US weather firm claims diversity helps ‘save lives’

The US National Weather Service (NWS) employs more than 12,000 staff who
provide accurate predictions and warnings of potential disasters – including
destructive tornadoes.

Some NWS offices were more successful at this than others, so to identify
the factors influencing the effectiveness of each office, NWS worked with
consultancy Sirota to link staff satisfaction survey data with tornado-warning
performance.

Even allowing for variables such as geography, the number of staff present,
technology, storm force and the prevalence of storms in the region, Sirota
found that cultural factors explained 26 per cent of the differences in
effectiveness between offices. The amount of sick leave taken explained another
20 per cent of the variation. Sick leave, in turn, was strongly related to the
HR competence of the immediate supervisor.

The research showed that by improving managerial effectiveness alone, the
NWS could immediately achieve its performance goal for 2007.

Stephan Smith of the NWS said the research has made an iron-clad case for
the importance of leadership skills and managing diversity to meet the NWS
mission of delivering accurate weather forecasts and warnings.

Douglas Klein, president of Sirota, said: "Diversity is a key driver in
business outcomes. In the case of NWS, it saves lives."

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