Diversity Networks: HRM or Line Management?

Should diversity be the realm of the line-manager or the HRM department? In most organizations, diversity - ensuring that the workforce is made up of and is inclusive of women and men, different ethnicities, diverse sexualities, diverse physical and mental abilities - is something HR deals with.

In an increasing number of companies the diversity team, the labor movement or employees themselves establish employee networks. These networks have many different goals; some are to create visibility for the existence of a specific social group,  some are to create affinity among members, others are set up to promote the values of a specific group within the company.

From my many discussions with corporate network leaders, a recurring issue is that the leader's line manager does not understand the importance of an employee spending company time on an issue that is not related to the work contract. The line manager is responsible for the integrity of the employee / employer contract. Employees have told me on many occasions of the friction that occurs with the line manager when the employee spends company time on network issues. Here's the thing. The issues are not private issues - if the employee did not work at that company there would be no need for him or her to be spending time in this way. Ergo, the issues are company issues, just not part of the contract between employee and employer.

If a company decides to shift the parameters and make diversity part of the line relationship - as one large public organization in the Netherlands is about to do - the organization is saying that diversity is not simply one of the values we hold dear. It is saying that diversity is a core value. Each manager must be aligned with this core value to be able to manage the employee who contributes to the company by participating in a diversity network.

I am interested to find out how many companies have diversity as a line management issue.

NetSHEila provides in house, custom-made training for diversity networks. We also consult with companies on how to use the social capital - the people around the people with whom they have a contract - in a way that benefits the employee and the employer. Using social capital is smart, and finding ways of engaging social capital is a business muscle that NetSHEila helps you develop.

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