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The challenge of managing diversity in the workplace: corporate America is responding to the changing demographics of the work force with a variety of diversity management programs.

America's work force is changing -and changing rapidly. By the year 2000, it's expected that only one in seven new employees will be a white male. And as more minorities and women join the work force and the population ages, it will be the companies that manage diversity well who will come out ahead in tomorrow's highly competitive environment.

The old way was to assimilate diversity - to expect people to hide or adapt their cultural differences so they fitted the mold of the company's dominant culture. The new way is to treat diversity as an asset that brings a broad range of viewpoints and problem-solving skills to the company. Good diversity management frees employees of the need to assimilate and play it safe, and encourages them to develop their strengths and present innovative ideas.

Diversity management is very much a long-term process. It means taking a long look at the company's current culture and changing those parts of it that limit cultural diversity. It means recruiting new employees for the skills they can bring to the company rather than their cultural homogeneity. And it means working with people in management to help them understand that cultural diversity is a business issue and that their own careers will benefit from enabling their employees to reach their full potential.

Changes like these have to come from very high in the organization. "You have to reach the people who normally never get touched when these interventions take place," says Ben Harrison, of Ben Harrison Associates Inc. in Oakland. Ironically, it's the members of the "white male club" he says, who are most important in managing workplace diversity. "The changes in the demographics are not yet power shifts. White males still control the resources, and they are probably the most misinformed group, and also the group that carries the most fear. The reports refer to them as the |new minority,' something they've never been before. And the reason they fear things is that no one has explained to them the importance of their involvement."

Elsie Y. Cross, of Elsie Y. Cross Associates Inc., agrees. "Twenty years ago, discrimination was the norm," she says. "And it's still built into the fiber of most companies. Changes have to start with the CEO. He (and it's always a |he') has to understand that this is a business issue. If he invested in new machinery, he would expect to spend time and money teaching people how to use it. Well, he's now dealing with a heterogeneous work force instead of a homogeneous one, and people need to be taught to work with it."

How do you reach CEOs with the diversity message? "By talking about the business bottom line," says Harrison. "If the demographic reports tell us we are going to be faced with an abundance of less educated employees, then as the CEO, I want to be sure that I'm going to get the most talented people to come and work for my company. I have to position my organization to become an employer of choice. The reason they want to come to work here is that we value human resource differences, we manage diversity, we take care of the quality of work life for our employees."

This won't happen overnight; it can be done, however, and it can be done well. Towers Perrin conducted surveys of 200 organizations in March 1990 and October 1991, producing a report titled Workforce 2000 Today: A Bottom-Line Concern. According to this report, 54% of respondents (senior human resource managers) said that management support for work force-related programs had increased over the last two years - recession and economic woes notwithstanding. Two factors were the leading contributors: 95% attributed the increased support to greater senior management awareness, and 89% acknowledged the need to attract and retain a skilled work force.

Workforce 2000 Today also showed that many companies are finally waking up to the need for change. By 1991, when the second survey was taken, issues of cultural diversity and women in the work force were becoming increasingly important in decision-making and strategic planning - especially strategic planning. Sixty percent said management viewed diversity as an asset, not as a problem.

The surveys have revealed some demographic changes that are reshaping the work force and marketplace in this country. They include:

* An increase in the number of minorities and immigrants in the labor pool.

* A surge in the number of women in the work force.

* A shift in values, with more workers putting loyalty to career ahead of loyalty to company, and seeking more balance between work and home life.

* Illiteracy on the rise at a time when many jobs require a more skilled work force.

* An aging population overall, with more senior citizens who no longer contribute to the economy because they are encouraged to retire while they are still active and healthy.

Ben Harrison questions the reliability of the 60% who said management viewed diversity as an asset. "In my work, most managers haven't even a clue as to what diversity means," he says, "let alone to say whether it's a liability or an asset. When they hear |workplace diversity,' most people believe you're talking about equal employment opportunity and affirmative action. But the management of diversity - and the focus here is on management - is just that. It's about operations and procedures, and policies. You are managing the diverse needs of your employees, not their cultural differences. Diverse, yet very common needs, such as child care, flextime, working at home, leave to take care of elderly parents, paternity leave as well as maternity leave. Those needs are in the workplace, and it has nothing to do with a person's cultural difference."

Managing Diversity Has


Many organizations are recognizing that their work force needs to change as their customers change. A company with a growing Hispanic customer base, for example, will have an competitive advantage if its sales representatives speak Spanish.

In many companies, the process of managing diversity has already begun. The Workforce 2000 survey indicates that 44% of respondents already have programs in place to deal with cultural diversity. In addition, 39% have plans for future programs. Over the past two years, diversity training programs, existing or planned, have increased from 47% to 73% - an impressive rise.

