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Managing Diverse Employees in a Multicultural Environment

Given the multicultural context in any setting, the need to harbor and manage diversity within an environment always somewhat inevitably arises. The development of a diverse workforce is a harbinger of future consideration, regarding the unique and differentiating needs and requirement of different employees belonging to a disparate cultural context (Cox, 1991). The emergence and relevance of awareness regarding the conception of diversity has always followed migration, political, and inherent implications that many countries continue to experience. Due to the peak in globalization and immigration trends, it has become paramount in today’s era to invent effective standards for managing diversity within organizations that could facilitate various multicultural organizations to function with great agility and efficiency.

Types of Diversity

Diversity can be differentiated into varying categories with respect to the level and degree of interpersonal disparity that exists between individuals working within an organization. Types of diversity can be classified by considering the dimensions in which they exists. There are four basic dimensions that constitute the different types of diversity: Personal Dimension, Internal Dimension, External Dimension and Organizational Dimension (Gardenswartz and Rowe, 1995).

Within the realm of personal dimension, diversity exists on a very subconscious level within the minds of individual where individual differences exist on the basis of personal predispositions. This dimension of diversity is considered to be the least subject for deliberation because it entails the analysis of individual employees on a personal basis which proves to be greatly redundant and inefficient. The preceding dimension of diversity consists of racial, ethnic, physical and sexual differences. This dimension of diversity is of greatest concern because of its direct relation to the workplace functionality. Acknowledging the existence of diverse employees belonging to a different race, gender, age group, sexual orientation, and ethnicity and marked by different physical capabilities, provides a straight path towards managing diversity.

The external dimension consists of differences based on marital status, religion, appearance, parental status, work experience and educational background. This dimension specifies that diversity types which under the control of an individual are easily changeable and not inherent. Therefore, the importance of these types of diversity is less compared to that of the previous dimensions owing to their inborn nature and characteristic (Gardenswartz and Rowe, 1995).

The last layer of diversity is that of organizational dimension which includes diversity on a scale of organizational proportions. This dimension specifies types of diversity on the basis of management status, union affiliation, seniority and work location, among others. When considering a workplace environment, the main aspects of concern revolves around the consideration of the types of diversity specified in internal dimension.

Importance of diversity

The reason many organizations are opting to develop a diverse workforce is that it offers additional benefits that prove to favor organizational success in the long run. Traditional, non-diverse workgroups were considered to offer an effective work environment for employees. However, after the realization of the importance of diversity, many organizations have transitioned into furnishing a diverse work environment.

One importance of having a diverse workforce is that it provides an added element of increased adaptability which suggests that such a workforce is capable of developing greater variety of means and solution for solving problems and offering innovative alternatives and suggestions (Greenberg, 2005). People with diverse backgrounds provide their unique sets of experiences, abilities and perceptions to organizations that allow them to become more flexible in adapting to changing business scenarios and market and demand fluctuations. Diversity can improve the decision making and problem solving skills of the team as a result of which productivity and efficiency is likely to increase.

Diversity also provides the benefit of increasing the possibility of reaching a broader set of clientele on a global basis. It is a corroborated fact that any organization that possesses a diverse workforce is capable of expanding, reaching and connecting to greater sets of demographics (Fine, 1980). Diversity ensures that people belonging to diverse backgrounds are catered to in the workplace. This understanding allows organizations to create an environment marked by a consideration that is capable of understanding the needs and demands of various global demographics. If organizations accomplish the task of catering to these specific requirements and necessities of their employees, then generating revenues through novel and innovative means is guaranteed. The present prevailing trend of globalization that is being vivaciously adopted by many organizations is a result of the increased acceptance of diversity and awareness of its additional long term advantages in today’s modern workplace (Esperson, 2005).

