Why diversity management isn’t enough
Why diversity management isn’t enough
Demographic and social changes mean New Zealand’s workplaces are more diverse than ever. But, according to Professor Jarrod Haar, we’re a long way from managing this diversity well.
The Massey University academic has chosen the title ‘Diversity management is dead’ for his professorial lecture next week – with his tongue stuck firmly in his cheek.
“Diversity management is a bit of a buzzword and it says the more diversity we have, the better,” Professor Haar says. “I’m being cheeky with my lecture title because that’s a good thing up to a point. But we really need to go beyond just having more diverse workplaces to get the best results for organisations and employees. To take it to the next level we really need to start talking about inclusion.”
The professorial lecture series invites the public onto Massey’s Albany campus to hear the university’s leading thinkers speak. Professor Haar’s lecture takes place on August 21, and shares insights from three years of research undertaken with a Marsden grant.
“Diversity management starts with the premise that 50 years ago many workplaces were predominantly made up of white males. Now, we have larger numbers of working women, an ageing population and, specifically here in Auckland, we have over 150 different ethnic groups,” Professor Haar says.
“The result is a huge melting pot and the idea of diversity management – achieve a greater mix of people and your organization will perform better – is quite simplistic. What’s more important is creating a culture of inclusion – making people feel they have a sense of belonging and that their individual nature is important and respected.”
Professor Haar says his research suggests that forced quotas, whether it’s Māori directors on District Health Boards or women on the boards of NZX-listed companies, will have limited impact without an accompanying change in organisational culture.
“My argument is if companies were required to have 50 per cent women on their boards, but those boards still functioned as an old boys’ club with men playing golf and telling male dominated ‘war stories’, then the gender split would make little difference to the company’s performance.
“Quotas don't go far enough. You also need a culture that embraces different perspectives, where individuals can share their ideas without feeling isolated. This is why enlightened companies that actively seek varied perspectives do well.”
Professor Haar says his research began by looking at the benefits of supporting Māori in the workplace. But he found that when he compared the survey results for different ethnic groups, including Pākehā, the findings were exactly the same.
“The positive effects of cultural inclusion are universal, whether you’re Māori, Pākehā, Pasifika, Asian, African or European. Organisations with an inclusive culture have staff with greater wellbeing: they are less stressed, sleep better, and have better work and life satisfaction.
“Importantly, these employees also perform better and engage in more helpful behaviours at work, leading to greater productivity and ultimately, higher staff retention.”
The good news for employers is that creating an inclusive culture doesn’t have to cost a lot.
“These are quite simple things that may not cost anything at all,” Professor Haar says. “It can be as simple as organising a shared lunch where staff bring a plate that’s relevant to their culture, or recognising cultural holidays.
“People love it when they are invited to share their unique perspective, so training managers to engage their staff by asking questions and starting conversations makes people feel more supported and reduces workplace conflict.
“For example, you might have someone from Somalia in your workplace. Can you find Somalia on a map? Do you know what their flag looks like, or what their national dish is? Probably not – but it doesn’t take much effort to find out.”
Lecture title: Diversity Management is Dead
Time: 6.00-7.30pm (Lecture starts at 6.30pm)
Venue: Sir Neil Waters Lecture Theatres, Massey University Albany Campus
RSVP: Via email to Public-Lectures@massey.ac.nz. Seats are limited.