Is Managing Diversity a Challenge for Managers, an Opportunity, or Both?

By Hosea Long
Associate Vice Chancellor
Chief Human Resources Officer

Hosea Long 
Associate Vice
Chancellor and
Chief Human 
Resources Officer

The theme for this year’s month-long diversity observance at UAMS was “Employee Engagement: Peeling Back the Layers of Hidden Diversity.” This was a timely theme, considering the fact that today’s workplaces and society in general have become more diverse over the last three or so decades. 

Energizing all employees to the point of being seriously committed to assuming personal responsibility for contributing to achievement of organizational goals should be the desire of all leaders in the workplace. The myriad of differences that employees bring to the workplace whether they are evident (skin color, language, height, weight, etc.) or less visible (personality traits, talents, life experiences, unseen disabilities, biases, etc.) can divide people or bring them together to make an engaged team.

Oftentimes, it’s the hidden diversity that is the spark to the ignition which allows each employee to motivate themselves to being a valuable contributor to the team. Making that happen for everyone requires that all of us take the time to be open to one another and appreciate those differences. That can be hard to do sometimes in a fast-paced environment such as UAMS. Managers need skills and tools to help them make diversity a plus, not a negative.

Personality assessment is one such tool. For Diversity Month, Alan Ward, Ph.D., professor emeritus in the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Speech Department, in a fun-filled, hour and a half, explained the power of one of the most widely used assessments, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. His presentation was chocked full of take-a-ways for any manager, supervisor or worker who attended. He gave us enough cues in that short time without actuality taking the survey so that we each could take an educated guess about which of the 16 personality types identified by Myers and Briggs was ours.

I left the presentation thinking about my department team and that their personalities – and the astounding hidden diversity that the Myers-Briggs brings to light. I, as an organizational leader have to be flexible enough to understand the needs of each of my direct reports. With greater understanding, I am better prepared to create an environment where mutual respect, relevant conversation, and appropriately tailored training and development, are utilized to foster total employee engagement.

This year’s Diversity Month celebration provided food for thought that any leader could ponder in their efforts to create a more positive environment, one in which every member of their team can excel. Leaders have to accept the fact that having diversity is a plus; however, managing diversity requires action – the kind of action that personifies itself in basic, good management practices.

Editor’s Note: The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is available to UAMS employees or departments free of charge from the UAMS Staff Education Dept. In addition, that department and the Office of Human Resources offer trainings and other services designed to foster understanding, teamwork, and productivity.