What Is Diversity? Does It Pose More Problems Than Strengths?

By Leaderonomics Editorial|21-04-2014 | 1 Min Read

In HR Talk, we pick one human resources (HR) related topic each week, and gather a few HR experts to share their opinions on it. If you have any questions about the HR industry, send them to us at mystarjob@leaderonomics.com and we will get our panel of experts to answer them.

This week’s question

What is diversity? Does it pose more problems than strengths?

SARAH MUBARAK – Senior manager, human capital advisory, PWC 

When I think of diversity, a hot fluffy orange chiffon cake comes to mind. It is composed of various ingredients – eggs, oil, flour, sugar and orange juice. It’s not easy to make, especially when you are a novice baker, you can’t just dump it all in a shining Kitchen-Aid mixer and hope that it will come out perfect.

There are techniques that you need to apply to each ingredient; making sure the eggs are at room temperature, beaten till they reache soft peak, the flour must be sifted and mixed and stirred in the right way. Sounds complicated? Yes but it is all worth it once it’s out there, sitting lavishly beside a pot of peppermint tea.

The same way, most organisations consist of various ingredients – people from different genders, education background, personalities, cultural influence, race, beliefs, sexual orientation and the list goes on. Does this mash-up sound exciting? Surely. But does it create more problems? Maybe.

Professor Ron Burt of University of Chicago in his study on diversity concluded that when you have a diverse group of people coming together to solve a problem or create a new line of service or product , voila – innovation sparks, brilliant ideas are shared, infusing the “light-bulb” moment in some.

However, there is more to just having a great mash-up that results in innovation.

Firstly, diversity may not be for everyone. If preserving the tradition is important, if following a set of protocols is imperative, diversity can create problems. Secondly, organisations must avoid jumping on the bandwagon of diversity because it is trendy. It’s not cool to want to be cool.

We have heard of managers not being open to a group of new hires who aren’t similar to themselves. If organisations are not ready to give space, take suggestions, and accept differing views, diversity will then definitely become a recipe that doesn’t work.

There are also techniques in dealing with diversity. Ask a baker and you will be told that if you don’t know how to tend to these different ingredients, it can cause great chaos in your oven and result in a depressing outcome; the same works with your organisation.

So ask yourself – Does your organisation need the outcome of diversity? Are you ready to be open? And do you have techniques in place to have a hot fluffy chiffon cake like of an organisation?

SHANKAR NAGALINGAM – Human resources director, South Asia and ANZ Dell 

Diversity is in Dell’s DNA. We embrace diversity as part of our people strategy to develop inspiring leaders; to win together and to develop entrepreneurial spirit amongst our team members.

Diversity is not about erasing differences. It is about how we bring together and connect the diversity of our global team members and customers from different backgrounds, cultures and thinking styles. It is about providing remarkably different talents, perspectives, life and career experiences to help people everywhere grow and thrive.

By embracing diversity, we also adopt inclusion. We believe that to do our best work, our commitment to a culture of inclusion is essential. Inclusion creates an environment where people feel valued, supported, respected, involved and engaged. This environment encourages us to do our best work.

Diversity and inclusion help us to build enduring relationships and create a welcoming workplace for our team members.

In Malaysia, we have four employee resource groups that promote diversity and inclusion;

(i) Women in search of excellence (WISE), which creates a platform for women team members to network, have ongoing learning and exchange of ideas. WISE creates connections and provides leadership and expertise to develop our women team members.

(ii) GenNext that provides a sense of community among like-minded individuals who share a common experience and a focus on social responsibility and business readiness. GenNext mainly caters to our young professionals.

(iii) True Ability, which educates, drives awareness and serves as a resource for our team members, impacted by disabilities or special needs.

(iv) Planet that encourages an environmentally responsible culture that increases employees’ awareness by partnering with Dell business groups to implement relevant environmental solutions and leading our communities as sustainable stewards.

Our diversity and inclusion thrust is a continuous journey, with our people strategy as the foundation. We are sensitive to local laws and local cultures, thus we continue to consolidate our diversity and inclusion framework and adopt sustainability in continuing with our diversity and inclusion practices.

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