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Managing work-place diversity ... the wave of the '90s.

Managing Diversity, Valuing Diversity, Project Diversity, Thriving on Diversity-are all titles for new programs and strategies currently underway in several US corporations. These new terms are used by human resources and affirmative action professionals who are leading their companies' efforts to adopt positions where cultural diversity in the work force is valued and used as a competitive advantage.

Communicators also are finding themselves thrust in positions of helping management to convey its commitment to the new strategies. In some cases, however, communicators are actually helping develop training programs on managing diversity and facilitating employee discussions about this new approach.

Why has valuing and managing diversity become so important to top executives? According to Lewis Griggs, principal of Copeland Griggs Productions, San Francisco, Calif., the changing demographics of the US work place indicates that managing diversity is far from being a passing fad-but is rather a business issue affecting the bottom line.

America's population is changing dramatically. Ethnic and racial minority populations in the US will grow at a rate seven times faster than the population as a whole. This is because, on the average, minority populations are younger than the US population and because immigrants continue to flow into this country. By 1990, one in every four Americans will be non-white. And by the year 2000, almost one in every three Americans will be Black, Hispanic, Asian or American Indian. In fact, by the end of the next century, multicultural groups will become the new majority population in America. This has already occurred in Atlanta, Ga.; El Paso and San Antonio, Texas; Los Angeles and San Francisco, Calif. and Washington, DC.

Additionally, the work force will grow more slowly in the 90s. "The real crunch will come in the 1990s, when there will be four to five million fewer entry-level workers than in 1980," according to John Naisbitt, coauthor of "Reinventing the Corporation."

Many organizations are not waiting until the year 2000 to begin examining their ability to recruit and, more importantly, retain qualified female and minority employees. In 1987, Procter and Gamble, Allstate Insurance Company and 28 other major corporations assisted Copeland Griggs Productions in producing the Valuing Diversity" videotape series. A year in the making, the series provided US businesses with the first tool specifically designed to support managing a multicultural work force.

The series introduced Valuing Diversity" as a new concept, not merely new words for affirmative action, or equal employment opportunity. Valuing Diversity" means recognizing and appreciating that individuals are different, that diversity is an advantage if it is well managed, and that diversity is not to be simply tolerated, but encouraged, supported and nurtured.

Lewis Griggs reports that the Valuing Diversity" series has been used by more than 1,000 companies, nonprofits and educational organizations. There are plans to produce a sequel.

In organizations adopting a valuing diversity strategy, the communicator's role is critical. At the Miami Herald Publishing Company, Elizabeth "Ibby" Vores, editor of INSIDE, the employee magazine, sees her role as a catalyst. "Communication is the glue that helps everything stick," says Vores, who featured Thriving on Diversity" as the lead article in the June 1989 issue of INSIDE.

Writing that cover article was very challenging for me. Making valuing diversity clear and understandable for all employees was tough. It's such a sensitive topic to get a handle on," explains Vores. Julie Mast, Vores' boss, is deeply involved in the valuing diversity effort. She worked with a consultant to develop the curriculum for the Thriving on Diversity workshop and dedicated an entire issue of From the Masthead, a monthly management briefing newsletter, to the topic. In the issue, Mast outlined the benefits of managing diversity from a manager's perspective. She defined valuing diversity as: A monumental shift for organizations to move into thriving on their diverse work force. It's asking people to examine and change long-standing convictions, some so completely ingrained that they are unconscious."

At The Miami Herald, Thriving on Diversity Program goals are:

1. To foster a climate in which all employees understand and value the cultural, racial, religious and gender differences of others, and to enrich the work place through that understanding and in doing so make The Herald a more satisfying place to work.

2. To create a work place that reflects, at all levels, the community's diversity and which permits and supports the maximum personal development of each individual.

3. To ensure that The Herald-as a business, as a newspaper, as an institution-reflects and sustains South Florida's diversity.

At Allstate Insurance Company, headquartered in Northbrook, Ill., managing diversity is a process, not a program. According to Gloria Farrow, assistant vice president, Corporate Human Resources: "Our aim is to create a culture where you value differences."

Allstate's managing diversity strategy is driven by the company's desire to use ethnic diversity as a competitive advantage. Strategies used by Allstate to develop a managing diversity culture included conducting a survey of 9,800 employees to probe attitudes about diversity and affirmative action. Results of the questionnaire are expected to help validate the need for changing to a managing diversity approach. Allstate also purchased copies of the Copeland Griggs Valuing Diversity" video series and distributed them to the company's 40 regional centers. Leadership workshops, conducted for officer groups, focused on skills needed to manage employees with diverse cultures.

Earlier this year, Allstate employees from Spanish-speaking backgrounds formed a support group, named HOY, Hispanics Organized for You. Since May, 40-50 Hispanic associates have met monthly to share ideas, network and find out how they can build a long-term career with Allstate.

Allstate's Susan Addelson, senior communication specialist, covered HOY in TEAM magazine at the editorial board's suggestion. She searched for a Hispanic free-lance writer to do the article. "I felt the writer could give us a fresh, upbeat approach to this topic, and that she would be better able to capture the real feelings," says Addelson, who located the writer by asking a Hispanic colleague for suggestions.

At Corning Incorporated, based in Corning, N.Y., valuing diversity is tied to quality control issues.

Corning introduced its program to managers by publishing a 20-page booklet. The booklet included a message from chairman of the board James R. Houghton, which endorsed the company's recommitment to equal employment opportunity. The booklet is just one outcome of Corning's Black Progress and Women's Issues quality improvement teams' efforts to determine ways to significantly improve retention and development of black and women professionals in the company by 1991.

