Diversity-sensitive work design as a preventive strategy for the promotion of the ability to work and perform
Demographic change is a key social megatrend and is very often associated with the ageing of the population, which also includes the working population. In this respect, the fact that demography - the science of examining and describing the population - examines a variety of other structural elements in addition to age is frequently overlooked. In terms of the world of work, this means that the dimensions of gender, migration and other social factors, such as qualifications as well as values and life plans, must also be taken into account.
The right to 100% equal treatment in all areas of life is the starting point for corporate diversity management: it takes the diversity of and differences between employed persons into account and uses them in the design of work so that different strengths and weaknesses can be translated into creating value. The objective is to include all employees with the goal of eliminating disadvantages and achieving the greatest possible equality of opportunity. That means equal treatment of all people, regardless of their origin, their gender, their sexual orientation, their age and any other trait or characteristic. In the following, diversity can be understood as the many different perspectives and abilities of employed persons in a company or organisation. These perspectives and abilities arise through the combination of differing visible and invisible attributes and dimensions. They include, for example, age, gender, sexual orientation/identity, disability (physical and/or mental capacities), ethnic origin and nationality, religion and world view. Diversity in the world of work also includes social situation/origin, qualifications, physical appearance as well as lifestyles/life plans, different employment relationships and/or the positions or roles in which the employed persons work.
Diversity in the world of work is not an end in itself, however. Diversity has always been around, albeit to varying degrees. Diversity is frequently initially assumed to be a "disruptive factor", and equated with "frictional losses" in operational processes, as it entails deviations from the norm: in one case, an employee may not understand the work task correctly due to a language barrier, while in another case, an older employee may no longer be able to perform at full physical capacity, and in a further case, team meetings may be almost impossible due to the different working time models. These examples show that diversity is not an end in itself, but that it is important to think about diversity consciously and to include it in all operational processes. Only in this way is it possible for the personal strengths and weaknesses of employed persons and their own individual perspectives and skills to be integrated in the value creation processes.
In addition to preventing disruptions and respecting and promoting the personal rights of all employed persons, it also goes without saying that protecting especially vulnerable groups of employed persons is of key importance for work design. In this respect, the specific working conditions of women or migrants have long been analysed, to derive corresponding prevention measures or specific support programmes, for example.
The most promising approach to establishing diversity in an organisation is the mainstreaming approach, which means taking diversity into account in all processes. This means that the goal is not addressing the standard dimensions of diversity individually and deriving special support programmes for older people, women or migrants or other groups, but rather ensuring that companies integrate the different perspectives and abilities of employees in all their operational processes: as components of corporate strategy, management behaviour, personnel work, the organisation of work and corporate culture, diversity can be a topic that is taken into account in everyday decisions and actions by all of those working in the company. Moreover, the idea is not to create a specialized new organisational unit to address diversity issues, but it is much more important for all the employed persons, from top executives to temporary workers, to have internalised the perspective of diversity.
Those who consciously take diversity into account can
In the framework of the New Quality of Work Initiative (Initiative Neue Qualität der Arbeit / INQA), various instruments have been developed under the expert supervision of BAuA to help companies and organisations meet the challenges of a diverse workforce.
The SoViel Toolbox offers support to businesses and organisations in the following areas: corporate strategy, employer attractiveness, diversity-sensitive management as well as recognising and capitalising on potential. Each of these areas of action provides several measures for implementing a diversity-friendly work environment within the organisation. For each measure, a brief description and materials are available to download. These materials are aimed at the management and administrative teams in companies as well as executives and interest groups, but also at all employed persons who want to learn more about diversity.
The INQA check is a self-assessment tool which helps businesses to assess whether and how they are integrating the diverse capabilities of their employees into their operational processes. As part of corporate strategy and business idea, management behaviour, personnel work, organisation of work and corporate culture, diversity can become a topic which is taken into consideration in the everyday decisions and actions by all of those working in the company. The analysis is not based on the individual dimensions of diversity, but is rather oriented to the value creation processes of the business. A simple traffic light model raises awareness for the need to take action in different areas.
In the SESAM Check, migrant-run businesses can find tools for overcoming the typical barriers to the development of their full economic potential and improving the opportunities for growth and employment on a targeted basis. In this respect, the SESAM Check can be used along the lines of a modular toolbox. It consists of these three subject areas: people in the company, organisation as well as strategy and cooperation. The individual need for action is determined using various checkpoints and the respective practical guidelines are available in the form of suggestions from practical application or tried-and-tested practical tips for implementation.
Demographic change is a complex and multifaceted challenge to businesses. This change rarely manifests directly, but rather through its "symptoms": increased rates of sick leave, a shortage of skilled workers, or requests for individual working hours on the part of employees to balance work and family life; all these pose new challenges, particularly for small and medium-sized companies.
To support companies and organisations in coping with this change, the concept of the Demographic Pilot has been developed. As internal or external consultants, demographic pilots can provide professional advice to businesses and organisations on everything regarding a demographically sound personnel policy. As pilots, they use a variety of instruments, such as age structure analyses, in order to help the company management find its bearings, and develop measures together with them.
As part of the INQA network, the "Demography Experts" association offers opportunities for qualifying as a demography pilot as well as the finding suitable qualified consultants.