We’ve had two decades of debate and discussion, of policy making and programmes, and we’re waiting for the gains: improved outcomes for different cultural groups, and more realistic representation at senior levels within organisations and instititutions.
The “diversity enterprise” has become caught up in unhelpful political and social debate. From the right, diversity is seen as a programme of social engineering, raising awareness of differences that can only create tension and division, and undermine productivity. From the left, diversity is viewed as a “watered down” version of affirmative action, neglecting a history of discrimination against specific groups, and losing the commitment to greater social justice.
Ideas of course matter, and good ideas are critical. But ideology rarely helps organisations put in place practical solutions to the difficult challenges they face. The agenda is to:
- shift from the rhetoric of introspective debate and discussion to the reality that impacts on end users
- move from policy statements to the practical actions that drive improvements in service delivery
- recognise that genuine diversity is more often reflected in the day-to-day manners of organisational life rather than the cascade of mandatory diversity training
Diversity does incorporate genuine difficulties. The appeal to simply celebrate our differences is either naive or disingenuous. As sociologist Robert Putnam, author of “Bowling Alone”, notes “diversity at least in the short run seems to bring out the turtle in all of us.”
Our approach is based on a recognition of the genuine challenges inherent in a proactive stance towards diversity; the willingness to discuss the issues with maturity and wisdom; the utilisation of evidence based practice; and the application of practical tools your employees need to support them in managing the range of situations they will encounter.