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Continued from Previous ……

In continuation of Openness and Fairness, the next tool for handling workplace diversity is merit.

Merit – Merit is a comprehensive term comprising of several factors. During education, merit is simply based on the exam performance; no one sees how the results were obtained. In the workplace however, the merit is a combination of competence, performance, results, capability to learn, capacity to retain, and possibility for growth.

You may say this is a long list and no one is actually going to such length to assess merit. To understand better, we should say there are two major types of organizations. One is what I call ‘the Shop Type’; other is ‘the Organization Type’.

The Shop type are shops and those businesses, large or small, which are run on the same pattern. Look at a medium-sized grocery shop for instance. There is one owner, while everyone else is the staff. There is no hierarchy, there is no management structure, and there is only one reporting line. The entire staff reports to owner directly. All around the world, and in Pakistan, majority of businesses run on this pattern. It is true that over 80% businesses start as family businesses and later grow to whatever proportions they can. In the beginning, the owners are highly centric in order to minimize risk. They do everything or decide everything themselves. As the business grows in size and staff, the pattern changes. The forced change is a certain structure. If a business employs one hundred staff, it is well-nigh impossible for one owner to manage all of them, hence the compulsion to make some kind of structure. However, decision making remains centralized. In fact, decision making is never decentralized in many of Shop Type businesses. The upside in this model is that decision making is uncomplicated and may be quick also; the downside is that except for limited income growth, there is no other kind of growth. The merit of employees is primarily loyalty, followed by respectfulness, followed by accepting orders without question or grumbling. While I feel like doing so, but I shall restrain myself from raising objections to this model. I would rather say that this model should be accepted as a fact of life and the staff should try to make the most of it for themselves. The merit is certainly considered, though the merit is somewhat different.

The Organization Type are run on the basis of structure and hierarchy. There are management layers and reporting lines. Very few businesses start like this; probably large corporations or large companies belonging to larger groups. The owners/shareholders are usually already into several ventures and therefore hire relevant people to run the business. The same model can be seen in the local affiliates/branches of multinational companies where even the shareholders are not visible. A small number of Shop Type businesses evolve into Organization Type, size notwithstanding. As the business grows, the number of owners also grows due to incoming generations and the pattern is preserved.

In a typical Organization type, performance management remains on the agenda along with allied nuts and bolts. It starts from employee hiring and goes to employee development and to employee retention. Performance management is connected to these themes. Capacity building, Decentralization, Delegation, employee empowerment are not just buzz words; they are in practice also.

Summing up the discussion on Merit, whatever the organization type may be, the merit for any kind of available growth should be clear to everyone and practiced visibly. Above all, the application of merit should be uniform. The uniformity shall help to handle diversity.

Merit may be set by the owner, becoming the yardstick, but the task of measuring is with the managers. They set the practice norms.

Equal Opportunity – The much talked about but sparsely practiced Equal Opportunity is a great tool for handling diversity.

Equal Opportunity means that everyone has similar chances to earn and learn and grow. A colleague of mine used to say, ‘All are Equal, but some are More Equal’. It is an apt description of ground situation. Our society is male dominated, patriarchal society and therefore women are automatically relegated to a lower status. Over 95% are Muslims, so the religious minorities are marginalized. The social structure is based on class, Bradari, landholding, social status and so on; the lower strata are driven out of mainstream. The upper classes guard their lot aggressively and discourage lesser mortal to try to mingle with them. Sometimes, one person from a poor family may get rich; the rich will accept him if he abandons the rest of his family. The commentary on our society shall be a long one but it is not the real topic.

Equal Opportunity is highly desirable, and the managers must take it upon themselves to ensure it.

Equal Opportunity is not given from the top, it is created by the management layers. It is a very critical difference which can bring many positive changes. Having said that, Equal Opportunity does not get practiced as it is not in our basic learning. We see inequality in our homes, families, school, friends, relatives and all. We accept it much before we can assess it impartially.

Equal Opportunity, if practiced, makes people blossom at their own capability and pace. Not all will grow equally, but all will certainly be happy and satisfied.

All tools being discussed for handling diversity are ‘Equal, but this one is More Equal’.

Shall Continue InshaAllah……

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