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2 Managing Workforce Relationships

Roosevelt Thomas Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

CEOs activated the Managing Workforce Relationships strategy in the 1960s shortly after initiating the strategy of Managing Workforce Representation. In doing that, they sought to address the diversity problems of helping a pluralistic group of employees “get along” and fostering relationships conducive to efficiency and effectiveness. Attempts to mainstream African Americans quickly brought CEOs once again face to face with the complexity of diversity—this time, with respect to relationships. Corporate executives soon determined that they could not bring African Americans and Caucasians together and expect that productive relationships would naturally evolve.

Among the complexities in play were (1) the legacy of slavery and oppression, (2) a history of acrimonious relationships between the two races even after slavery, (3) a history of Caucasians as the dominant group, (4) a history of African Americans as the subordinate group, (5) and the legacy of recent hostilities related to the civil rights movement.

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Roosevelt Thomas Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub
Medium 9781605094502

3 Managing Diverse Talent

Roosevelt Thomas Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The Managing Diverse Talent Quadrant emerged when the earlier two strategies did not resolve a seemingly intractable problem. As CEOs made progress with creating a representative work-force and promoting productive relationships, they struggled with the persistent and ongoing challenge of retaining nontraditional workers. They concluded in the mid-1980s that part of the problem was their inability to fully utilize the capabilities of African Americans. Recruiting them and accepting, respecting, and valuing their differences had not led to full utilization of their talent and to their retention. The revolving doors, glass ceilings, and premature plateaus continued. So management began to embrace this strategy in hopes of enhancing utilization and thereby, retention of African Americans. Later, this strategy was extended to women and other minorities. However, as in previous chapters, from an evolutionary perspective, I will focus on the situation vis-à-vis African Americans.

In attempting to address the diversity problem, CEOs again encountered the complexity of diversity—this time with respect to fully utilizing the talent of all organizational employees. In the mid-1980s, a prevailing managerial philosophy was that “the cream would rise to the top.” But CEOs found that this relatively uncomplicated approach to people development was not working: The cream of African Americans in particular was not rising to the top. Complexities engulfed this diversity problem. A few are mentioned below:

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6 Managing Complexity

Roosevelt Thomas Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

This chapter places front and center a capability that is inherent in each of the diversity management strategies—that of managing complexity. To effectively implement any of the strategies, CEOs must acknowledge and accept that there will be surrounding complexities, and be ready to address them.

The chapter has three objectives: (1) to examine the relationship between complexity and diversity, (2) to explore the notion that many complexities can be restated as diversity mixtures, and (3) to argue that SDMP can be used to address these mixtures. These three objectives serve the broader one of preparing the reader for the realities of diversity and complexity.

This preparation is important because a symbiotic relationship exists between the two: Where you have diversity, you have complexity; and where you have complexity, you have diversity. Are the two concepts the same? They are not. But because diversity generates complexity, they are found in the same neighborhood.

I first affirmed this when a client requested an introductory, three-week seminar on diversity for managers from around the world. There was, he said, only one critical proviso—I could not use the word diversity. The client believed the word did not work outside of the United States. Although I knew from personal experience that diversity—as defined by me—worked perfectly well across nations, I did not argue the point; instead, I asked if we could replace it with complexity. The client agreed to that substitution.

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1 Managing Workforce Representation

Roosevelt Thomas Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

CEOs and other senior executives initiated the Managing Workforce Representation strategy (quadrant) in the 1960s to address the “diversity problem” of mainstreaming African Americans into their organizations. It is one of the two original organizational diversity management efforts—and the one that most people think of when they speak of diversity. The other strategy was Managing Workforce Relationships.

In the spirit of the civil rights laws and the civil rights movement, those senior managers sought to remove barriers to having descendants of slaves involved (represented) in their organizations. They sought this representation not for the sake of diversity or for the benefit of their organizations, but rather to make amends for past injustices.

On the surface, recruiting and hiring African Americans should have been rather straightforward. Yet it wasn’t. These leaders encountered an unexpected complication. Though willing, they were unprepared and lacked experience to recruit and select African Americans for professional, managerial, and skilled positions.

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