Tag Archives: diversity

My most read business posts in 2014

dscf1285.jpgOnce again the techies at WordPress provide me with an annual report with lots if statistics. They remind me I posted a measly 47 posts last year, and some of them I re-blogged – so thank you bloggers who allowed me to do that.

My blog is now read in 111 countries but primarily in the USA, the UK, and Spain. But thank you those readers from Papua New Guinea,  Uzbekistan, Iceland, Moldova, Qatar, Guernsey, Luxemburg, Afghanistan, Macao, Tanzania and Krygystan among others. Truly an international readership.

The top ten posts were:

1st : Stress back on the agenda? This was 4th last year and in the top spot in 2012

2nd: Teams and Diversity not so simple which was in 5th spot last year

3rd: Women are the winners at work which was in top spot last year

4th: Saying thank you makes good business sense a jump from 16th place last year

5th: Leadership & Influencing and even bigger jump from 21st spot last year

6th: No-one wants to be rated as average This was 3rd last year and in 2nd spot in both 2011 & 2012 – obviously I struck a chord with it.

7th: Erotic Capital – boobs, botox and making the most of yourself a slight drop from 6th spot last year

8th: Rude, arrogant and powerful up from 11th spot last year

9th: Leaders without any shame jointly with Leadership capabilities necessary for a successful merger

10th: Women in Leadership – too nice? Too bossy?

For the second year my most-read posts have been from earlier years with only those in bottom three places from 2014. This probably reflects the paucity of my output in 2014. So must try harder!

My most read posts in 2013

My most read business posts in 2013

global_touch_connection_1600_wht_9905The techies at WordPress provide me with an annual report with lots if statistics. They remind me I posted a measly 45 posts last year, and many of them I re-blogged – so thank you bloggers who allowed me to do that.

They also told me that January 10th 2013 was my busiest day with a post about women at work.

My blog is read in 93 countries but primarily in the UK, the USA, and Spain.

The top five posts, in reverse order were:

5th: Teams and Diversity not so simple

4th: Stress back on the agenda? This was in top spot in 2012

3rd : No-one wants to be rated as average This was in 2nd spot in both 2011 & 2012

2nd: National Stress Awareness Day 2012 I didn’t write a post on NSAD last year but stress obviously still high on the agenda.

1st: Women are the winners at work

For the second year my most-read posts have been from earlier years which reflects the paucity of my output in 2013. So must try harder!

My most read posts in 2012

Teams and Groupthink

group_of_business_people_1600_wht_8392It’s two years since the Treasury Select Committee published its findings on the global financial breakdown.

Reading the various reports on the Treasury Select Committee’s findings brought back memories of the CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 which failed and probably strengthened Castro’s position.

Irving Janis’s extensive work on the subject of Groupthink included his analysis of the reasons for that and other failures. And it still holds true today.

In recent times it has become a common belief that team working is the key to delivering results and that the more cohesive the group, the more effective it is.

It may be more fun to work in such a group but the evidence also suggests that members of groups may indulge in “social loafing”, there can be diffusion of responsibility in the absence of individual goals, and that sometimes individuals can outperform teams.

Janis proposed that close-knit teams are insufficiently critical of each other, don’t seek alternatives, believe in the group’s invincibility, want consensus, restrict negative information and generally, as the Select Committee said, adopt a herd mentality.

The Select Committee suggested that diversity was the answer – in this example by having more women at senior levels. This is old news now; on a similar note in Management Today at the time Emma de Vita bemoaned the testosterone fuelled culture in the city and made some interesting points about leadership styles.

She also and cited some research at London Business School that found that having a 50-50 gender balance produced more effective, stable and innovative teams. A finding that the Norwegian government  put into practice in 2008 so that all public companies are required by law to have 40% of females on the board. Spain had just given companies 10 years to follow suit. http://www.managementtoday.co.uk/news/865053/

It had previously been suggested in The Times suggested that women board members may be better at getting rid of bad bosses (but not as good at making money) as women tend not to meet at the golf course or the club and may be less susceptible to groupthink.

Gender is not the only difference that organisations should explore however. Different socio-economic backgrounds, qualifications, and career experiences are probably more important. See post on Teams & Diversity

And the dangers of creating an inner cabal or kitchen cabinet probably cost the Conservatives electoral victory in 2010.
The failure of the Tory’s “Big Idea” to energise voters and the last-minute slide in the polls infuriated many conservative MPs. They blamed David Cameron’s “Leadership by Inner Circle”.

He apparently relied on a close group of advisors rather than the shadow cabinet which he informed rather than consulted. Candidates were saying that the public wasn’t interested in the “Big Idea” but more mundane issues such as crime and immigration. Failure to listen to critics and a wider circle is symptomatic of Groupthink.

Original post 12 April 2010

Teams and Diversity – not so simple

colored_puzzle_connection_1600_wht_9893Current thinking is that diversity is a good thing.

Diversity is claimed to increase creativity and the quality of work and there are several examples of where this has proved to be true.

