Thought leadership from our experts

The importance of diversity in crisis management

The crisis has set in, now what? Among other consequences related to image, finance, human resources and sustainability, the legal implications arising from a crisis permeate the company’s whole decision-making process from then on.

The need for dedicated management of such legal implications, in addition to interfaces with various sectors of the organization, is rooted in the company’s legal obligations and in the way these obligations change and expand as a result of the installed crisis. However, in every crisis environment, 3 major legal niches that require special attention can be highlighted, namely: compliance with legislation, impacts on the organization’s contracts, and liability for damages caused, beyond that provided for in contracts.

And in unexpected and delicate moments, such as the current one, the possibility emerges for the organization to reformulate and adapt its performance in crisis management and respond quickly and effectively to legal demands.

The challenges in a crisis scenario are always great, urgent and, despite any previous preparation and organization, bring many uncertainties that the organization needs to address. It is, then, essential to have a qualified and diverse team to deal with legal demands, so as to face and solve the diverse and complex issues that arise involving different stakeholders.

Based on the interesting premise proposed by Google1, that working groups are “characterized by the smallest amount of interdependence” and “are based on organizational or managerial hierarchy”, while teams are “highly interdependent, plan work, solve problems, make decisions and review the progress in service of a specific project”, let us analyze the characteristics of a diverse team, starting with the realization that if, in a team, members need each other to develop their work, in order to achieve better results, it is then encouraged that members bring diverse multicultural contexts to the team, as well as skill and knowledge. Therefore, embracing diversity is a starting premise for successful teamwork.

Loden and Rosener2 say that diversity can be thoughts of in its primary dimensions, consisting of immutable human differences, such as ethnicity, gender and physical abilities, and its changeable secondary dimensions, such as education, geographic location, and work experience. Barbosa and Veloso3 define diversity as multiculturalist policies, especially related to issues of recognition of rights, the cultural identities of minorities and affirmation of the value of cultural diversity. They understand that diversity, first a historical and political concept, has been translated into the organizational universe as a management technology.

A diverse team, then, is built from groups already traditionally seen in the corporate environment along with socially minority groups such as women, blacks, LGBTQIA+ and people with disabilities, so as to embrace pluralities to break paradigms. It is very important to openly support tolerance, providing a stimulating and welcoming environment so that team members feel more engaged and motivated to perform activities and tasks, and thus extract their full potential for an ever desired high performance.

The possibility of incorporating into teamwork all this richness and multiplicity of values, experiences, challenges, successes – and even failures – of each one enhances the set of skills and especially creative solutions from the team. And specifically, in a crisis management, there is a need to anticipate demands, meet expectations of different people, interpret the existing diversity in society, all in an agile and efficient way. This is also why non-traditional methods are great allies, as they provide greater adaptability, flexibility, resilience and anti-fragility.

Uniting diversity with non-traditional management we have tools available for high critical thinking, complex problem solving and optimization of results. If these tools are accompanied by an inspiring leader, clear rules, pre-established boundaries and structure, and a relationship of trust with collaborative teams, the embraced vulnerabilities enhance the opportunity for each member to develop their creativity without fear of error. A good example is the ritual of sprint in the Scrum method, where the members of a team responsible for a given task, as well as the people or teams that are addressees of this same task, meet regularly to discuss actions and analyze the results of the work performed in a given period, adjusting the route and recreating solutions.

Furthermore, the wit of a team manager working with multicultural members permeates the union for a purpose in the work itself or in the result. Therefore, it is essential to create a psychological security environment so as to stimulate members’ creativity, autonomy, intrinsic motivation, risk-taking, innovation, critical thinking, connection and collaboration without using mental efforts to protect themselves, resulting in the effectiveness of the team. This type of approach, in an environment that embraces diversity in an open way and encourages equality and freedom of thought, usually yields great discussions and very commonly brings creative and well-directed solutions to the problem in question. In a crisis, given the challenges and urgencies inherent to this type of situation, this is an important differential in achieving better results.

It is even possible to measure the positive results. Although there is little research on corporate diversity in Brazil, studies prove that diversity is “productive and, in many cases, an innovation inducer”4. According to a study by the McKinsey & Company Organization5: companies with ethnic and racial diversity are 35% more likely to have above-average incomes in their sector; companies with gender diversity have a 15% more chance of above-average incomes; and in the United States, for every 10% increase in racial or ethnic diversity in the executive team, profits increase 0.8%. A Harvard Business Review survey6 revealed that in companies where the environment of diversity is recognized, employees are 17% more engaged and willing to go beyond their responsibilities and it was identified that the existence of conflicts is 50% lower than in other organizations.

Transforming the crisis into an opportunity and managing it, especially with regards to its legal implications, effectively and minimizing all impacts derived from civil liability, means reviewing traditionally applied thoughts and practices, among which the acceptance of diversity stands out. The search for creative, agile and collaborative solutions finds fertile ground in a diverse team, that is, composed of members with distinct experiences, origins and personalities. Therefore, companies based on a culture of trust, collaboration and inclusion, in which everyone feels represented, are those that have the best ideas and solutions, even in the face of a crisis. And in the current scenario, with high levels of uncertainty and unprecedented risks, anyone who can take advantage of the wealth of perspectives of a diverse team across genders, cultures and ethnicities will certainly be better prepared for the “new normal.”

1 Re: work

2 LODEN, M. Rosener, JB Workforce America! Managing employee diversity as a vital resource. Illionois: Business One Irwin.

3 PEREIRA, Jamila Barbosa Cavalcanti. The relationship between the dimensions of organizational justice and the attitudes of individuals towards diversity. 2008, 329 f, Thesis (Doctorate in Administration). Mackenzie Presbyterian University, São Paulo.

4 OLIVEIRA, Darcio. Let's talk up diversity? Business Season. No. 124. June/2017