, 1999). Generally speaking, the results of this study showed that increased levels of diversity within the top leadership team had a negative impact on their ability to reach strategic consensus because of both direct and indirect effects (Knight et al., 1999).
These findings are not that surprising, of course, given that it is intuitive that as diversity within a top leadership team increases, so too will the range of views that will be brought to the management table for consideration. Despite these constraints to consensus building, there are some highly desirable outcomes that can be achieved using the strategic diversity management approach that make it worthy of consideration by organizations that are "stuck in a diversity rut."
Strategic diversity management can improve organizational effectiveness by facilitating communication between superiors, peers and subordinates. Although many organizations have recognized the importance and value of a diversified workforce, some have failed to realize the benefits that can be achieved through a strategic alignment between these initiatives and the larger organizational goals they are designed to support. For instance, according to Thomas (2006), "Strategic diversity management can serve as the framework bridge that organizations, leaders, and rank-and-file employees can use to reach the next level of diversity management. Strategic diversity management possesses or fosters the attributes that companies and their diversity leaders need if they are to become unstuck" (p. 82). In order to move beyond their current diversity framework, organizations must adopt a new reference frame that includes the concepts set forth in Table 1 below.
Conditions organizations must adopt to achieve full benefits from strategic diversity management
Individuals and corporations must learn to use at least two perspectives (this would presumably include empathetic responses to diversity critics and the diversity tension that can restrict implementation and administration).
An alternative decision-making framework
Organizations use these multiple perspectives to develop a refined decision-making framework.
Capability vs. solution
The alternative framework should help leaders formulate informed decisions based on the current environment rather than delivering "boilerplate" solutions.
Accommodation of diversity tension
Diversity champions will require decision making frameworks that accommodate the reality of diversity tension. Both organizations and individuals will have to remain effective for the duration of such tension states.
This level of diversity management will acknowledge that while sexism, racism, and other forms of discrimination can adversely affect decision making, there are also factors involved that may account for such poor decisions including the complexity of the issues that are involved as well as cognitive limitations.
Individuals (e.g., rank-and-file employees, managers, executives as well as diversity leaders) must all "own" the need for a diversified workplace as well as the larger society in which the organization competes.
These are needed to help establish benchmarks and assess the effectiveness of diversity management initiatives.
Source: Adapted from Thomas, 2006, p. 82
There are some other ways in which strategic diversity management can help improve organizational effectiveness as well. For example, the consultants at the Society for Human Resource Management report that, "A diverse workforce and an inclusive climate can, if managed well, help the organization to work better" (Leveraging employee diversity, 2011, para. 2). Notwithstanding the constraints to consensus building among an organization's top leadership team caused by increased diversity noted above, these consultants also cite other ways in which a strategic diversity management approach can help improve organizational effectiveness. In this regard, the Society for Human Resource Management adds that, "Diverse and inclusive workplaces have the potential to be more innovative, have more access to talent, and be better able to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse customer base. Organizations that can leverage employee diversity are not only better places to work, but places that work better" (Leveraging employee diversity, 2011, para. 3).
Translating diversity into revenues can represent a major selling point for diversity champions of course, and even the most recalcitrant Old School leadership team may be convinced that it is in their best interests to diversify their workforce if these points can be made sufficiently clear to them. According to the consultants at the Society for Human Resource Management, it is possible to leverage diversity in a number of ways that can contribute to organizational performance, including the following:
1. Ensuring that sales and marketing teams are diverse will increase the likelihood that performance and products will meet the needs of a diverse customer base.
2. Creating research teams with an eye on diversity of background and discipline can result in processes and solutions that are more innovative and cutting-edge.
3. Increasing the diversity of your recruiting teams will enable your organization to attract the best and brightest applicants of all backgrounds and identities (Leveraging employee diversity, 2011, para. 4).
Finally, in order to achieve these desirable outcomes, organizations must ensure that they have certain key elements in place beyond the concepts set forth in Table 1 above, including those set forth in Table 2 below:
Key elements to building a strategic diversity management program
Strong Business Case
A diversity plan that is successful must be relevant to the organization's mission, vision and business objectives.
Commitment from the Top
When building a strategic diversity plan, commitment from the top means that those who will eventually implement the plan have the backing, support and active involvement of the organization's leadership, including the CEO, board of directors, executive team, etc.
Vision, Mission and Strategy
An organization's vision, mission and strategy are essentially the "where, what and how" of your Strategic Diversity Management Plan.
Recruitment and Sourcing
Diversity recruitment means companies recruit individuals with a collective mixture of differences and similarities that include individual characteristics, values and beliefs, experiences and backgrounds.
Retention is the rate at which current employees of your organization are staying in their jobs. Retention is the opposite of "turnover." Therefore, if turnover is low, then retention is high.
Training and Development
Training and development includes all activities that are designed and implemented to support an employee's knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs, or "competencies").
Leveraging Employee Diversity
Any Strategic Diversity Management Plan has as an end state a workplace that is more diverse and more inclusive than the workplace that currently exists.
Measurement and Accountability
When businesses move in any new direction, they expect to know if their efforts have achieved the desired results, and if not, who will be responsible for a correcting the methodology so that those desired results can be achieved.
Source: Creating a Strategic Diversity Management Plan, 2011
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