NZIM: Human Resources : Diversity, Creativity, Capability - Key Themes for Future Managers; Building Organisational and Personal Capabilities While Managing Workplace Diversity, Were the Dominant Themes at the Recent Australian Human Resources Institute National Convention in Sydney

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Byline: Kevin Gaunt

Managing diversity, encouraging creativity and building capability must rank at the top of a successful manager's list of priorities in today's global economy.

Knowing how to manage an increasingly diverse workforce in today's globally connected world and knowing how to manage this diversity in a world that requires high levels of human creativity and innovation to compete in business effectively, were two of three central themes that underpinned the recent AHRI National Convention in Sydney. The third theme focused on management's need to build the right capabilities into their organisations and themselves.

These themes effectively linked the presentations of three of the convention's keynote speakers: professor Fons Trompenaars, one of the world's top five management consultants and author of Riding the Waves of Culture: Understanding Cultural Diversity in Business; Christopher Bartlett, professor of business administration at the Harvard Graduate School of Business and author of The Transnational Solution; and professor David Ulrich of the University of Michigan and author of Human Resource Champions.

Trompenaars focused on innovation and its impact on the development of leadership capabilities. Innovation, he says, combines values that are difficult to join, are scarce and therefore profitable, and require high levels of management and organisational capability. His research identifies several common dilemmas that arise in organisations and illustrates why there is a need to build management and organisational capabilities.

The top three are:

1) Develop people but also become more cost conscious and results oriented.

2) Supply products and services that enhance community-wide reputation but at the same time supply products that clients and customers want.

3) Develop standard global products, services and systems but also provide flexible products, services, and systems that respond to local situations and needs.

The management of this evolving situation requires a balancing act delivering critical tools such as values, vision, strategy and goals to pull the organisation together for a common cause while simultaneously allowing the tensions and dilemmas arising from increasing diversity to run freely enough to achieve innovation and creativity. This, Trompenaars says, is why there is an ever increasing focus on building leadership capabilities in organisations to embed the vision and values in behaviours and systems and processes to make things work and to reconcile the dilemmas.

Bartlett focused on what he sees as a major change in management practices worldwide. He believes management approaches that have been successful in the past in managing financial capital are now constraining the competitive advantage needed from the human capital in an organisation.

From the mid 1980s to now, management has had to evolve to lead continuous renewal and ongoing restructuring and change. …