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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Preparing for the new work world
Article Type: Strategic commentary From: Strategic HR Review, Volume 7, Issue 5
Thought leaders share their views on the HR profession and its direction for the future
With the arrival of Generation Y in the workplace, diversity has taken on a new face, a fresh perspective and a new urgency. This is the generation that will be taking the wheel and driving a very different workplace, and now is the time to groom this cadre for a new work world. While the highest levels of organizations tout the old adage “Employees are our most important asset”, it’s usually the HR folks that chart and lead the variety of organizational change initiatives that follow. With a growing global and multicultural workplace, diversity is no longer about inclusiveness and legislative compliance regarding workplace representation, but rather about doing the right thing, in the right context, all in the hope of attaining a positive impact on the bottom line.
The elusive challenge facing many organizations is the need to exceed shareholder expectations regarding profits, while demonstrating sustainable corporate social responsibility (CSR). Is it possible to leverage workplace diversity as a vital strategic resource for competitive advantage, while contributing to bottom line results? While many Fortune 500 CEOs want to increase the bottom line and may be linking CSR via workplace diversity to their strategic goals and objectives, is anyone at the management level being held accountable for results? One has to wonder if such a hodgepodge approach will actually work, let alone contribute to employer of choice recognition, meaningful CSR or bottom line results.
Despite near equal representation in the labor force, and numerous approaches that are either organizational or legislative driven, women and diversity groups are still marginalized in the boardroom and the executive suite as appointments to the ivory tower continue to be few and far between. Now, with more than four generations in the workplace, the need to compete in a diverse and global business environment, a greater demand for skilled workers and a requirement to be ethically responsive to stakeholders’ concerns regarding social responsibility, the next several years may be the prime time for senior management to seize the moment and the opportunity of doing the right thing, in the right context. When the next generation assumes the leadership role based on their personal knowledge and preferences, their choices for the work world will better reflect greater diversity and inclusiveness.
Walking the talk in the new work world
While HR should play a key role in providing stewardship of workplace diversity management and leadership, it is a senior management responsibility to create and empower an organizational culture that fosters a respectful, inclusive, knowledge-based environment where each employee has the opportunity to learn, grow and meaningfully contribute to the organization’s success. Thus, the organizational thrust for such initiatives begins at the most senior level of the organization – not only must senior management do the right thing, it must be undertaken in the right context.
For example, in the global environment, growth opportunities exist for globally engaged businesses to employ business practices based on a non-Christian values system, thus enabling organizations an opportunity to capitalize on attributes specific to a multi-cultural workforce. Whether around the corner or around the world, an opportunity to provide goods and services 365 days of the year with a willing and engaged workforce would be possible. Equally feasible is the opportunity to utilize multi-generational personal preferences and work attributes based on core values, such as work/life balance, experience and competence to enhance goods and service delivery, or to promote volunteerism in community events such as youth mentoring, housing projects, school literacy and numeracy programs, environmental sustainability initiatives or other worthy community social issues.
More than ever, today’s workforce entrants are increasingly seeking corporations that demonstrate social responsibility when considering which companies and brands they might work for. Thus, an effective CSR strategy can be utilized to engage employees rather than only for external marketing. Not only does the utilization of such a strategy have the potential to add to the bottom line, it can also add a distinctive competitive recruitment advantage to attract star candidates to the organization. It provides the concrete demonstration of the proverbial “walk the talk” lingo and, more importantly, a clear signal to internal and external stakeholders that the organization is listening and acting on their concerns and views.
Evolving HR practices
While diversity and compliance will continue to remain at the organizational forefront for the foreseeable future, HR, as a strategic advisor to management, must evolve its practices if it is to be an equal business partner at the management table. Rather than jumping on the compliance soap box, now is the time for HR to do the right thing, in the right context – in other words, rather than bringing compliance issues to the management, HR needs to develop innovative, realistic, practicable business solutions that provide senior management with measurable, attainable and achievable results. This will not only contribute to attraction, retention and CSR, but will also add to the bottom line. Perhaps it is the HR leadership that should be held accountable, not only for the quality of the advice, but also for the ability to deliver on that advice.
Rocky J. Dwyer PhD, CMA Professor at CENTRUM Católica, the business school of Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú. He is an award winning writer and educator and he has consulted and undertaken research for private, not-for profit, and public sector organizations to examine and validate strategic organizational capacity, performance and ethics. His research has been published and presented at conferences and symposiums in Canada, the United States, South America, Germany, and the Russian Federation. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org