Guest editorial


Industrial and Commercial Training

ISSN: 0019-7858

Article publication date: 1 June 2004



Smith, B. and Bagshaw, M. (2004), "Guest editorial", Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 36 No. 4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Guest editorial

Bryan Smith is an international management development consultant, author and pioneering authority in implementing project-based learning in developing managers and directors in several countries. Prior to becoming an independent consultant he was Director of Studies of PA Consulting Group’s Management Centre, where he was responsible for the quality of programme design to ISO 9001 standards. He has authored training manuals and video scripts on coaching and self-development and has designed a wide range of development programmes and training materials, including business simulations. Consultancy services include team building, executive coaching, managing culture change, leadership and development centres. He has researched and written widely on management development and is co-author of Developing Managers through Project-Based Learning (Gower, 1997), reprinted as Project-Based Learning for Developing Managers (Maya Gower (Delhi), 2001). He is a frequent speaker at international conferences, including ASTD and IFTDO. Over the last few years he has facilitated workshops on diversity for managers and staff in several public sector organisations.

Mike Bagshaw is a psychologist, management consultant and coach, helping organisations to overcome people management and development issues. Mike started out as a prison psychologist in 1977, designing and delivering courses for prison officers, and programmes for rehabilitation, pre-release, and suicide prevention. In 1988, he changed direction, and joined the world of commerce. This began at CEPEC, where he developed new programmes for management training, including conflict mediation and dealing with aggressive behaviour. In 1994 he became Development Director at Coutts Consulting. In 1998 he co-founded Trans4mation, a management consultancy for training in leadership, management development, managing diversity and conflict mediation.

Diversity is all about difference and some diversity strategies adopted by organisations are inclusive, embracing all people-any difference. This stance is strongly endorsed in the public sector where, as part of government policy, organisations should represent the communities they serve. Again, some organisations interpret diversity in terms of recognising and valuing a workforce consisting of a diverse population with differences of age, gender, race, colour, ethnicity, religion and beliefs, sexual orientation, nationality, background, culture and values. To some extent the initial motivation of such organisations in embracing diversity can be rooted in the need for compliance with the increasing raft of legislation, thus reducing the likelihood of formal complaints, which can ultimately result in heavy legal costs and payouts through industrial tribunals. Also, since the “financial caps” have come off, such payouts can be enormous.

In contrast, other organisations can adopt a wider perspective and see diversity as including all aspects of business – products, services, marketing, sales, operations, and people skills in relation to management, leadership and creativity.

The “war for talent” has been well documented, and it is clear that, in the wake of the breakdown and/or renegotiating of psychological contracts, retention is a big challenge. This is particularly reflected in the large numbers of people, including managers, who will exit organisations where they perceive a conflict of culture and values. Of course, attracting, selecting and recruiting talent is part of this challenge. Indeed, some organisations are recruiting from minority groups in order to enrich the talent pool and better reflect their customer base, thus developing and retaining a more diverse range of customers.

Another part of the business case for diversity can be the potential savings to be realised through reduced sickness and absence, often caused by stress, where cultures of bullying, harassment, victimisation and discrimination are allowed to take root and flourish. Barely a day passes without some media mention of such cases and the human misery allowed to be inflicted on some people.

Leaders as role models of diversity are much needed. They are the people who by their actions can champion visions and aspirational cultures and stop practices such as bullying and harassment, so that people can expect to work in environments where zero tolerance is the norm for such behaviours.

In this “special” our authors address several of the above issues and others. Indeed, collectively the articles are wide ranging-very diverse.

In “Skills development-the missing link in increasing diversity in leadership”, Kandola explores issues involved, particularly through insights into the under-representation of women and ethnic minorities at senior management levels. Leadership studies are drawn upon in highlighting individual and organisational barriers facing ethnic minority employees and the difference in attribution of male and female managerial success. In this respect the need for diversity policies to include development, programmes, recruitment and skills development is proposed.

Diversity training is placed within the context of demographic changes and a government policy of multiculturalism by Schmidt in “An approach to diversity training needs in Canada”. Total support from top management is highlighted, together with benefits to be derived from an enlarged, more inclusive, customer base. Several common myths about diversity are explored and exploded. The need to assess present and future corporate culture is also stressed.

Another article on diversity training by Bagshaw et al. focuses on the development of communication skills to derive the benefits arising from differences. In particular the article focuses on militating against groupthink and turning diversity tensions into “creative abrasion”. A case study on the London Fire Brigade is described that emphasises a key element for a successful diversity training programme. The participants need to believe that diversity includes them and that everyone benefits from a climate of mutual respect. Only then will behaviour change be sustained.

In “How to increase diversity through your recruitment practices” Tipper outlines a plan which stresses the need to know your market, drawing on information reflecting diversity of the customer base, together with census information, showing trends in the growth of the ethnic minority population. The need to build the business case and show the value of diversity in all aspects of business is highlighted through quoting the experiences of several organisations. Also outlined are best practice examples in trying to reach the widest talent pool available.

The importance of leaders/managers as role models in integrating diversity with the business is highlighted by Whiteley in “Creating behavioural change in leaders”. He also shows how some organisations are effecting this necessary behavioural change.

Moreover, he proposes a competency framework for leaders in diversity. A key thrust in the article is the description of a diversity development centre process aimed at bringing about the required behavioural change and competence development.

In “Dealing with diversity-a matter of beliefs” Gillert and Chuzischvili explore experiences of a Netherlands bank in handling the needs of diverse clients, including minorities and the vital role which front line staff play. The experience of designing, developing and piloting a diversity programme is described and linked to issues of belief and perceptions of self and others. The need for culture change and the importance of integrating diversity with the daily reality of the workplace is highlighted.

Whilst diversity is all about difference the article by Eales-White “Change management: understanding and harnessing creative diversity” is arguably more different than other contributions in that it tackles the issue of creativity. Differences in creative thinking approaches are explored by using the adaptor/innovator inventory (Kirton). The impact of these different thinking styles is highlighted, together with the implications for change management, which are further illustrated by case studies.

In “Driving home the diversity message” Farrer describes the diversity driver, a practical performance tool based on the business excellence model. It is shown how a means of self-assessment can enable organisations to identify strengths in addressing diversity, as well as prioritising areas for further improvement. Benefits to organisations in adopting this practical approach to diversity are highlighted.

Although contributions to this “special” provide a wide range of experiences and viewpoints, there is much more which could be of value to our readers including experiences of SME’s, and organisations which are undergoing cultural turnarounds to become more inclusive and diverse in their practices. More international contributions, giving even wider contrasting experiences would also be of value and interest.

Clearly, diversity is not a fad or flavour of the year, as evidenced in part by the growing number of key focused HR appointments and also by some organisations which are creating diversity champions and ambassadors at different levels within line management.

Bryan Smith, Mike Bagshaw

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