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Diversity Check Vienna

Guideline for integrationoriented diversity management in the Vienna City Administration

Barbara Szerb-Mantl,
Municipal Department 17 – Integration and Diversity,
City of Vienna
This article was published in the FemCities Conference Documentation 2011.


‘The administration must prepare itself for the diversity of a society ever more mobile. Openness to the world and appropriate language skills for communicating with clients are becoming increasingly important.’
Dr. Erich Hechtner, Chief Executive Director, Inaugural address, July 1, 2010

Cities as managers of migration, integration and diversity

As a European metropolis, Vienna now more than ever is characterised by migration, internationality and diversity, as reflected in the many social groups, classes, environments, lifestyles and cultures represented.
Ever since the late 1980s, Vienna has been witnessing a consistent increase in residents with a migration background. Like few others in Europe, our city during the past two decades has been shaped in its development by political events on the international stage, which have also changed the general conditions for migration as a whole. 

Incidents of major relevance for this development were the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, the wars fought in the wake of the collapse of Yugoslavia starting in 1991, Austria’s accession to the EU in 1995, as well as the EU enlargements in 2004 and 2007. Yet the past two decades have not only changed the city but so too its policies towards migration and integration. Vienna’s current population is approximately 1.7 million, 28 percent of its inhabitants were born abroad and approximately 44 percent have a migration background. In other words, they were either born abroad themselves, are foreign nationals or at least one of the parents were born abroad. The city’s local and cosmopolitan international flair, along with its capacity for innovation and its openness towards a diversity of lifestyles and cultures, is the key to its attractiveness and quality. If and how Vienna can hold its own in the globalised competition for business, science, cultural and tourism locations largely depends on how the world views us, which in turn depends on how the city handles its own diversity and the opportunities, potentials and challenges this entails.

Integration–oriented diversity management in the administration

The term ‘diversity’ implies a broader view than that proposed by the conventional integration debate, one that also takes into account the opportunities inherent in the growing pluralisation of urban societies. The old viewpoint which concentrated on deficits and which dominated public debate on integration policies for the longest time is now shifted towards a viewpoint which focuses on potentials. Establishing Municipal Department 17 – Integration and Diversity - in 2004, provided the general conditions at the organisational level for implementing this new orientation towards diversity. To endorse the fact that the diversity approach does not make integration policy concepts redundant by any means, the city introduced the title ‘integration-oriented diversity policies’ as a way of joining the two terms.

It is essential to recognise and appreciate migrants’ individual potential and to give them the chance to use their potential if integration is to succeed. The city and its departments bear a huge responsibility in the course. All of the city’s institutions and offices, its organisational structures, facilities and services must be adapted to the needs of a city marked by ethnic, cultural and social diversity. To accomplish this, the administration has to build and expand its diversity competences.

Three central dimensions relevant to integration-oriented diversity management in the city administration

1. Functional dimension relevant to the organisation

  • Adapting services and products tailored to client needs
  • Improving effectiveness and quality of structures and processes
  • Improving internal and external communication
  • Increasing knowledge and reflection as a “learning organisation”
  • Raising diversity competence

2. Recognition dimension

  • Recognising and appreciating social, cultural and ethnic diversity
  • Visualising and developing their products
  • Taking migrants for granted instead of viewing them as a separate group requiring separate measures
  • Promoting and identifying with a city that permits unity and diversity

3. Inclusion and participation dimension

  • Perceiving the city as a service provider and employer for all
  • Assuring quality and access to services for parts of the population
  • Taking into account different life situations, approaches and needs
  • Increasing the share of staff with a migration background
  • Improving access to and career opportunities in public administration

Municipal Department 17 (MA 17) as a guide for knowledge and competence in the administration

To embed the diversity approach in the administration structurally and for the long term, Municipal Department 17 (= MA 17) – Integration and Diversity – was established in 2004.
The department is responsible for the following activities:

  • StartWien: integration guidance programme for newly arrived migrants
  • Integration promotion: development and promotion of German language and orientation courses, advice centres
  • Measures to improve coexistence, dialogue and communication
  • Groundwork – law, studies, monitoring and networking
  • Regional work in the districts
  • Implementation of diversity management in the city administration

The department’s 65 employees come from approximately 20 countries and altogether speak more than 20 languages. About two thirds have a migration background. MA 17 also acts as a promotional and supporting knowledge and competence centre, providing technical expertise and proactively guiding individual administration units to implement and further develop their diversity management.

