Enhancing the RDI Competence of Master’s Students through Diversity Management Interventions

Enhancing the RDI Competence of Master’s Students through Diversity Management Interventions

James Collins

Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS’s) provide Master’s education in collaboration with business companies and other organizations, thus offering its students authentic opportunities for renewing and developing working life through their studies. The opportunity are enhanced with the minimum of three years of work experience as a prerequisite for entering a professional Master’s degree program. Uniquely, most students work in the organization they do their Master’s Thesis for. In this paper, the RDI competence of students is discussed in the context of Master’s education at Finnish UAS’s, specifically when promoting diversity and inclusion in workplaces.

Diversity can be seen as richness in an organization. It is a significant contributor to the creation of new knowledge. Diversity Management (DM) includes policies and actions which create an organisational culture where justice and productivity go hand in hand. Each member of the organization can feel included and respected as an employee, colleague, team member, or in another role. If properly designed and implemented, DM can bring about desirable improvements in workplaces. Some companies seek differentiation and competitive edge, some expect diversity and inclusion policies to result in higher ROI of human capital.

We argue that Master’s students can promote understanding of diversity in workplaces and introduce and implement inclusive programs to achieve the benefits attached to this rising area of management. The topic is discussed in light of company interventions, action research, started in a two-year Diversity Management project carried out by four Finnish UAS’s, co-funded by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. We focus particularly on Master’s Theses aiming at embracing the potential of diverse workforce, regardless of nationality, distance, age, educational background, or other factors often seen as barriers to fruitful collaboration.

As Collins observes (2015), “…most of them are ‘mature students’ with considerable work and life experience – an opportunity not only to study the subject [….], but also to actively engage in the various topics and contribute by recounting their own experiences of working in Finnish and global organizations.” With this background, Diversity Management interventions are launched for developing, testing and piloting. Some of them lead to remarkable results as Master’s Theses, while others pave the way for policies and programmes that need more time to show measurable impact. “There is so much unused or unrecognized human potential which Diversity and Inclusion Management can bring to the surface. When understood, recognized, appreciated, and, finally, utilized for the benefit of an individual, a team, as well as the whole organisation, a favourable flow of development can be seen (Timonen & Turunen, 2015).”

Leading challenging and complex development and change projects, such as Diversity and Inclusion programs, increases the Master’s students’ RDI competence. Sorsa et al (2015) divide the innovation competence of a student into four parts: creative problem-solving; communication and networking across professional groups; multidisciplinary analysis, as well as goal-orientation. In projects where Master’s students are key actors of Diversity Management, all of these competence areas are developed.

Key words: diversity, diversity management, Master’s education, virtual teams, RDI competence

Proceedings of the 12th International CDIO Conference, Turku, Finland, June 12-16 2016

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