Workforce diversity includes the obvious differences we see when we look around: race, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, age, religion and ethnicity. But it’s also the less obvious traits, the subtle differences that often register with us unconsciously, such as socioeconomic status, marital status, educational background, language, accent and appearance. We all have something that makes us unique, some special talent or ability that we bring to the table that differentiates us from our colleagues. That’s diversity at its best.
Sourcing and managing people from a diverse background have become a critical part of an employment and management strategy. Workers who vary in age, gender, ability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background or culture, ethnicity and language, make a positive contribution to an organization’s workforce — they’re an asset to organization culture and the bottom line as companies and managers are realizing every day that passes. There is a common belief that a diverse workforce brings innovative and creative solutions to an organization from ‘outside the box’.
An effective corporate diversity program is a powerful way to gain a competitive advantage and stand apart from competition. It can’t be overstated that diverse workforce brings real bottom-line value to any organization. Diverse workforce allows organizations to break barriers, attract new customers and build customer-base and help form strategic alliances with partners across the globe by having better knowledge of the target markets and establishing better communication capabilities and having ability to communicate in a variety of languages including understanding of cultural differences.
Just over half of the employers polled in Canada said they anticipate a shortage of quali? ed workers in the next ? ve years and approximately 67% believe they currently have a more diverse workforce than 5 years ago. These forward-thinking companies are not only placing an emphasis on making a positive contribution to their workforce – but on their bottom line. Source:Randstad Despite Workforce diversity is becoming common phenomenon across Canada, managers of today are increasingly facing the challenges of handling a diverse workforce and being sensitive to this diversity (Tjosvold, 1985).
The rationale behind this research is to understand challenges organizations are facing as a result of managing diverse workforce. Additionally the research would try to look into various ways managers can overcome these challenges and make managing diverse workforce a real success. The concept of managing diversity originated in America following the growing need to manage cross-cultural and individual differences in an increasingly diverse demographic workforce (Cox & Blake, 1991).
In Canada, immigration and large numbers of women entering the workforce promoted diversity management efforts since the 1990s, although the workplace composition differs from that in the USA (Miller & A. Rowney, 1999). Experts (Fernandez, 1993; Rice, 1994; Carnevale and Stone, 1994) indicate that business owners and managers who hope to create and manage an effective, harmonious multicultural workforce should remember the importance of the following: Setting a good example: This basic tool can be particularly valuable for small business owners who hope to establish a healthy environment for people of different cultural backgrounds.
This is because they are generally able to wield significant control over the business basic outlook and atmosphere. The leaders must exhibit strong commitment to addressing issues like myths, stereotypes, and real cultural differences, as well as organizational barriers that interfere with the full contribution of all employees. Communicate in Writing: Organization policies that explicitly forbid prejudice and discriminatory behavior should be included in employee manual, mission statement and other written communications. Diversity should be a super-ordinate goal instead of a goal assigned to individual group.
Training Programs: Awareness and skill building training programs provides information on cultural norms of different groups and how they may affect work behavior. New employee orientation programs are ideal for introducing workers to organization’s expectation regarding treatment of fellow workers irrespective of their cultural or ethnic background. Recognize individual differences: There are number of dimensions around human relationships. These include but not limited to: acceptance of power equality, desire for orderliness and structure; the need to belong to a wider group etc.
Difference should not be assumed to be cultural. Other sources are personality, aptitude or competence ( Goffee, 1997). Actively seek input from Minority workers: Seeking opinions of minority groups and their involvement on important matters is beneficial not only because of the contributions they can make but also as it sends a message that they are valued by the organization. Revamp reward system: An organizations performance appraisal and reward system should encourage and reinforce effective diversity management.
Flexible Work environment: Cox (1994) indicated that flexible work environment could be highly beneficial for and to people of non-traditional cultural background because their approaches to problems are more likely to be different from past norms. Continuous Monitoring: Experts recommend that business owners and managers establish and maintain systems and routines that can continually monitor the organization’s policies and practices to ensure that it continues to be a good environment for all employees.
