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Mistakes managers make with a diversity programme

When developing a diversity programme based on the results of a diversity survey (see the article managing diversity in a business), managers should avoid making the following repeated mistakes:

• Managers should not expect of employees to formulate a diversity philosophy. Real diversity in the business should start with a change in its corporate culture. To create a real change in the business’ corporate culture should be the first priority, before focusing on customers. True change can only occur if the manager is committed and continuously involved in the process. A business’ corporate culture refers to the way things are done in the business, be it policies or how meetings are held based on shared beliefs.

• Real diversity issues should be addressed, for example, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, national identity and disability. Diversity issues should not be broadened to only include individual differences.

• Managers should not use euphemisms (substitution of an expression) to refer to diversity in a business, for instance ethnic, lifestyles, etc. It will only illustrate discomfort with an issue.

• Of course there will be employees that will be unhappy with the business’ diversity programme. Expect resistance and learn to deal with it effectively.

• All employees should be subject to changes and actions and not only the previously excluded groups.

• Diversity training alone will not necessarily change employees’ behavior towards diversity. It must be part of a business strategy. Although diversity training will create an awareness of diversity, employee havior will not necessarily change. The strategy should include goals, skills training, evaluation and liability and be a continuous process.

Employees should learn to appreciate that that diversity does exist and that there is an increasing need for employees to treat each other with respect in the workplace. True diversity is challenging, but attainable.

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