Tuesday, 17 July 2007
All staff in our Authority (and I would assume everywhere else in the NHS as a result of the ‘The Positively Diverse’ programme of November 2004) have to undertake mandatory ‘Diversity’ training which also now forms one of the key areas of the new staff appraisal system (the Key Skills Framework)
The training that we undertake is in the form of an on-line programme provided by ‘Grass Roots’, Europe's leading 'Business Improvement Company’ apparently. I had never heard of them but it seems that they were listed in the top 100 best companies to work for this year in the Sunday Times. And good for them!
After a worthy introduction by Herman Ousley the programme leads you through at least two hours of interactivity and statistics. For example one element includes dragging the picture of a diverse individual and placing it next to the job description of the sort of work that you think they do. Then on the next page you are informed that one can’t make those kind of assumptions. At the end of the training there is a multiple choice test that one must pass.
My employers currently have an establishment of 3,105 staff (that’s 2519 wte) which means that at least 6210 man hours that could be used in improving patient care or in the supporting of clinical staff are instead expended on this exercise. Multiply this by all NHS staff and that represents a lot of time and money that maybe the average tax payer would expect to be expended in the delivery of core services.
For the record I have no problems at all with many of the concepts being ‘taught’ and believe that everyone should be treated in a fair and equitable manner in society and before the law irrespective of ethnicity, personal sexual predilection or impairment. I don’t believe in quotas, positive discrimination or anything that for whatever reason (however well intentioned) prevents the best person (rather than the ‘right’ person) from doing whatever is being sought to be done. I also have no particular issues with the idea that if, for whatever reason, someone has a particular need (social, religious, whatever) then if possible and reasonable they should be accommodated.
But is this the best use of time and resources? And does it actually work?. From the reactions of my staff and many others that I have spoken to the effect seems to be, if anything, counter productive. Perhaps it ought to be called ‘divisive-ity’ training.
I get the feeling that the ‘ Diversity Industry’ is merely a creation to keep the Guardian jobs pages full. Ensure that HR managers feel fulfilled, assuage middle class liberal guilt about whatever they are feeling guilty about that week and keep the ‘jobs for the comrades’ circus in town.
The rest of us have to get on in the real world but I guess it’s a nice little earner for someone. Just remember next time you look at the top sliced tax take on your payslip to enjoy the experience and know that other people are better at spending your money than you are.