According to R. Roosevelt Thomas Jr., Ph.D., in his book Beyond Race And Gender (AMACOM, American Management Association, New York, 1991, $22.95), companies that start the process now (or have already started) will reap an overwhelming competitive advantage in years to come. Those that lag will suffer as the marketplace and the labor force becomes increasingly more diverse. "If we don't begin to ... unleash the power that all the various groups in our national work force have to offer," Thomas says, "we will compromise all our institutions - business, academic, religious, governmental and civic."

Thomas sees the corporation's culture as the "roots" of the organizational tree, invisible yet controlling the tree's development and sustenance. He summarizes the process of managing cultural diversity this way:

* Examining an organization's corporate culture.

* Identifying those elements of the culture that are fundamental, the "roots" from which corporate behaviors spring.

* Determining whether the roots support or hinder the goals of managing diversity.

* Changing the cultural roots that are hindrances.

Many companies have begun to seriously address the diversity issue. Miller Brewing Co., for instance, is committed to diversity recruitment. The company has established a work force diversity department and gives extensive internal training relating to diversity.

Reebok International Ltd. has established several programs to increase opportunities for minority-owned businesses. Through its Minority Business Enterprise Purchasing Program, for example, Reebok has targeted $20 million over the next two years for the purchase of goods and services from minority-owned firms.

Diversity recruiting is a vital aspect of JP Morgan's recruiting process. The company recently developed an in-house diversity summer intern program to identify college and graduate students to join the firm for one or more summers.

At Ryder System, encouraging diversity is more than the right thing to do. Last year, Ryder Commercial Leasing & Services exceeded its goals to hire minorities and women. The company has also intensified its efforts to attract minority vendors and to partner with minority firms.

AT&T believes that the only way to stay on top is by creating a richly diverse family of AT&T employees. The company supports a wide-raging diversity curriculum and strong recruitment efforts. A "process management team," composed of key leaders and representatives from employee resource groups, works together to ensure continuing progress.

IBM's long-standing commitment to diversity dates back to the 1930s. Significant affirmative action programs began in the 1960s. As the concept of diversity continued to evolve, the company developed a diversity training module for managers, "Realizing the Diversity Advantage."

But managing diversity goes far beyond training. Baxter Healthcare Corporation, for example, has a five-phase process that begins with an initial assessment of the impact of diversity issues on a division or operating unit. The later phases include an organizational needs assessment, formulation of a mission statement and leadership strategy, training and follow-up. "It's not a project; it's a process," says Will Lucas, Baxter's vice president of diversity management. "It's a journey all successful companies must take to maintain their competitive advantage regardless of the product produced or the service rendered. This is an investment in human capital, the most valuable resource in any organization."

Analyze Existing Culture

The first step in managing diversity is to take a long hard look at the existing corporate culture. "Top management has to recognize that certain attitudes are built into the norms of the company's culture," says Cross. "Once they are made aware of those norms, they can be energized to change them."

Thomas' book includes a culture audit - a series of confidential questions that can be asked in an interview format or in writing. It asks about "unwritten rules" in the company, mentors, formal and informal feedback on job performance, and solicits ideas on how to help various groups of employees do their jobs better and advance in the organization.

An analysis of the results of such an audit reveals the "roots" of the corporate culture. Senior managers can help here. Once they have been educated about the process of managing corporate culture, they can identify the root changes they want to make. The more specific, the better.

Morgan Stanley Co. Inc. has established a permanent company-wide diversity task force, as well as separate task forces within each major division. The company has successfully redesigned its overall recruiting strategy, implemented programs to recognize cooperative firm-wide behavior, developed initiatives for diversity and sensitivity awareness, and created human resource development programs for managers. Their stated goal is to recruit and retain the most diversified group of professionals, while maintaining the firm's high standards of excellence, in order to continue to provide the best advice and service to its clients.

Companies often prefer to have a consultant take charge of the process of auditing and identifying needed changes. Diversity Consultants, a Towers Perrin company, promises to analyze your organization's systems, practices and culture, and demonstrate the impact each will have on establishing and managing a diverse work force.

Can companies do it themselves? Ben Harrison advises not. "These are emotional issues," he says, "and when emotions are involved, I always suggest that you use an external facilitator. Companies often turn to firms like Harrison's or J. Howard and Associates in Lexington, Mass., to conduct managing development and diversity seminars for directors and senior officers. Because many businesses have targeted their marketing efforts to attract African-, Latin- and Asian-American consumers, companies view these efforts to manage diversity as a real business imperative, rather than as programs to be implemented simply because it is the "right thing to do."

Growing The New Roots

Once the organization has decided on a new set of roots, how does management, to use Thomas' word, "grow" them? He has some recommendations:

* Recruit new root guards. There will be "old root guards" already, managers determined to defend the status quo. New roots need protection and nurturing.

* Create supportive traditions and ceremonies. Do the existing ones fit in with the changes?

* Create appropriate heroes and heroines. Celebrate the managers who empower their employees rather than the "doers."

* Influence communications networks. That includes formal reports and memos and, just as important, the informal "grapevine."

