Right Approach to Diversity Can Boost Workplace

Cape Times (South Africa), January 23, 2012 | Go to article overview

Right Approach to Diversity Can Boost Workplace


South Africa is a country of great diversity, which permeates into the workforce - some organisations have difficulty dealing with it and others have found ways of managing it and using it to their advantage.

"There is little question that diversity adds value to the workplace, but there are some non-negotiables that have had to be put in place to ensure we harness that value," says Ricky Robinson, chief executive of LRMG Performance Agency.

Robinson says diversity in the workplace is made up of three major components. These are primary personal characteristics such as race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation and mental ability; secondary personal characteristics such as marital status, education level, values and beliefs; and organisational related characteristics such as position in hierarchy, tenure and part-or full-time status.

He says studies show that diversity in the workplace results in increased problem-solving and ignites innovation borne out of a diversity of ideas.

Robertson stressed that as much as it is important to embrace people's differences and create a work environment of respect and tolerance, not all aspects of diversity are necessarily beneficial to an organisation.

"Companies need to identify and define a desired model of diversity and then try to attract staff that match this diversity definition," he says.

In the greatly varied staff-mix that makes up each company's workforce, Robinson has identified some non-negotiables that he deems essential in ensuring companies single out the right diversity-mix for their particular environment.

"We've found that a number of qualities and traits work well in ensuring growth and innovation in the workplace.

"The first and possibly the most vital of these is what we term a growth mindset. People with a growth mindset are open-minded and adaptable, and are always prepared to improve and develop. They try to improve on their talents and also cope well under stress.

"In contrast, people that have a fixed mindset believe that neither personality nor intelligence is subject to change. These people generally need to prove themselves constantly in all situations," he says.

Carol S Dweck in her book Mindset - The new psychology of success, provides research which reveals that historically executives who hold fixed mindsets and regard themselves as geniuses or visionaries do not build great teams. …

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