Monday, 20 August 2007

Diversity - in or out?

According to Personnel Today, the UK's new Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) chairman, Trevor Phillips has recommended that organisations' Diversity function should sit outside of HR:

"With globalisation and changing populations, employers needed to ensure that all staff - not just those in HR - take responsibility for diversity. Specialist practitioners should work outside existing departments to embrace diversity across an organisation's workforce, products and services, and this is no longer the sole province of HR. Diversity practitioners could monitor diversity practices, or act as internal consultants, to involve every department, including HR. Most organisations are beginning to realise they need a better understanding of how to deal with difference in a whole range of departments, which is why diversity is coming out of HR,"

Personnel Today has found that senior HR diversity practitioners agreed with Phillips that diversity was too big a job to stay in the HR function for long. Nick Smith at Npower says: "When diversity sits in HR there will be some people who shrug their shoulders and say 'it is just another HR initiative'" and Mary Shaw at the Ministry of Justice stated "Diversity is not just about staff it is also external facing and about how an organisation supports diversity and equality, and also the way it runs its business".

I have generally found that I have agreed with many of Phillips conclusions, but not with this. And of course, it is not just Diversity that would make a special case for separate status, and even a Board level role - Communication, Learning and Development and other sub-functions also often argue for this.
I guess, if you see HR, Diversity, Communication, Learning in process terms you can justify any sort of realignment. But if you think about outcomes, about what each of these functions and sub-functions are trying to achieve, then they are all aimed at developing the same sorts of things (eg human, organisational and social capital).
Separating them out is usually going to lead to overlapping responsibilities, causing confusion and often unnecessary conflict.