* Reward change agents. They are the people who support and implement the change; their long-term achievements don't show up quickly, so they need a special reward system.

Elsie Cross believes in training that starts from the top. "The most important thing is the buy-in and commitment of the CEO," she says, "followed by the management team.

Adds Cross: "We create a |learning organization,' starting with the CEO. We hold workshops for the management team, to train them to be internal facilitators for the company. We aim for the removal of barriers for people of color and women, at all levels - individually, by group, and at the organizational level. It's a complex process, and it takes time."

Philip Morris Cos. Inc. has a "mission statement" for its diversity management vision that describes the ideal situation, one where "employees are uncomfortable with, and question homogeneity," where each employee understands how his/her behavior influences the culture, environment and performance of co-workers, where communication is open and routine, and "a fully utilized, high-performing, diverse work force drives business results."

The company also provides employees with an elaborate brochure (elaborate equals "expensive to produce," equals "important subject" in employees' minds) detailing the company's commitment to diversity, both within the organization and in the community. And an annual "diversity award" is presented to one of the company's units for "outstanding performance in achieving and managing work force diversity and affirmative action initiatives." The award recognizes a wide range of measurable criteria, from representation of women and minorities and turnover statistics, to training and development and minority vending.

MCI Telecommunications Corp. is also committed to diversifying its vendor pool. Under coordinator Vernestine Davis, MCI's Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise program has awarded more than $85 million in business to MWBEs.

NYNEX Corp.'s Minority Business Enterprise Program offers a sales training seminar designed for MBE suppliers, an MBE awareness seminar for NYNEX buyers, and on-premise business consulting for MBE suppliers.

Communication, both upward and downward, is one of the most important aspects of successful change. The Marriott Corp. - with 40.2% of its managers women and 14.3% minority - emphasizes in its Guarantee Of Fair Treatment statement that "No member of management is too busy to hear problems or complaints of any employee." Employees who prefer to discuss a problem with a human resources manager are told, "Always feel free to do so."

Baxter Healthcare publishes FACETS, a quarterly newsletter about diversity in the workplace. And the subject is frequently discussed in the company's bi-monthly magazine as well.

Working With Affirmative Action

What if the company already has an active affirmative action program?

Affirmative action, says Thomas, was never intended to be a permanent tool. Very often, after an affirmative action program has been in place for several years, it is thought to have done its job - corrected the imbalance in the organization - and is removed. Often, even minorities and women in the organization want it removed because they feel stigmatized by it, and white males feel disadvantaged by it.

One step has been to complement affirmative action programs with valuing differences" programs, designed to foster awareness and acceptance of cultural differences. They take the approach that lack of understanding, rather than racism or sexism, is the challenge.

The U.S. Postal Service has established a Diversity Development department to help further the goals of its affirmative action and equal employment opportunity mission. This department provides employees with concepts, methods, techniques and guidance to ensure that diversity is valued and successfully managed in the Postal Service.

While useful, "valuing differences" programs still fall into the Band-Aid category - correcting the situation rather than asking why the system doesn't work in the first place. How do you know whether a program fits into "valuing differences" or "managing diversity"? One test is, does it include white males? The goal of managing diversity is to enhance the performance of all employees.

At Avon Corp., the thrust is to do just that: create a culture that provides opportunity for all employees to reach their full potential in pursuit of corporate objectives.

Philip Morris' employee brochure Diversity: In Recognition Of The Individual explains the difference between valuing diversity and managing diversity this way: "Valuing diversity in people means recognizing, accepting and supporting their differences. And managing diversity properly means creating an environment that takes advantage of the different attributes of everyone - for both the good of the company and the individual.

"Our diversity programs go beyond equal opportunity and affirmative action. Equal opportunity refers to an effort to ensure equal access to any position in a company solely on the basis of merit. Through affirmative action, we try to create a qualified, diverse work force that appropriately reflects the demographics of our communities.

"We remain committed to equal employment and affirmative action programs. However, these programs help achieve only one of our business objectives - creating a diverse work force.

"At Philip Morris, we expect more than a diverse work force. We want that work force to prosper."

In his book, Thomas recommends continuing existing affirmative action and valuing differences programs if they are successful. While the goal is to eliminate the need for affirmative action programs, he says, managing diversity takes time.

Diversity is an issue of global strategic importance to SmithKline Beecham. Diversity teams, functioning in several of the company's business sectors, have developed cultural mentoring and upward mobility mentoring programs, as well as internships for college students. Training and awareness programs on diversity issues are offered to company employees and management.

"Work force diversity is already a reality in American business," says Shirley Harrison, director, diversity management for Philip Morris. "Neither denial nor criticism will make it go away. The tensions created by a lack of communication, insensitivity, bias and racism do not create a productive work environment. The only real decision for corporate leaders is which diversity management strategy will achieve the desired results."
COPYRIGHT 1993 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Special Advertising Section
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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