HR managers were last week given a wake-up call about the progress they are
making on changing behaviours and attitudes towards diversity.
Jon Whiteley, head of diversity for occupational psychologists Pearn Kandola,
told 90 HR managers and diversity specialists attending the conference that
they were "too blasé" about the impact they make on business.
He said the profession had talked about and acted on diversity strategies
for several years, yet in reality, it had not made a difference.
"Business leaders are saying: is there any change actually taking place
down the line? Line managers are saying: ‘I want to do it but help me’.
Organisations are getting frustrated because the commitment and investment has
not led to progress," he said.
Whiteley believes HR is good at getting business leaders to authorise and
sponsor their diversity initiatives, but poor at getting line managers to
reinforce, own it and acquire the right skills.
"Line managers are the catalysts for change. That’s how we get
diversity into the wiring and plumbing of an organisation," he said.
"If we reinforce diversity behaviour at every level, it stands a one in
two chance of success."
Too many organisations were "chucking diversity training" at the
problem instead of embedding diversity policies and practice into business
plans and performance management.
Delegates heard from Satya Kartara, the Royal Mail’s new director of
diversity, who is working hard to mainstream diversity as an integral part of
organisational daily life.
The plan has top-level support from its CEO Adam Crozier and chairman Allan
Leighton, but has a mountain to climb in changing behaviour.
Kartara’s team hopes to transform the culture at the beleaguered Royal Mail
within two years by using an aggressive approach to tackling widespread
bullying and harassment. Effort is being concentrated on developing skilled
managers, challenging troublemakers, intro-ducing new procedures and
partnership with unions.
Confidential helplines, independent investigators, diversity champions and
heavy monitoring are all part of the campaign.
By Jane King
Feedback from the profession
Jon Whitely, head of diversity, Pearn
Kandola and former equality manager, Lloyds/TSB
"Being in equality/diversity is a very lonely job. I call
it a Billy-No-Mates job because nobody wants to talk to you unless there’s a
problem. "I wonder if
we [diversity managers] are not a bit selfish at times. We’ve got powerful data
but are not convincing others to tap into it. We could be more open with the
stuff we know and could share that information."
David Benwell, corporate diversity
associate, BAE Systems
"Being at board level is not always an attractive place to
be. Many women are not interested in getting there."
Binna Kandola, managing partner,
"Managing diversity effectively makes you a better
Satya Kartara, director of
diversity, Royal Mail
"Diversity is about leadership. To provide leadership, you
need to give a sense of direction, give a sense of what the future vision will
look, feel and sound like."