To illustrate the conundrum of diversity here you can read a role-play scenario, where the author is on a site visit with a group of visitors to a product development facility of a global player of manufactured goods and he happens to strike up a conversation with the Head of Product Design.
Author: “It is an impressive facility and set-up you have here” Head of PD: “Yes, thank you. We’re very proud of our designers and engineers here”
Author: “Your product line-up does look impressive” Head of PD: “It’s all about getting the right people in”
Author: “How so?” Head of PD: “Most of the employees come from the local technical university, its one of the best in the region. We’re very happy with the quality of the students coming out of there”
Author: “Yes, its good a have a “flow of bright individuals coming in”
Head of PD: “Its makes life so much easier. We know what we are getting: they all go through the same system, in fact there aren’t that many employees here who don’t originate from there” “Its builds a very strong network – everyone knows everyone else” “Most end up staying here for the majority of their careers too – we’re the biggest employer in the region, so turnover is low and that builds consistency and stability”
Author: “I guess you don’t want to rock the boat too much?” “I mean by bringing in a bunch of new guys etc.”
Head of PD: “Exactly!” “In fact we had an interesting case of using a time based contractor, who came in from another country. He added a lot of good ideas and had new approaches, but in the end it disrupted a lot of our internal processes and ways of doing things so in the end he went home – poor chap” “He didn’t really fit in”
Author: “Wow, that's interesting” Head of PD: “He was never really accepted as part of the team” “We are a tight nit group you know? Most of us live in the same area of town too – it’s crazy”
Author: “So how do you manage bringing in resources in times of high workload etc.?” Head of PD: “We use local designers, who are brought in as consultants on time-based contracts – there is quite a pool of local talent” “But we are very careful just to bring in those who already know how we work, know the internal networks and how things are done. We don’t want to bring in anyone who doesn’t know the ropes – otherwise they’ll spend the first 3-6 months learning the organisation, which is unproductive”
Author: “That's interesting – just like one big happy family!” “Just one last question, as I have to catch up with the rest of the group – I hope they haven’t left me behind!” “What’s the typical profile of your workforce then?
Head of PD: “Laughs – a bit like me I guess, in their forties, male, same university!” Author: “Well, you certainly have a tight community here. Impressive. Well I have to dash to catch up with the others, thank you for your time and good luck”
And so went the fictitious conversation. What does this say about the company, it’s culture and it’s approach to diversity?
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