Diversity management

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[edit] Introduction

Diversity management assumes that the diverse attributes of a company or organisation’s employees are productive and attempts to make constructive use of this diversity. A company’s employees differ in many ways, including in terms of age, gender, nationality, ethnic origin, religion, worldview, disability and sexual identity. Diversity management has the objective of ensuring equality of opportunity and exploiting staff diversity to the benefit of the employees and the company rather than simply tolerating it.

[edit] Facts

The paradigm shift in diversity management

Early diversity management approaches were based on a “deficit model”. Difference was generally interpreted as weakness. Specific measures were implemented with the aim of securing the social and economic integration of groups who had previously been excluded. While the initial aim was the integration of disadvantaged groups, including by way of positive discrimination practices such as affirmative action, there has been a paradigm shift since the 1990s. Increasingly, diversity management aims not to harmonise diversity, but to use it as a resource. The focus has moved away from equal representation of different sections of the population and towards an understanding that diversity is a qualitative aspect that can be specifically used to a company’s advantage. Diversity in a company can mean many things and can relate to both personal and behavioural factors. Personal diversity relates to characteristics such as place of origin, age or gender, while behavioural diversity concerns people’s personalities and how they react in particular situations. A variety of qualifications and experience are deliberately combined in interdisciplinary or mixed-age teams. In the context of demographic change, increasing international integration and the variety within employee and customer groups, the importance of diversity management as a way of developing and utilising diverse personnel resources is increasing. Diversity management gives companies wishing to understand and serve the diversity and needs of their customers a competitive advantage that can contribute to a company’s USP. Based on the observation that requirements for goods and services produced by companies and organisations are growing ever more diverse, diversity within the workforce can provide additional problem-solving potential. “Diversity trumps ability,” says Scott E. Page, Professor of Political Science and Economics at the University of Michigan: ten different perspectives can often be more useful than the same, highly qualified thinking multiplied by ten. Page has found that highly qualified individuals tend to constitute a homogenous group, as all have received similar educations, have similar perspectives and respond to problems by proposing similar solutions. They may be of above average ability, but only in relatively few areas. However, many problems require multidimensional solutions. Thus a heterogeneous workforce can be a success factor that creates synergies that would not be achievable with a homogenous workforce. As such, diversity management as a resource for innovation and customer focus becomes a strategic instrument that both combats discrimination and fosters productivity and innovativeness. It is the challenge of diversity management to structure diversity in such way as to leverage the benefits of a diverse corporate culture while limiting the disadvantages. The success of diversity management essentially depends on how well diversity is used in the service of the company’s goals. Diversity management is growing in importance in Germany too, as is evidenced by the express commitment by many companies to a culture of diversity. Over 870 companies across Germany have signed the “Diversity Charter”, a fundamental statement of commitment to fairness and appreciation for people in companies. By signing it, companies undertake to create a working environment that is free from prejudice and exclusion. The aim is to establish an open corporate culture based on inclusion and mutual respect. It is about recognising and including different talents in the workforce and the field of operation with the ultimate aim of providing optimal service to customers.

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