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Companies deal with diversity in four ways
March 30, 2004
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Boston, Mass. —  Companies tend to deal with workforce diversity issues in four different ways, according to Boston consultants Novations/J. Howard & Associates. Ten years of client and prospect files were reviewed by the firm and categorized based on management’s approach to diversity issues.

The four most common ways companies manage diversity are:

  • Complacent Denial - Senior management maintains diversity/inclusion isn’t a problem for the organization. While overall demographics suggest a diverse workforce, management levels are homogenous. Nonetheless, employees seem content. The company complies with the legal requirements, nothing more. There may need to be a lawsuit or EEOC complaint before managing inclusion captures the attention of top management.
  • Clever Obstruction - A small but significant percentage of companies focuses on heading off discrimination lawsuits rather than dealing with diversity or inclusion in a meaningful way. Such companies may have a platform of diversity, but their interest is purely risk aversion.
  • Ineffectual Efforts – Many companies want to achieve genuine inclusion, but place too much emphasis on ceremonial remedies and activities. They seem unable to build an effective program that can be operationalized throughout the organization.
  • Strategic Leadership – Companies recognize the importance of inclusion as a strategic business issue, are committed to eliminating negative treatment and build processes that enhance the potential of a broad range of talent. In addition, senior management plays a significant role in setting standards and insuring they are implemented.

“The encouraging news is that more companies sincerely seek to promote diversity and inclusion as a strategic part of their business and management practices,” says Novations/J. Howard President and CEO Mike Hyter.

“But it’s still a shock to encounter the cynicism of some senior executive that just want the issue to go away, or think that throwing a training program at the issue will provide a basis for them to say the company did something this year about diversity.”

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