Diversity is an integral part of our working world. However, many companies are completely unaware of the diversity within their teams and the opportunities this brings. Diversity management is about not only allowing differences, but also specifically promoting them.
Diversity management is a sub-area of HR management. Its task is to recognise and promote the social, ethnic and cultural diversity of employees and to use it for the benefit of the company. The interaction of different people with different backgrounds should lead to more creative and efficient problem solving.
The three dimensions of Diversity
But how can you recognise diversity in your company? The "4 Layers of Diversity" model according to Gardenswartz and Rowe (2003) is a widely used way of visualising diversity dimensions in organisations due to its clarity. In addition to personality, which encompasses all those aspects of a person that can be described as "personal style", there are three other dimensions: The core dimension, the external dimension and the organisational dimension of diversity.
The core dimension covers what is probably the most important area, as it is legally protected from discrimination. The core factors include age, ethnic origin or nationality, gender identity, physical and mental abilities, skin colour, sexual orientation, religion and belief and social background. These factors often remain the same, even if the person's life circumstances or (working) environment change. The external dimension, on the other hand, is made up of changeable factors. These include, for example, place of residence, income, marital status, education, habits, hobbies and leisure activities. The organisational factors are determined by the type of affiliation within a company. These include, for example, place of work, field of work, department and team, function and work experience. As an employer, you have the most influence on these factors.
All of these aspects can have an influence on the behaviour and interaction of a company's employees. Looking at factors of different dimensions and their potential interrelationships can help you to recognise and understand dynamics - and to develop possible fields of action. When organising teams and groups to solve common tasks and problems, you should also reflect on which differences and similarities have an influence on the objectives and could have an impact.
What are the benefits of Diversity Management?
Recognising the factors just listed and using them for the benefit of the company can bring many advantages. On the one hand, diversity management can lead to economic successes, but on the other hand it can also lead to personnel successes.
The economic successes include:
- Creative processes that lead to innovative ideas
- Research and development that is driven forward
- Optimised decision-making processes
- A deeper understanding of target groups from other cultural backgrounds
- Possibly also the development of new target groups
- Improved customer service
-New business relationships and co-operations
- The development of new markets and thus the internationalisation of your company
The personnel successes include:
- A varied and inspiring working environment
- An open-minded and inclusive working atmosphere
- A strengthened corporate culture and a sense of belonging
- Greater employee satisfaction, as acceptance and integration are a form of appreciation
- Strengthened employee loyalty
- A stronger employer brand, making recruitment quicker and easier
Are there any disadvantages?
It all sounds too good to be true, right? Yes and no. Of course, the advantages mentioned do not come about automatically and more diversity does not automatically mean more success. Diversity management also brings challenges.
On the one hand, the promotion of minorities in recruitment can lead to setbacks if the new team member is subsequently perceived as a "quota employee". However, highly qualified employees in particular often want to be seen and hired for their knowledge and skills - many of them therefore refrain from participating in diversity programmes. As a result, the choice falls on lower-performing candidates. HR managers can counteract this effect by looking for a promising combination of characteristics rather than a single diversity factor. If cultural values, experiences or attitudes play just as big a role as this, you counteract the stereotyping of the new team member and a devaluation of their performance.
Different opinions, perspectives and habits naturally also offer a lot of potential for conflict - especially in the initial phase. The only thing that helps here is communication, a willingness to compromise and an open, transparent and enlightened corporate culture.
Five steps to successful Diversity Management
1. Create the basic conditions:
The basis without which diversity management will not work sustainably is the openness and commitment of your employees - above all that of the management team. After all, management principles in particular must leave room for diversity and personal fulfilment.
2. Analyse the status quo and develop a strategy:
In the second step, you should establish where your company actually stands in terms of diversity, where there are any problems and which of your corporate goals could be supported by diversity management. You should then include these in your strategy.
3. Define measures:
The catalogue of possible measures is large. After considering your corporate goals, you should decide on those that contribute to your strategy. Possible diversity measures include:
- Coaching for managers and employees
- Awareness training and presentations to break down stereotypes
- Restructuring the recruitment process to combat discrimination
- Cultural adaptation of the communication strategy
- Cross-departmental projects
- Language courses to break down language barriers
- Age- and disability-appropriate workplaces
- Diverse range of meals in the canteen
- Flexible working time models
- Childcare facilities for children
4. Distribute roles:
Not all of the measures mentioned must or can be implemented by the HR department. It is therefore crucial in the next step to clarify responsibilities and assign tasks clearly. Employees who work neither in management nor in the HR department can also take on a role here - for example within a diversity task force.
5. Measure success:
To find out whether the efforts have paid off, you can and should consult various key figures - which ones depend entirely on the goals you have pursued. You can measure employee satisfaction using surveys and the staff turnover rate. Regular feedback meetings also help you to assess which offers are particularly well received by your employees and how the working atmosphere is perceived.