Teamworking in the public service sector and the meaning of diversity

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Teamworking in the public service sector and the meaning of diversity

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Publication Conference Paper, peer reviewed
Title Teamworking in the public service sector and the meaning of diversity
Author(s) Sederblad, Per ; Schölin, Tobias
Date 2007
English abstract
This paper aims to discuss the concept of diversity and to compare diversity in different forms; in business and public cases. We will give some empirical examples of these two cases of diversity. Finally, we will contribute to the discussion on diversity, by focusing community and the meaning of teamworking for diversity management. The American anthropologist Peter Wood (2003) means that there is old and new diversity. The meaning of old diversity is found in the statement that “there are differences in our world”. New diversity at the other hand is, regarding to Wood (and other see for example Cox 1993), a business and management idea that implies that increased diversity should lead to different kinds of organizational efficiency. Taylor Cox (1993) defines diversity management as “Planning and implementation of organizational systems and methods so that the potential advantages are maximized and the potential disadvantages with diversity are reduced”. The background of this new diversity is, also regarding to Wood (2003), found in the American history. The history goes back to affirmative action programs started in the 1960´. During the last decade, diversity has replaced affirmative action and different kinds of organisational benefits are of importance. Diversity is about managing differences towards a organization were all human resources is charged. Different kinds of benefits related to diversity that is described in the literature is economy, globalization, service, morality, laws, find new groups of customers (see for example Schölin et al, 2007; Cox, 1993; Mlekow & Widel, 2004). Diversity is an organizational idea that is about business. The basic idea of “the business case for diversity” is “…that organisations should recruit and manage diverse personnel to face the increased diversity among customers” (Wilson, 2007:158). Of course, there is expectation to make profit behind the idea of this business case and so far in Sweden, it seems to be the provision merchants and the tele-marketing companies that have been the first to explore this opportunity. However, Wilson argues that the perspective of the business case has to be empirically investigated to be possible to evaluate. Diversity has its background in USA but is at the same time described as a global management idea. It is in public organizations problematic how to motivate diversity as a “business case”. Studies of diversity management in the Swedish context shows that political leaders has problems when it comes to make sense of diversity with rhetoric’s in municipal organisations (Broomé, 2004). At the same time shows studies on how superior managers in elderly care have problems when it comes to incorporate diversity as a qualitative organizational idea with in elderly care. They have problems when it comes to find the benefits. And as a result diversity is at the one hand defined in statistical body-counting terms and at the other hand as problems (Schölin, 2006). The main problem for public organizations is that the relation to profit making not is explicit. This problem constitutes the dividing line between the public- and the business case (the later is based on the relation between companies, customers and profit making). In other words, it is possible to say that the public case rather is connected to justice than profit. In Britain, the New Public Management has been followed by an increased interest for communities and the possibilities for integration of immigrants on the labour market and in society. In order to meet the consequences of “race related” riots and effects on unwanted segregation the City of Bradford (UK) has initiated a project with the aim to create a more diverse municipal organization. One important aspect of this project has been to work close to different ethnic communities, were the basic idea partly has to been to strengthen the communities, partly that the communities could strengthen the municipal organization (Schölin et al, 2007). We will in this paper put the spotlight on the micro levels of society, including the team level. Teams are found in the private (business) sector, and increasingly, in the public sector (Procter & Mueller, 2000). There is a kinship between community and teamworking, in the sense we define the concepts. We will argue that there are quite strong evidence for that diversity of team composition is a positive aspect for innovative teamworking, if trust and openness between the team members prevails (Cox, 1993; Muhr, 2006). There is also some evidence from work places in Sweden that diversity of teams have positive effects for integration and for development of competencies, from work related to global competencies (Gustavsson, 2007). The crucial question seems to be how to have these personal and tacit skills articulated, codified and institutionalised in the organisations, and for closing the circle, internalised on the individual level. Here we think the models for Knowledge Management (see Tell & Söderlund, 2001) can be a useful theoretical tool, with some modifications combined with theories of teamworking.
Language eng (iso)
Subject(s) Teamworking
Diversity
Humanities/Social Sciences
Research Subject Categories::SOCIAL SCIENCES
Note Paper presented at the 11th International Workshop on Teamworking, Copenhagen, 10-11 September 2007
Handle http://hdl.handle.net/2043/5441 (link to this page)

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