Friday, January 17, 2014

Diversity

Managing People’s Strengths and Weaknesses for the Private Sector

I have worked for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) for the past 11 years immediately following graduate school. Eight of those years were in the research, development, and characterization of solid oxide fuel cell materials working hand-in-hand with scientists and engineers. The past three years I have been working for PNNL’s Technical Library alongside the director, research librarians, and administrative staff serving the research scientists with their information needs. I have learned that while the two groups were vastly different in the types of work that was performed, the diverse backgrounds and experiences working with the variety of job types have influenced my view about how I would perform as a manager.

I have learned that there are a variety of factors to consider when managing a diverse group of individuals. These factors include hard skills, soft skills, and the generational gap among the staff. The hard skills (technical skills) are occupational requirements for the job type such as writing, reading, using software, and are teachable abilities that are easy to quantify. Soft skills are not necessarily quantifiable and are subjective but are inherent in an individual such as personality traits, social graces, relationships with the other staff, conflict management and resolution, understanding your own emotions and how to react to other people’s emotions, team building, work styles, time management, leadership abilities, and most of all communication. Through my experiences, a high performing staff member would be well rounded in both hard and soft skills and as a manager, I would focus on improving a staff member’s abilities in both of these areas to maintain the staff member’s longevity in the company. For soft skills I would give staff the opportunity for training courses to make them better communicators, become more flexible, and focus on team building. Additional courses in learning personality traits and social styles would help with focusing on soft skills. For hard skills, I would put people in mentorship and mentee roles. By doing this I would acknowledge the strengths of individuals and put them in the leadership role to help raise the technical skill levels of their fellow colleagues. Essentially I believe that a person’s weakness can be built up with another person’s strength to build a strong team. Staff development, training and goal setting is another priority I would want to make sure is in line with the Lab’s mission and values. As a manager recognizing, understanding, and respecting the generational differences among staff is also a major factor to consider when leading a diverse team. The differences among the various generational groups - veterans, baby boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, and Gen Z – have different work styles, expectations, communication styles, and motivations from one another. To minimize conflict among the staff about these generational differences, I would also need to communicate to the staff that respecting these differences is key to building a strong, cohesive team. (Evans, 2013 and Stueart, 2007)

References

Evans, G. E. & Alire, C. A. (2013). Chapter 15: Addressing Diversity. In (3rd Edition), Management Basics for Information Professionals (pp. 365-387). Chicago, IL: ALA Neal-Schuman.

Stueart, R. D. & Moran, B. B. (2007). Chapter 11: The Human Resources Functions in the Library. In Easun, S. (7th Edition), Library and Information Center Management (pp. 235-266). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited Inc.

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