What is diversity?
Diversity refers to differences in values, standards, attitudes, culture, gender, conviction, physical characteristics etc. in a society, a community, an organisation, a company.
Diversity refers to interpersonal differences without underestimating the importance of a common background (it is not a glorification of individualism).
What is meant by a diversity policy?
It is a policy which bears in mind the differences between individuals. After all, they contribute to the creation of a more productive and creative environment. It helps an organisation or company to select and recruit people from minority groups and to make them stay in order to benefit from their talents as much as possible to achieve the company goals.
A diversity policy is meant to trigger a structural as well as a mentality change:
So that all clients and/or employees of an organisation/company provide the same quality service and/or are served in the same way
So that an organisation/company reflects the diversity of our society
So that diversity becomes an indispensable part of the organisation’s or company’s culture
So that the management actually does something to stimulate diversity
A company’s/organisation’s diversity policy is all-embracing:
First of all, it is the policy of an organisation/company
Embracing the organisation’s or company’s product
Involving the organisation’s or company’s staff
Encompassing the organisation’s or company’s communication policy
The importance of these four factors may vary.
What is a diversity manager?
A diversity manager initiates, co-ordinates and implements an organisation’s diversity policy. The policy incites us to take initiatives in a proactive way to attract a diverse group of potential employees, to make them stay and to ensure a swift co-operation. Nowadays, organisations have broadened the definition of diversity; our target group consists of immigrants, people over 45, women (when it comes to executive positions), disabled people, young people, low-skilled workers, homosexuals, lesbians and bisexuals, ex-convicts and so on. The ultimate goal is to make diversity an integral part of an organisation’s values, vision and policy.
A diversity manager possesses a good dose of managerial, communicative and problem-solving skills and a great deal of patience. He is able to see things in perspective and has a thorough knowledge of the various minority groups he has to work with. He knows their culture as well as their expectations and is aware of their value to the company/organisation. His most important tasks are dealing with prejudice and situations of resistance, communication, group dynamics and the process of developing and implementing a diversity policy (from job@).
A diversity manager is indeed the person who analyses –initially with the manager/director– what needs to be done. What is the aim? Where do we want to go? The diversity manager is not an external expert telling you what to do. Diversity results from the people who work for the company: together they have to undergo a mentality change. The diversity manager’s job is to give hints and information when needed.
The diversity manager has to have an eye for similarities between groups, yet he may not deny the differences. We must indeed be on our guard not to bury the existing differences under an avalanche of good intentions. Working with a deaf colleague for instance is different from working with one without hearing problems. But it doesn’t say anything about his productivity or attitude. A different approach will be needed, yet the interaction will not necessarily be less pleasant.