Posted by: Trina | May 7, 2008

Diversity Management Business Cases From Across The Pond

In Germany there continues to be a call for more documentation of the positive effects of corporate Diversity Management. Although I’ve already mentioned in the article Lale Otyakmaz and I co-wrote that reluctance to implement far-reaching Diversity Management programs are sometimes a form of inherent resistance to corporate diversity, successful case studies can sometimes be a compelling argument for business leaders already positively disposed to the idea.

In his article “Diversity: IBM versus Monitor Company – What Can We Learn?“, American leadership expert, Paul Hoffmann, compares a best practice example (IBM) with the good intentions of another organization (Monitor) that developed in a decidedly different manner.

To provide some background on the current Diversity Management landscape in the USA, according to Hoffmann’s article, a body of research on 120 HR professionals in Fortune 1000 companies conducted by Melissa Jenkins and published in 2006 showed:

  1. These professionals used terms such as ‘direct impact‘ and ‘competitive edge‘ to define the advantages of a strategic corporate diversity program
  2. Those surveyed who believe diversity enhances corporate culture: 79 %
  3. Those HR professionals who believe diversity improves recruitment: 77 %
  4. The same number – 77 % – believes diversity increases employee morale
  5. The number of those HR professionals surveyed who thought diversity kept their organizations competitive in the marketplace: a resounding 91 %

Hoffmann portrays IBM’s stance on Diversity Management as follows:

The IBM stance is that diversity is an investment in the future of customers and the future of business, business development, and business diversification. Diversity did not receive lip service from the top rather it received commitment. The IBM diversity decision came with total buy-in from the top.

In contrast, Monitor’s entry into the Diversity Management arena is described like this:

At Monitor, diversity discussions started from survey results during their tenth anniversary year. The company commissioned a global Definition of Purpose exercise intent to learn Monitor’s “vision of itself as it grew into its second decade” (Grant 1994, pg. 2). The surprise result was how uncomfortable people felt in the homogeneous climate of Monitor. Establishment of diversity programs at monitor launched slowly from bottom up.

Hoffmann then describes how IBM – a company with an aggressive human relations policy and EEO management – at first attempted to ignore differences instead of actively maximizing them to improve their business position. They were a company with a diverse customer base; this diversity was not replicate within the organizations leadership. With Lou Gerstner at the helm, IBM instituted a strategic shift in their attitude towards diversity. Eight taskforces within the company came up with “The Vital Few Issues: Employees’ Biggest Diversity Concerns”, which became the platform from which to investigate concrete business development options.

To read more of Hoffmann’s comparison of the IBM case, as well as his details of the very different development at Monitor, click the link above.


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