Add spice, but hold the vindaloo

AT INTERNATIONAL Distillers and Vintners they do not talk about equal opportunities. Instead, the subsidiary of Grand Metropolitan is one of the few British companies committed to 'managing diversity'.

This means that rather than having targets for the number of women, say, in senior positions, it aims to make the business benefit from the contributions of all employees, whatever their race, gender, background or personality.

In the US - where the term originated - some companies are using the idea as the basis for actively seeking to recruit different types of people - in the hope of better understanding their market or even discovering niches that they might not otherwise have considered.

Prompted in large part by imminent changes in demographics that are supposed to reduce drastically the traditional white male workforce in coming years, consultants are warning industry that it must learn to manage this diversity or die. In Europe, where the population shifts are not likely to be so dramatic, the emphasis has been more on the business benefits of the concept.

According to the authors of a new book, the basic concept is that the workforce consists of a diverse population - due to such visible differences as race and gender as well as invisible ones, such as personality, background and workstyle.

But it is not enough for the company to point to these various types of people on the payroll. The premiss behind managing diversity is that 'harnessing these differences will create a productive environment in which everybody feels valued, where their talents are being fully utilised and in which organisational goals are met,' say Rajvinder Kandola and Johanna Fullerton in Managing the Mosaic: Diversity in action, published by the Institute of Personnel and Development, which is holding its annual conference in Harrogate this week.

The aim is to encourage companies - and hence their managers - to celebrate the differences in their staff rather than seek to assimilate them. At the same time, though, the authors - occupational psychologists at the Pearn Kandola practice in Oxford - are keen for business to escape such stereotypes as women being better at interpersonal skills. It may sound positive, but can be turned round to be used as the basis for excluding them from high-status areas.

In another book, Gaining Competitive Advantage from Diversity, by Peter Herriot and Carole Pemberton, which is due out next month, the different approaches are highlighted by comparison to different meals.

Assimilation is known as the Vindaloo model, whereby everything that is put in the dish ends up tasting the same. There is also the Nouvelle Cuisine approach, in which a delicate decoration is put on the side of the plate, since we are not quite sure whether to eat it or not. Finally, there is the traditional Sunday lunch, in which roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and roast potatoes are all valued and regarded as indispensable.

IDV - in common with other parts of the Grand Met group, which incidentally took up diversity when it took over Pillsbury in the US - has shown a commitment to this last approach.

Mission statements are notoriously vague, but IDV has included in its statement valuing the diversity in its global workforce and building such differences into 'a corporate strength'.

Nor is diversity seen as a 'stand-alone' issue. It is something that should run through other policies and processes, so that the company acknowledges that 'good ideas can come from anyone, anywhere in IDV', while documents concerning the building of new brands also contain such references to diversity as: 'Successful partnerships are built on mutual respect and the ability to listen to, understand and benefit from other people's points of view and experience.'

Mr Kandola and Ms Fullerton include in their book practical advice on how companies keen to emulate Grand Met and other leading organisations, such as Levi and Xerox, can set up a model for managing diversity. They add: 'Having diversity presented in different documents in different ways and by stressing the business benefit ensures there is a greater probability that people will not only receive the message but also absorb and accept it.'

But managing diversity is not an end in itself. The authors agree that the issue is entwined with the ideal of the 'learning organisation'. It not only ensures there is a diverse pool of potential available within the organisation but also releases this potential and begins the learning process.

(Photograph omitted)

News
Jennifer Lawrence was among the stars allegedly hacked
peopleActress among those on 'master list' of massive hack
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
Al Pacino in ‘The Humbling’, as an ageing actor
filmHam among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey fans rejoice, series five returns later this month
TV
News
i100
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Application Support Analyst / Junior SQL Server DBA

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established professional services...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

Business Development Manager / Media Sales Exec

£28 - 32k + Uncapped Commission: Guru Careers: A Business Development Manager ...

C# .NET Developer (PHP, Ruby, Open Source, Blogs)

£40000 - £70000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: C# .NET ...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor