Managers catalysts for driving diversity

Too many employers still have a mountain to climb in terms of making
diversity an integral part of organisational daily life.

This week’s exclusive research  confirms that despite all the talk, guidelines and legislation,
business is still failing badly on diversity issues. HR must bear the brunt of
responsibility for this sorry state of affairs. In recent years, the profession
has had the ammunition to put forward convincing arguments and to deliver – yet
it has not progressed anywhere near as far as it should.

As always, there are pockets of excellence, but the overall picture is grim.

Company chiefs have not always engaged with the message; one can still hear
CEOs and board directors bemoaning that it’s ‘all nonsense’, or that they
‘can’t see the value to the business’.

The majority of line managers do not have a clue about handling diversity
issues and like to bury their heads in the sand. Most organisations are
ignorant about their state of preparedness – even to the point of not knowing
how diverse their own staff profile really is. How can you deliver effectively
if you don’t have any clarity or overview on the current composition of your

In less than seven years, diverse workforces will be the norm. By 2010, only
20 per cent of the UK’s working population will be white, able bodied and under
40. By then, it will be dangerous and almost untenable for firms to employ line
managers without the relevant skills to manage this dynamic asset.

Line managers are undoubtedly the catalysts for change. Getting them engaged
in mainstreaming diversity, and changing behaviour and attitudes, requires
serious commitment all round. Diversity policies and practices must be built
into the business plan, and embedded in performance management systems and
recruitment and retention.

If you want diversity to be taken seriously in your business, you must be
able to assess its value to the bottom line. This will make it easier to
justify your strategy to senior management, and move it into the realms of a
business imperative.

Our research with law firm DLA serves as a useful wake-up call for HR to
kickstart a more urgent approach to diversity. Dodging the issue is no longer
an option.

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