Periodic surveys should be conducted by management to understand employee’s needs (Jorgensen, 1993). Impact of Diversity on Organizational Culture: Hill and Jones defined organizational culture as those set of norms, values, and attitude that defined the way the employees of an organization behaved and interacted with each other and with others outside their organization (Hill and Jones, 2001). Organizational culture has been seen as instrumental in impacting individual employees in an organization.
A positive organizational culture promotes diversity by taking advantage of diverse talent pool as well as intellectual capital whereas a negative organizational culture will stifle and discriminate against diversity and thus affect the work environment and consequently the employee productivity (Chatman and Spataro, 2005). Thomas identified that organizational culture is responsible for the systematic and planned way in which a diverse workforce is managed in an organization and their skill sets are put to use for the benefit of the business (Thomas, 1992).
With dramatic adoption of diversity as a value-add across number of organizations, it’s become important to make sure organizational culture promotes workplace diversity. It means extensively analyzing a organization’s current culture and changing those parts that limit cultural diversity. Also, it means recruiting new employees for the skills they can bring to the organization rather than their cultural homogeneity.
Lastly, it means working with a management team to help them understand that cultural diversity is a business issue, and their own careers will benefit from enabling their employees to reach their full potential (“Managing Diversity”, 1999). Diversity management contains three (3) components: 1. Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action programs direct attention to laws that guide recruitment and promotion. 2. Valuing differences centers on interpersonal qualities that shape management’s relationships with their employees.
3. Managing diversity focuses on the diverse quality of employees’ work-life needs such as childcare, family leave, and flexible holiday schedules. It requires setting policies and procedures that empowers managers to meet employees’ needs (Galagan, 1999; Jenner, 1994; Wilkinson, 1999). “Managing diversity is managing human resource needs,” says Ben Harrison. ( Jenner, 1994). Human resource personnel alone can’t do the work of managing diversity.
All levels of managers should implement programs designed to heighten awareness of cultural differences, foster appreciation for these differences, and identify the commonalties among the various ethnic groups. Managing diversity is an effort that will involve all members of the organization In order to reap the fruits of diversity. The process should start by including managing diversity into the overall strategy, this will promote cultural synergy and effectively integrating the better elements associated with multiple cultures.
This tactic will help in aiding of identifying and implementing of new practices in companies with diverse units. Steps to be taken to begin managing diversity are: 1. Assess your organization’s needs by conducting an organizational audit to determine which diversity problems exist. The audit should consist of surveys, interviews, focus groups, or a combination of these. 2. One should learn all s(he) can by exposing him/herself to different types of people, for this can reduce Stereotyping. 3. Strengthen top management’s commitment level. White males control the resources and feel most of the fear; therefore, they should be informed of the importance of their involvement, for this can reduce if not eliminate their fear. 4. Develop new selection criteria that include personality characteristics. Promote cultural synergy by effectively integrating the better elements associated with multiple cultures. 5. Invest in communication training to reduce prejudice and develop 6. Choose solutions that balance strategy to achieve the organization’s goals. 7.
Build diversity into your leadership team: You must plan for the development and promotion of your employees. 8. Look for ways to adjust your organization to your workers. This means the organization’s culture should be employee oriented. Instituting flexible management systems to accommodate diverse workers can do this. This includes job sharing, flextime, and separate reward and benefit systems. (“Managing Diversity”, 1999,Galagan, 1999;Nelton, 2000) Conclusion At the end of the day appreciating diversity in people means recognizing, accepting, and supporting their differences.
In addition, properly managing diversity means creating an environment that takes advantage of the different characteristics of everyone, which is in the best interest of the organization and the employee. The concept of managing diversity was developed as a result of the changing demographics of workforces, imperfections of Affirmative Action programs, and discrimination laws. Managing diversity involves consumption of all program and resources to building systems and a culture that unite different people in a common pursuit without undermining their diversity.
It differs from solely using from Affirmative Action programs or other of its kind, because it creates an environment where all individuals can contribute to their maximum potential. Attaining support from top management is the most important implementing step in the process, which is necessary to ensure success. Additionally, it reduces the fears of the dominant group. Through the use of all valuing diversity, managing diversity and affirmative action companies create a qualified, diverse work force that appropriately reflects the demographics of its communities.