To this end, the diversity management unit at MA 17 has developed several services for other departments, such as:

  • Diversity-oriented structural development, consultation and coaching
  • Further training, seminars and lectures
  • Diversity Check
  • Networking with communities, international city administrations and the private sector
  • Factsheets and publications

Diversity Check at a Glance

Objectives and Benefits

Employees are given a system of indicators and together with MA 17 analyse their own department, in the course of which they identify new fields of activities and prepare specific measures for future implementation. In a nutshell, the Diversity Check can generate the following benefits for individual departments:

  • Analysis of spheres of action and processes with a view to existing measures and optimisation potential
  • People concerned become participants – employees analyse their own fields of work and in their role as experts find suitable measures to perceive, promote and utilise diversity
  • Participation and transparency support the entire process and the measures developed along the way.
  • Professional input from MA 17 supports the development of diversity-relevant knowledge
  • Employees become aware, reflect and exchange with others to create diversity-specific dialogue
  • Process guidance and technical expertise from MA 17 adds a valuable perspective from the outside

Duration and Working Methods

The Diversity Check takes about seven days and is spread out across a period of four to six months. 10 to 16 employees from different units of a department are given a set of indicators to analyse their department with the support from MA 17 during half-day or full-day workshops. Working in small groups and holding a plenary session with a focus on the process, serves to analyse and develop future measures. Yet it also provides an opportunity to exchange with others and reflect on diversity issues. The setting is complemented by professional input from MA 17 during the workshops, for example on diversity management, intercultural competences and personnel development.

A total of 8 main indicators and 34 sub-indicators in the form of questions for reflection were developed for the three core areas in every administrative unit. These are: clients and services, employees and competences, and organisation and strategy. They identify the prerequisites for efficient and effective diversity management within any organisation:

3 dimensions:

  1. clients and services
  2. employees and competences
  3. organisation and strategy

8 main indicators:

  1. knowledge about composition
  2. services and products
  3. information and communication
  4. knowledge about composition
  5. personnel recruitment
  6. personnel development
  7. organisation culture, management, diversity understanding
  8. quality assurance, controlling, evaluation

34 sub-indicators: with questions for refection

Carrying out the Diversity Check

The Diversity Check is split into several stages:

  1. The preliminary and development stage
  2. Analysis of the current situation
  3. Development of measures
  4. Implementation of measures, evaluation & further development

1. The preliminary and development stage

It takes careful planning, coordination and preparation to properly perform a diversity check. Project management at the relevant department and MA 17 need to clarify several essential points during the preparations, including, amongst others:

  • Are senior staff members supporting the progress?
  • Why is diversity competence relevant or potentially relevant for the department? Which areas of a department are particularly relevant to diversity?
  • Is there a structure of competences for diversity issues at the department?
  • How much time, personnel and which organisational resources are required for the project and can these be made available?
  • What project structure and communication paths are needed?
  • What time frame needs to be set for carrying out the diversity check?

2. Analysis of the current situation

The analysis of the current situation is performed by an analysis team with guidance and facilitation from MA 17. The team consists of 10 to 16 employees and great care should be taken to include representatives from all relevant levels of the hierarchy and organisational units, as well as decision makers. Members of the analysis team must show their commitment and motivation and display a willingness to view fields of actions with a critical eye. Project organisation is documented in writing.

The aim of this stage is to assess the organisation’s current situation with regard to diversity using the main and subindicators. MA 17 as the expert department and competence centre of integration and diversity issues supports and accompanies the process and provides the professional anchor. At the end of this stage, initial topics for suitable measures should be ready and set. Below are some examples:

  • Making “intercultural competence“ part of personnel development
  • Diversity controlling based on a diversity score card
  • Institutionalising integration-oriented diversity management at the department level
  • Introducing a diversity dimension to employee orientation interviews
  • Awareness raising workshops for all employees, etc.

Once the analysis of the current situation has been performed, MA 17 writes an interim report and submits it to the head of department. Taking into account the general conditions and options specific to the organisation, the proposed measures are discussed with the head of department and priorities are set according to their practicability and strategic fit.

3. Development of measures

During the subsequent stage, measures are developed together with an action plan for implementation. One or several working groups, as needed, are formed whose members dispose of the knowledge, qualifications and competences required to develop specific measures (personnel, control, public relations, etc.). The measures of the developing team need not be the same as the analysis team. The measures identified during the analysis and selected by the head of department now have to be specified and fit into an implementation plan. During this development process, each measure should be addressed with regard to result and process targets, implementation and controlling methods. To conclude this stage, a concrete action plan is defined.

4. Implementation stage

Individual measures are now implemented in accordance with the time frame set out in the action plan. The project managers in the departments carry out evaluations to find out whether the individual measures have reached their targets. These are complemented by one or two evaluation interviews with MA 17 after three to six months to adapt measures as needed.
Maximum transparency must be maintained throughout the diversity check. Relevant processes and results must be communicated to the employees of the department and to the organisation at all times. Employees at the department must understand the point and potential benefits of diversity management and fully comprehend the individual steps of the diversity check if the process is to be successful in the long term. It may be worth considering a kick-off event to illustrate the full process and/or a concluding event to communicate the results. Both can provide valuable information and intensify participation of members of the organisation in the change process.

Administration Prize 2008
The Diversity Check was awarded the Administration Prize in 2008 on the grounds that it can be used in every
department to increase employee satisfaction and client orientation.

Administration Prize 2008

The Diversity Check was awarded the Administration Prize in 2008 on the grounds that it can be used in every department to increase employee satisfaction and client orientation.