Coming validated the valuing diversity approach to managers by using hard facts. For example, between 1980 and 1987 an average of 15.3 percent of their professional black employees and 13.1 percent of their professional women left the company, compared to 7.8 percent of Corning's white male employees-at a turnover cost of nearly $3.5 million per year.

Lezli White, senior public relations specialist at Corning's Corporate Communications Division, sees her role as helping management relay their commitment to the Valuing Diversity Program. As one of two black communication professionals in her division, White is particularly prepared to help management understand the importance of a diverse employee work force.

She serves on the Black Progress quality improvement team and the Valuing Diversity communication committee, which monitors, reviews and enhances all communication on valuing diversity topics by the company. "I believe, as communicators, we don't necessarily make things happen, but we help them happen in the most effective way possible," says White.

Procter & Gamble's employee magazine, Moonbeams, periodically covers the company's managing diversity strategies. The April 1988 issue featured an article in the CEO column titled "Getting The Most from Our Diversity."

John Smale, Procter & Gamble's chief executive officer, fully endorsed the company's need to manage a diverse work place: "We need the breadth of experience and richness of ideas that come with diversity."

In that sense, diversity at Procter and Gamble is not an option. "It is a necessity" said Smale.

The article also cited success stories involving the process of creating a more diverse work force experienced by various components of the Procter and Gamble organization.

Procter & Gamble's Corporate Training and Development Department is prepared to help every employee learn to champion diversity. Courses offered include Managing Cultural Diversity, which deals with the challenges of moving from an affirmative action environment, where the emphasis is principally on recruiting, to the creation of a diverse work place based on the encouragement of individual development.

United Way of America, the national training and service center for more than 2,300 United Ways across the country, initiated the Project Blueprint Program in 1988. The purpose of the program is to assist local United Ways in accelerating the involvement of Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American Indians volunteer policy makers on United Way agency boards and committees.

Project Blueprint pilot programs currently are operating in 23 United Way communities. Since its beginning in 1987, the program has recruited 500 new volunteers. An integral part of the program's success is its communication program managed by Diane Landis in Alexandria, Va.

Landis writes and edits a four-page quarterly newsletter that is entirely devoted to cultural issues and activities at the 23 Project Blueprint locations. She is developing communication tips for writing about minority populations for use by her colleagues, and is working with other departments to develop materials and programs that address cultural diversity.

These standards contain guidelines such as:

* Any reference to Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American Indian in one sentence should be alphabetized so as not to offend any particular group.

* Understand and be sensitive to the cultural differences between particular subgroups such as Cuban/ Puerto Rican, Vietnamese/Japanese, etc.

* Include minority and non-minority photographs in publications.

* When developing materials, be sensitive to the subgroups within each minority population. For example, when translating materials into Spanish, recognize there are many dialects and target accordingly.

These are only a few examples of how the managing and valuing diversity concept is coming to life in the private and not-for-profit sectors. Communicators are serving critical roles in helping their organizations manage a diverse work force.

Lewis Grigg's advice to communicators is one we should all remember: You will be better at communicating to external and internal audiences if you do so with an understanding of cultural differences. Know enough to know if your message is effective.'

Mary V. Williams is manager, national corporate relations, United Way of America, Alexandria, Va. She also is a member of IABC's Multicultural Communicators Committee.

Role of the Communication Professional in Helping an Organization Develop a Managing Diversity Strategy:

Tips/guidelines from several IABC members:

1. Establish credibility for the managing diversity strategy. Use hard facts, quotes by key leaders, CEOs, etc. Take the time to check your personal perspective, cultural sensitivity. Start slowly.

2. Set communication standards for your department to use when writing about minority or multicultural publics. No matter how simple or basic, put it in writing and distribute to select persons, colleagues who have responsibility for developing written and audiovisual tools.

3. Help your organization develop general sensitivity to cultural differences. Ensure visual consideration of minorities in annual reports, alphabetize ethnic groups' titles (Asian, Black, Hispanic, Native American Indian) when used in one sentence so as not to offend a particular group.

* Make sure the organization is considering the "minority perspective" when developing programs, materials, approaches to internal and external communication tools.

* Ask the question: Have we considered the minority perspective?

* Take the pulse of the organization, do a survey, focus groups of white and non-white employees to discuss business-related topic of "Managing Diversity in the Work Place."

* Use a low-key approach-don't beat the organization over the head with the issue or topic.

* Clip and send articles on managing diversity programs and other related topics to managers and colleagues within the organization.

4. Make the idea of multicultural sensitivity and managing diversity digestible to other departments. You must speak their language! Example: Corning equates managing diversity with quality management control issues and determines attrition of Blacks and women cost $3.5 million annually.

5. Establish a minority media list. Determine if your program would be of interest to media targeted to minority publics. Subscribe to minority publications such as: Black Enterprise, Hispanic Business Magazine, Hispanic Link Newsletter, Essence. Hire minority free-lance writers to cover managing diversity activities to obtain a fresh perspective.

6. Attend events in the minority community to establish visibility for your organization and to heighten your education about various cultures. Read fiction written by multicultural authors.

7. Enlist the aid of colleagues from other departments to assist in developing managing diversity strategies. If a quality team is working on the issue, join the team. Realize that you must address the cultural perceptions of colleagues, and help create a positive environment which is non-threatening to allow discussion on racial and cultural issues.

8. Go to the human resource manager to determine if your organization is aware of the managing diversity approach. If not, send articles on other company's activities to human resource department managers.

9. Respect and acknowledge that cultural diversity is good for business ! 10. Managing diversity is a skill. To be a good manager, you must understand and address cultural issues and differences of your employees, stockholders, potential investors and coworkers.
COPYRIGHT 1990 International Association of Business Communicators
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:includes related article on organizational development guidelines
Author:Williams, Mary
Publication:Communication World
Date:Jan 1, 1990
Words:2210
Previous Article:The communication professional as change master.
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