Tuesday, July 18, 2006

2 Books on Diversity

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM

Building on the promise of DIVERSITY
By R. Roosevelt Thomas, Jr.

The ASTD Trainer’s Sourcebook: DIVERSITY
By Tina Rasmussen

Even among HR professionals, I seldom hear the word “diversity.” It is as if, it doesn’t exist even. Or if the subject matter comes up, immediately the discussion focuses on differences in race (“Americans vs. Asians), gender (men vs. women) and geographic origin (Visayans vs. Ilokanos). The general conclusion is that never the twain shall meet because of their differences.

So what is diversity? Author Rasmusen defines diversity as “the mosaic of people who bring a variety of backgrounds, styles, perspectives, values, and beliefs as assets to the groups and organizations with which they interact.

She went on to share the Primary & Secondary Dimensions of Diversity by Loden & Rosener, Workforce America!, 1991 (diagrammed here). “This helps us understand that diversity applies to everyone because it includes much more than the obvious dimensions of race and gender. The primary dimensions are those that we are born with. The secondary dimensions are those that we have some control over. These can change throughout our life. You have a choice of whether you want to disclose this information or not.

“Personality type is an excellent example. If you administer the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to a group of 30-year-old while men and a group of 60-year-old Chinese women, both groups would split into the 16 types. You would find that a white man and a Chinese woman who had the same personality type actually think more like each other than the people who share demographic similarities.”

Author Rasmussen writes that diversity IS NOT:
 just a buzzword; it is not something that will ever go away.
 Culture; it does not reinforce stereotypes and an “us versus them” mentality. Diversity extends beyond culture to include all its primary and secondary dimensions.
 Equal Employment Opportunity affirmative action; it is not protecting unqualified people to be given jobs to fill-up quota.
 an absence of standards; it is not anything goes.

Rather diversity IS:
 about demographics, it focuses on demographic changes among its workforce and of their customer base.
 about profitability, it fosters teamwork and helps organizations identify and meet the needs of their customers and other stakeholders
 about values, it has to do with human rights, civil rights and deeply held beliefs.
 about behavior, it is not the workshops that is important, it’s what people do afterward that counts.
 a long term process, it needs to be planted and nurtured.

This trainer’s sourcebook is full of valuable tips on diversity training preparation and conduct of one-day, half-day and one-hour workshops. It also generously contains workshop handouts, learning activities, instruments & assessments and even trainer’s presentation materials.

The ASTD Trainer’s Sourcebook on Diversity is, indeed, a very helpful starting place for HR professionals to draw inspiration and authoritative customizable and reproducible resources.

Similarly, author Thomas defines diversity as “the differences, similarities, and related tensions that exist in any mixture. Note especially that the term includes differences and similarities. Diversity is not limited to issues of race and gender, nor is it confined to the workforce; it refers to any set of differences and similarities in any setting.”

Thomas emphasizes what he calls Strategic Diversity Management “for enhancing the way people make quality decisions in situations where there are critical differences, similarities and tensions. SDM is a learnable craft based on five fundamentals.

“A shared understanding of core concepts must first be established. Although this assertion might appear to be obvious, it isn’t always. Fundamental #2 is that context is key. All decisions must be appropriate for the internal and external environments in which they are made. Diversity efforts are never conducted in a vacuum.

“The basic decision making question becomes: Given our purpose, our external environmental factors, our understanding of what constitutes success, and our need to maintain and advance our competitive standing, how can we identify and respond to the critical diversity issues that require our attention?

“Fundamental #3 is that diversity efforts must be requirements driven. They must focus on what is absolutely necessary to accomplish the individual’s or the organization’s mission, vision and strategy.

“Fundamental #4 states that diversity aspirations of individuals and their enterprises must be considered. Understanding both perspectives and where they mesh and differ allows people to think clearly and to make quality decisions for themselves and the enterprises.

“Finally, fundamental #5 requires enterprises and individuals must apply SDM universally, to whatever mixture is critical.”

The book includes the instrumentation, Mastering the Basics, that helps those who wish to pursue diversity maturity by clarifying their understanding of SDM craft as a critical foundation for attaining diversity maturity which is, in turn, a requisite for becoming diversity capable. The caveat is that it is US-oriented.

Building on the Promise of Diversity is an essential companion book to your volumes on management and leadership. And do share it with your organizational leaders who have to deal with diversity every minute of their work life.



By Beverly Langford
(Harvard Business School Press)

By Roger J. Plachy and Sandra J. Plachy

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