However a review of research over 50 years (described by Elizabeth Mannix and Margaret A Neale at Cornell and Stanford universities respectively) shows it’s not all good news.

More worryingly researchers at MIT, Harvard, and other institutions found it was difficult to support a business case for diversity in terms of financial RoI.

Mannix and Neale define diversity as; “any personal attribute that someone else may use to detect individual differences”.

How and why a company diversifies is critical. Without proper management or worker training diversity can damage performance.

The ways managers recognise diversity e.g. by race, age, gender, or ethnicity, can have negative effects on collaboration and affect group performance, commitment, and satisfaction negatively, perhaps because they trigger preconceived biases and stereotypes.

Racial diversity, for example, was found to damage team processes. On the other hand less obvious, underlying differences such as functional background, education, or personality, tended to improve team performance as long as it was managed effectively.

Earlier research ( Jehn, Northcraft & Neale, 1999) differentiated between social category diversity such as age and sex; informational diversity such as education and functional role; and value diversity as measured by differences in goals and values.

With social category diversity heterogeneity positively influenced group member morale; differences in informational diversity increased task conflict i.e. differences of opinions, which enhanced group performance; and values diversity decreased individual satisfaction and commitment to the group.

Other research (by Pelled, Xin & Eisenhardt, 1999) found that whether or not diversity was job-related was important. Diversity in functional roles and background beneficially intensified task conflict which improved cognitive performance whereas racial diversity, which is highly visible but not related to the job, boosted affective conflict ie it increased interpersonal tension and emotional conflict and depressed group performance.

Age diversity lowered affective conflict but gender diversity didn’t seem to make any difference either way to group performance. The longer groups worked together the less the emotional conflict. This is in line with Hackman’s work on teams.

Another interesting finding is that university department’s with high proportions of women don’t necessarily welcome more of them. Increasing the proportion of women made it a more negative environment for them.  This might be explained by  the Queen Bee phenomenon.

Research, admittedly 30 years ago, suggested that men were happiest in a male or female dominated settings but not where there was gender balance that led to lower self-esteem and depression. It’s hard to believe that is still the case although the same research showed the women preferred either gender equity or male-dominated work-places. That may still  be the case as most women say they prefer a male boss.

More recent research suggests that adding women to a team can make it collectively smarter (unless they are given feedback in a group setting) but adding women to boards doesn’t necessarily make the company more successful – it depends on their experience and competence, as evidenced by high performing NHS boards.

So what can managers do to harness the talents of a diverse workforce more effectively?

As the research shows just having a group of superficially diverse people i.e. easily identifiable by race, gender, or age, doesn’t work, perhaps because these factors are not job relevant or because of stereotyping.

Clearly picking the right people for the team regardless of their social categories is important. Then having functional or educational diversity and rites or rituals, common values and goals helps. As does the culture and any training (although diversity training doesn’t work).

Information needs to be kept flowing and the influence of minority members enhanced (giving them a voice as the corporate anthropologists at a recent Global Leadership conference would say).

Exploratory team tasks such as fact-finding and research are better served by heterogenous groups, whereas exploitation of knowledge to accomplish a task is best served by an homogenous group. Unless there is a matrix/project management type structure in place this is difficult for a manager to achieve with a fixed team.

Another disappointing finding about teams is that when making decisions they focus on shared information rather than the information that hasn’t been shared. But the better connected the team members are the more likely they are to risk sharing their unique information.

Values and goals diversity was mentioned earlier and there is evidence that having superordinate goals and shared values can overcome many of the differences in a diverse multi-national group especially when the shared values are collectivistic rather than personal.

One key finding is that minority views need to be heard as these views can enhance creativity and problem-solving ability in the team. So the manager needs to create a tolerant environment with an emphasis on interdependency to reach cooperative goals that recognise the minority viewpoint. In practice many organisations weed out mavericks or people managers might consider difficult and prefer to clone what they already have. HR people should know better!

Based on “Diversity at Work” by Elizabeth Mannix & Margaret E Neale in Scientific American Mind August/September 2012

Getting women on board

Back in July I posted a blog about Alpha Males and made reference to the paucity of women in board-level jobs and the Norwegian attempts to overcome it by passing legislation in 2008 requiring all listed companies to have 40% of directors women.

Apparently it wasn’t very popular as businesses felt that inexperienced women would push out experienced men and women though they would be seen as token appointments. The fuss has died down now, according to a report by Carly Chynoweth in the Sunday Times (24/10/10); “Where quotas can succeed”.

She cited the Norwegian Institute for Social Research in Oslo where researchers found that 70% of male directors and more than 50% of women directors said that the quota has either made no difference or improved things (I’d love to know the split between women and men on how they rated the level of improvement). Only 11% of men and 1% of women felt that working on a board had become more difficult.

