Monday, June 16, 2014

Values-Based Diversity - The Competitive Advantage

We all know what diversity in the workplace is, right? It’s inclusion of those whose race, creed, color, sexual orientation, religion, etc. are different from the homogenous norm. Hold on! It’s not quite that simple anymore, thanks to a recent study by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), which finds that diversity is shifting to include values.
Diversity in the workplace used to be tricky enough to manage when it only included gender, race and ethnicity. It’s becoming even more difficult as the definition changes. Susan Galer of SAP, notes in her article, "Workplace Diversity Has a New Meaning that diversity now includes values such as work ethic, communication style and motivational drivers. Ideally, managers want their diverse employees to fit in and be part of the team, accepting the organization’s culture and norms, but without losing their individuality. Do you see the paradox? However, if you can manage this effectively, you gain the competitive advantage.

The Challenges

Over 200 HR executives worldwide were surveyed for the EIU report, "Value-based diversity: The challenges and strengths of many”. The survey discovered three main characteristics that are going to require the biggest change in HR strategies over the next three years:
  • Almost 60% of HR executives cite employees’ lack of interest in assimilating organizational values.
  • Over 50% point to conflicting values across a multigenerational workforce.
  • Forty-seven percent called out unrealistic expectations of millennial employees.

The Solutions

It’s leadership’s job to figure out what’s motivating these employees and what their expectations are. It’s not enough, anymore, to just pay them well and many executives don’t understand that. Tamara Erickson, a workforce researcher and author, says millenials are more likely to want to earn enough to support their lifestyle but not necessarily more. This doesn’t mean they’re not motivated; it just means different drivers than the ones that motivate the executives inspire them.

Moreover, if this isn’t daunting enough, the challenges faced by companies vary depending on their geographic region. A company with international locations may face language and generational challenges in Asia-Pacific, but gender issues in the Middle East. The African branch may be facing challenges of education, while the European headquarters may see diversity as a social initiative.

The Benefits

Getting strategies in place to effectively manage diversity in the workplace will result in a multitude of benefits, primary amongst them are diversifying the client base and target markets, having access to an enriched talent pool and a competitive advantage in labor markets.

It’s time for workplace leadership to recognize that it’s not enough to provide employees with a standard workplace environment with standard hours and standard benefits and require they force their round peg into the square hole or take a walk. This is a new generation, with new expectations and new motivations. Wake up and smell the diversity, folks. It’s time for you to get on board the flexibility train or watch your company derail as best talent goes somewhere that will allow their round peg to fit in a round hole.


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