the woes of Toyota showing the failure of the Japanese Board to spot a mechanical fault with the new Toyota Prius’ run-away acceleration and braking system. The fault lead to customer complaints and law suits that is reported to total approximately $5 billion, with Toyota having to recall approximately 8 million vehicles world wide. The overall market value loss totalled approximately $30 billion according to recent figures. In its overall evaluation of what might have gone wrong with Toyota, the Economist highlighted a cultural issue where leadership was based on “a rigid system of seniority and hierarchy” which prevented “new ideas” to questioning “the way things worked”.
The lessons learnt from the Toyota experience, I think, can be applied to assist understand what ‘suggestively’ facilitated the global economic crisis, the aim being to discover what ‘thought leadership’ actually means within this context. Indeed, what is core to both terms, ‘thought’ and ‘leadership’, and why is it important that to get leadership right?
Looked from an organisational viewpoint, thought is about thinking – creatively, leadership – a people-centred specific skill, is about the ability to provide inspiration, vision and direction – to all staff. The two terms are inextricably linked, one necessarily leading to the other, both facilitating innovation within the workplace resulting in a competitive and profitable business. Continue reading
“Leadership works through people and culture…” – Michael McGrath, inspirational speaker, performance catalyst and change agent
Let’s take a look at a case in question in the story below to help en-flesh the quotation above:
On the 11th of February, 2010, the Economist in an article entitled: ‘Toyota – Accelerating into trouble’, reported the woes of Toyota showing the failure of the Japanese Board to spot a mechanical fault with the new Toyota Prius’ run-away acceleration and braking system. The fault lead to customer complaints and law suits that is reported to total approximately $5 billion, with Toyota having to recall approximately 8 million vehicles world wide. The overall market value loss totalled approximately $30 billion according to suggested figures. In its overall evaluation of what might have gone wrong with Toyota, the Economist highlighted a cultural issue where leadership was based on “a rigid system of seniority and hierarchy” which prevented “new ideas” from questioning “the way things worked”.
In a nutshell, what supposedly went wrong with Toyota was the fact of the existence of a culture where Toyota staff ‘on the ground’ were disconnected from their leadership, such that the over-respectability for leadership, a culture perpetuated by the leadership themselves, prevented the sharing of basic information on the goings-on ‘on the ground’ that would have gone a long way to nipping the arising problems described in the bud had their existed a culture where leadership worked in, with and through its staff. Continue reading
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
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