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Leveraging Differences In The Workplace

Efforts to promote a more diverse workforce and to level the workplace playing field have had mixed results. While the practice as a whole should be a good thing, it has not necessarily had the resounding success it could, at least according to Martin N. Davidson.

In his book "The End of Diversity As We Know It," Davidson wrote that diversity initiatives by human resources officers haven't been successful because there has been too much of a focus on what he calls "managing diversity." He argued that if leaders instead "leverage differences," they can have more success because they will be using differences among their employees rather than ignoring them.

Davidson further explained his approach through four different areas that help illuminate how to leverage difference:

  • Representation. Managing diversity tactics are geared toward increasing the numbers of people who are different e.g., race, gender, age). In a leveraging difference frame, the kinds of difference vary, and strategically driven changes last longer.
  • Organizational change. In managing diversity, change is focused on talent management. On leveraging difference, provides a connection between strategy and diversity.
  • Resistance to change. Managing diversity can help one group while alienating others. Leveraging difference involves more stakeholders.
  • Learning. With managing diversity the strongest learning takes place for individuals or groups. With leveraging diversity, individual learning happens but more broadly and for more people. It positions the company to take advantage of differences that might emerge in the future.
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