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Managing Diversity

Traditional Indian WomanClearly, culture is a very complicated and multidimensional concept. Understanding how cultures are different and being tolerant is crucial for people to adequately and respectfully interact with each other in multicultural societies (and communicate efficiently and effectively in multicultural workplaces). Culture is learned – it is passed from generation to generation. There is always a logic history in how culture came to exist. For example one of the explanations of hand shaking tradition in Western societies started as a act of piece – no weapon is held. Later it became just a matter of greeting. Culture is a piece of self-identify – it expresses who we are and what we believe in. It could be visible and invisible and it is usually tied to society which frequently is misunderstood for a country. For example, one misassumption is that all Canadian love hockey. Leave alone the fact that there is a province of Quebec where hockey might not be a number one sport game for local Canadians, enrollment into the football sport clubs is on the rise among younger Canadian generation. (Census, 2006)

Managing diversity is quite different from equity and equal opportunities concepts. The former focuses on recognizing differences and benefiting from them. The latter is about policy, procedures and complying with the law. Managing diversity effectively means recruiting and promoting from a wide pool of talent based on required competencies for the job. Competencies are set of skills, qualifications, knowledge, education, attitudes and behaviors that employees should possess and demonstrate to succeed in their jobs.

According to London Development Agency research, there are two main ways how organizations could embed diversity within their cultures. The first approach is when a specific diversity competence is added to organizational chart of competency framework. In the second option, diversity is embedded into existing competencies’ indicators. In the first case, having separate competency shows the importance of diversity but it may be perceived by employees as a token/stand-alone activity. The benefits of the second strategy is because employees do not have to add additional piece of work to their workload, it is about HOW they do their work (interact with colleagues, customers, etc.)