When people talk about managing diversity in the workplace, we often get the wrong impression when we hear the word “manage”.
There is a strong association between it and negative perceptions of control, superiority, taking charge and dominance. This requires that we correct this perception when looking at our diversity and inclusion strategy, as well as all aspects of diversity in the workplace.
We need to work on perceiving management as a starting point.
At the heart of management is problem-solving and the execution of an organisation’s strategy and objectives. Effective management is about optimising resources and planning change. It is also about being accountable for ensuring the organisation achieves what it sets out to do.
When done well, it is the art of knowing what to do and how to employ the best methods to accomplish all the right achievements. There needs to be flexibility and responsiveness.
Responsibility for performance sits squarely on the shoulders of managers. True leaders have certain inherent characteristics and traits that are an asset in performing the role of manager.
Through this lens, excellent management is indispensable to managing diversity in the workplace. We need to harness both leadership and management skills effectively in order to be successful.
Managerial competence matters
During diversity and inclusion consulting sessions, clarity on the roles and responsibilities of leaders and managers is addressed, particularly in the context of organisational empowerment and successful transformation.
It is simply a matter of orientation and harnessing these critical managerial skills and competencies to achieve progress in diversity in the workplace.
It is, in fact, a good idea for managers to play an extremely active role in diversity and inclusion training at the outset. People need to experience managers as trainers and facilitators, where they display their own thinking and commitment to diversity and inclusion.
This reinforces that, in addition to their core duties, they are champions of diversity and inclusion.
Standards that uplift
To be part of an organisation, contractually, all people within it need to meet the standards it sets.
Managers are the custodians or overseers of these standards. If there is significant work to be done in achieving these standards, they must intervene appropriately to guide employees down this path.
When we introduce a diversity and inclusion strategy, we will often be introducing new standards and requirements. These cannot be presented as a one-off effort and left to chance thereafter. Managing diversity in the workplace is about ensuring that these standards, once introduced, are given life within your organisation.
Management focuses time and attention on what needs to be done to shift the needle towards success. Planning, reinforcing, reviewing, monitoring and providing essential feedback to secure continuous improvement.
The more complex change aspirations are, the more vital the role of management.
This is because we all know that once we have spoken the words, what becomes essential to people is action. We do not want to stand accused of empty words and promises when it comes to diversity and inclusivity—credibility is paramount. Trust is the life force of momentum. Management has to make the right decisions at the right time with the right people. This is the linchpin of success.
The discipline and functions of the management layer will ensure the follow-through that diversity training requires.
All good managers know that “Success in management requires learning as fast as the world is changing”, at least according to Warren Bennis. This is key when it comes to managing diversity in the workplace.