Talent Management: Diversity Within Role Design

This post examines some of the implications of diversity in role design. We will not be considering the need to provide a “welcoming” environment for people who have differing backgrounds, cultural expectations and values. The focus will be on assessing how we can ensure that appropriate levels of diversity are incorporated into role designs.


Role design needs to consider core competencies if we are to hope that individual performance supports role performance expectations. It s easy to conduct this work using our education and qualification sanctioning authorities. The issue becomes one when considering a person who has education and qualifications from different jurisdictions (e.g., engineer from Africa, grade twelve qualifications from home schooling).

Assuming for the moment that just excluding such applicants is highly unattractive, what are the fundamental options?

  • Rely on “bridging” organizations (professional bodies, some universities & colleges) to upgrade and verify the compatibility of the person’s competencies background to our standards.
  • Ensure that we are clear on the “must have” vs. “the useful to have” competencies (e.g., English fluency – writing, reading, oral expression, accent [ease for listener understanding], etc.). Someone who needs to interact with the public will need different language use skills than someone who does not (e.g., only reads and corresponds in writing). The longer term dilemma for organizations is of course they often recruit with “future potential” in mind so what’s not required in the present role position may be essential  in future roles.
  • Provide directly/funding support supplemental development to upgrade a person’s skills.
  • Organize around the competency limiting attributes. Remember, there are always options regarding how we organize roles. What we are faced with when dealing with organizational options is how they affect role performance and subsequent organizational success. Trade-offs are common and dealing with systemic competency
  • Choosing to participate directly in “markets” based in part on how easy it is to access suitable talent. An example could be to use another agent/partner to represent your products and services in specific markets because they are better positioned to operate in them.

Business conduct norms:

This can be an interesting area as it can include circumstances of behaviour that is not just different, but can also be problematic from a ethical and legal perspective let alone a business effectiveness one.

My earlier post on values discusses some of the approaches that can be taken from a role design perspective. But to the degree that there are value and legal risks, the decision may in large part centre around whether to even participate in the market and if so to rely on a local partner. The latter option won’t necessarily buy much “protection” if it comes to light that the partner engages in questionable behaviour (regardless of its acceptability locally, e.g., child labour).

However, if the issue is one of having someone from a different “ways of doing business” background is to be considered here, then the use of role design value requirements (and their behavioural expressions) becomes a critical foundation for training and development.

Knowing how to live here:

Business systems are open systems. This means that what goes on outside of the workplace can be very germane to the organization.

Knowing how to succeed in our society is critically important to those who are new to it. One of the “antecedent” costs of drawing upon a talent pool outside of conventional cultural norms is to ensure these people are aware of how they can get the supplemental support they may need. Financial literacy in our country is an example of such a need.

For the organization, there is also the need to be clear where the “line is” regarding privacy. The dilemma though is that people can fail as often (even more so?) not from in job performance but what goes on in their lives outside of it. The issue is of course, the in role performance suffers. Note, this is not an issue that just pertains to people who are new to our country, e.g., illness, family difficulties, etc. an affect any of us.

Understanding role performance can give us insights on what to look for when orienting a new person from a culturally different context. Are there going to be situations where their learned behaviour patterns are going to be counter-productive? Understanding what we need and how this can play out in different business practice/context milieus is a valuable insight for almost any organization.

Close – the welcoming environment:

I indicated above, that I would not be dealing with this important aspect. However, it is useful to be clear on the need to take care of this aspect of life.

Organizations are social systems, so the need to consider how diversity in perspectives, cultures, beliefs, behavioural norms can not be ignored.

First, even if you have a relatively homogenous internal demographic, you often have diversity considerations regarding your customers.

Secondly, your supplier wholesaler network can be diverse including the need to import and export.  You will need to learn how to be effective in these networks.

Thirdly, when your internal demographic becomes more and more diverse, there are needs to be met regarding respect for others, how to be heard and listened to, how to deal with each other when “stuff happens”, etc. At the end the organization has to have a middle ground of what we all agree to (assuming we continue to work here) in terms behavioural norms and accomdations.


About 123stilllearning456

As a management consultant I am passionately interested in talent management and risk/uncertainty issues. In the area of talent management I propose that we seek strategies that look beyond the staffing/employee centric frames of reference. I have been frustrated at the "closing down on possibilities" by these more conventional staffing/employee centric approaches. I have been impressed where people have found systematic solutions to their talent management issues by going beyond the conventional approaches. In the area of risk and uncertainty, I am interested in making this topic relevant to more normal decision making situations. My conceptual foundation is to use the micro-economist's fixed/variable cost theme. I also think it is important to look at these issues for people through their emotional and psychological lens. As a premise I think risk and uncertainty only exist where there is a person who cares about possible events and its consequences. Hence, risk and uncertainty are social based concepts (no sentience, no risk and uncertainty). A major influence on my thinking in this area is Nassim Taleb of "Black Swan" fame. This BLOG provides me with an opportunity to express my thoughts on topics that interest me. As this is an online diary, content is more important to me than polish. I apologize if this distracts from readers' enjoyment and learning. Still I find this a useful way to live up to my namesake, learn more from others and hopefully provoke creative thoughts and ideas in others.
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