We need to talk about how we talk about diversity in the work place because the subject still has a faint air of menace about it. If people are reluctant to talk about diversity for fear of saying the wrong thing then organisations will have a tick box approach to diversity which looks impressive but doesn't change the culture. This all to common superficial approach to diversity explains why an organisation can have an impressive equalities statement, a strategy that sets targets for recruitment, mandatory equal opportunity training, a carefully crafted application form, ethnically balanced interview panels and yet under representation persists.
Avoiding talking about diversity is the elephant in the room, a big ever present issue that managers and staff are pretending isn't there. Its why I called my case study on equality and diversity in Lancashire county council ,"An Elephant in the Room" publish by www.russellhouse.co.uk
. The book shows how the organisation responded to the challenge to establish a safe environment to talk about diversity.
As a director I had led responsibility for turning good intentions and fine sounding words into real change. Establishing how we were going to talk about diversity was all part of the type of organisation we wanted to be and therefore the type of management behaviour we wanted to encourage. Senior managers needed to set the tone, be wiling to talk directly to front line staff about diversity, to answer their questions and address their concerns as well as challenge myths and stereotypes. The intranet was a very useful tool in helping the wider staff group identify the most commonly asked questions and providing answers.
Establishing a safe environment to talk about diversity is even harder when savage year on year budget cuts have led managers to belief there is no point in opening up discussion better to close it down as unpopular decisions will have to be imposed.
If however you believe diversity is good for business, that there is no real lasting change with out cultural change, that organisations to survive and continue to be relevant must be able to adapt then you will see the point of finding ways to talk.