Female directors now hold a higher than average number of positions because of the demand for experienced women and the effect has been to replace younger, less-experienced, men – thus keeping standards high. Back in 2004 a survey of companies on the Oslo stock exchange found that 75% of board members were male, aged between 56 and 69 years of age, had attended Bergen Business School and all lived within 5 miles of west Oslo.

Diversity wasn’t an issue: women were just ignored when recruiting directors. Quotas aren’t new to Norway, their Labour party has had a 40% women quota for elections for 30 years, and proponents argue that having a quota didn’t give women an unfair advantage but just stopped them being overlooked. Before the quota was imposed females made up 29% of directors and this rose to 44% in 2008 before dropping to 38% in 2010.

Here in the UK the proportion of female directors has risen from 6.4% in 2001 to 13.6% in 2010, comparable to similar increases across Europe: from 9% to 12%. Spain, which also introduced a quota in 2008 with a target of 40% by 2015, has increased its percentage of female directors by 67% bringing the proportion up to 11%, France is considering a quota of 40% by 2016 after increasing the proportion by 57% to 12%, and Holland is aiming for 30% by 2016.

In the UK headhunters think that chairmen are looking for more balanced boards with an increase in demand for female non-executive directors (NEDs). Whilst Norway doesn’t appear to be recruiting women from other Nordic countries it seems European businesses are keen to recruit British women, who now seem in short supply as many already have NED portfolios.

In fact having a flexible NED portfolio might be more attractive to women than pursuing a career as a CEO considering there are only 5 in FTSE 100 companies. And in financial companies at least, male directors still earn more than female ones. According to the Chartered Management Institute the average salary for men is £150, 283 and £126,704 for women.

According to a more recent story by James Ashton in the Sunday Times (7/11/10) the government is now considering introducing a quota for women on boards of directors. Research at Cranfield shows that the  proportion of women on boards has doubled in the past 8 years to 12% but the financial crisis put the progress on hold as companies turned to more experienced men to help them out of recession. A 40% quota has been mooted which would mean that FTSE 100 companies would need to triple their female board members from the existing 100.

As mentioned above some countries already have quota systems but the government is hoping that companies will recruit more women without a quota being enforced. The Prime Minister pledged to bring in legislation to ensure companies recruited more women, suggesting that half the candidates on long lists for directors should be women and that vacancies should be more widely advertised.

There are mixed views about quotas with some believing they don’t work at all. The government’s review, led by former trade minister Lord Davies, is open for consultation until the end of November with a report due in the New Year.

Updated 31 December 2010: It now seems unlikely that the government will impose quotas for women directors. According to The Times today, Lord Davies has said in his commentary; “Quotas have proved successful in some countries but I am not convinced they are the right method to encourage progress.Female executives need to be recognised for the talent and skills they possess.”

He is considering other initiatives to tap the pool of potential women directors and has “thought about the merits of setting up an academy for female executives.” So positive action rules OK? More sensibly he argues for more transparency in the recruitment process and a best practice code for headhunters.

Employers’ organisations have differing opinions on the matter. The CBI believes that companies should have targets for the appointment of women and have to explain why they miss them but the IoD dismisses the idea as an “undesirable quick-fix solution” and one that politicises the issue of women in the boardroom and promotes gender diversity above other inequality issues.

See also:

“Pay Differentials”

“Why are we worrying about gender pay differences”

“What sex is your job”

Updated 10 February 2011: Those bureaucrats in Brussels are now getting involved. They are drawing up  proposals to have at least 40% women on all publicly registered companies. Initially the scheme will be voluntary but if companies fail to sign up it could become compulsory by the year-end.

The proposal is being championed by the Justice commissioner Vivien Reding and would require companies to employ 30% of women at board level by 2015 and 40% by 2020. She says if companies fail to achieve appropriate self-regulation by the end of 2011 “we must initiate an EU legal instrument”

The Luxemberger’s threats should not be taken lightly as she was the commissioner who forced mobile phone companies to lower their prices for international calls.

Lord Davies in the UK is still finalising his report on this topic and is expected to come up with something similar but unlikely to make such immediate demands. The Sunday Times thinks he will call for a doubling of female board members to 25% by 2015 otherwise companies would be subject to a quota.

Updated 23 February 2011: More speculation about Lord Davies’s report due out this week. It seems likely that he will expect headhunters and shareholders to sign up to a new code of practice in an attempt to install more women in the boardroom. He is also expected to recommend that 20% of directors should be women by 2013 rising to 25% by 2015. The current figure in FTSE 100 companies is 12.5% and only 7.5% in the FTSE 250 list.

Only 11% of people responding to Davies’s report thought quotas were a good ideas and companies vary: Centrica already has 25% females whereas there are 18 FTSE 100 companies, including Associated British Foods which owns Primark, which have none. Some companies are unrepentant saying things like: “we have a duty to get the best candidates – which to date had been male” and “we need people with time to devote to the job”

The worry is that pushing women onto boards before they are ready will dilute the quality although there is some research which suggests companies can be more profitable with women on the board.

Do women want to be judged on a quota basis as token females or get there on their own merit?