Disadvantages of Diversity

However, the implications of creating a diverse environment can also be unfavorable depending on the tendency and willingness of the majority to accept the assimilation of diversity within their work environment. Conflicts of various diverse groups, unionization, and conflict of interests are some of the disadvantages of having diversity within workplace (Amaram, 2007). Diversity at workplace, if not managed properly, could lead to conflicts at workplace that threaten the amicable relations and culture of the workplace. It could also be very difficult to gain employee buy in of certain new programs and ideas because of the prevailing negative attitudes and beliefs regarding certain races and ethnic backgrounds. Further, even the best intentioned programs could be viewed suspiciously by minority groups, who have been mistreated in the past.

Importance of Managing Diversity

Considering the benefits and concerns of and the need for diversity in today’s world, it is becoming extremely important to manage the aspect of diversity within organizations. Diversity within a workplace is bound to create inevitable ripples within the social and vocational realms of any organization (Rosaldo, 1997). Many companies are reportedly realizing the fact that managing diversity is not only a necessity but also a means for creating future prospects. Thus, harboring the advantages of diversity requires managing it in the most efficient way possible and ensuring that certain standards are met to promote and instill diversity all throughout the organization.

Given the increase in reported cases and lawsuits over prejudices and discrimination in the workplace in past, many organizations are experiencing the need to develop practices and standards for managing diversity. It is essential to provide equal opportunities and fair treatment to every employee accordingly, which is only possible by effectively managing diversity (Mor-Barak, 2005).

Therefore, the increased assimilation of a diverse pool of workers, aversion of concerned litigation and effective employee management are all factors that contribute to the importance of managing diversity. Without devising proper methods for managing this trend, the vast advantages that diversity promises can easily be neglected.

Diversity in UAE

The United Arab Emirates has increasingly become a significant hub of industrial prospect in the past few years, recording great performance in social and economic indicators (Al Abed and Hellyer, 2001). A majority of investors and hopeful population in search of a better standard of living have emigrated to UAE in pursuit of exploring new and richer avenue for professional growth. The workplace environment within UAE has become more diverse and the entire country has begun to acknowledge the immediate impact of diversity within its work environment.

The professional scenario regarding diversity that exists within UAE is significantly intense and relatively less recorded and formalized owing to the rudimentary developmental stage that the entire Middle East continues to experience. The region itself flourishes on the idea of external intervention and involvement from the entire world. For organizations, accepting and furnishing diversity within their workplace is a preferred way to burgeon and grow (Zain, 2009).

In the case of UAE, the implications of diversity are somewhat mild. The country embraces and encourages diversity by promoting corporate values and hosting committee meetings to address the subject of the growing diversity within the region. However, UAE does not enforce stringent laws or regulations that address diversity or discrimination within the workplace. The present consideration of diversity within UAE is only a result of the increased developmental activities and the associated increase of foreign workforce within the nation. Thus, the mildness of the impact of diversity within this region is justified.

Examples

The Dubai Centre of Corporate Values addressed the subject of growing diversity within UAE in its third committee meeting (Dubai Centre for Corporate Values, 2008). During this meeting, the committee members presented their analysis and developed recommendations for addressing diversity within the UAE workplaces. This committee played a pivotal role in formalizing the aspect of the growing diversity within the nation and prescribed favorable practices for the many corporations functioning within the country.

Besides these attempts, the instances of recorded and stated diversity action plans have been undocumented and have gravely mimicked the American policies that have been shared all throughout the world. The presence of various multinational companies in UAE has provided a sound base for most national workplaces in the country to implement their international diversity standards. These facts suggest that the majority of Emirates’ workplaces have integrated diverse employees, but have not formalized and invented their managerial policies in accordance to address the subject of diversity with a unique perspective. The lack of innovation in diversity management within the organizations of UAE is substantiated owing to the absence of the domination of any particular sect or demographic. The country itself comprises of a heavy population of diverse individuals that annuls the effect of political or social domination of any group.

Al Ghurair Group also strives to introduce new programs and develop company policies that are in line with managing diversity within the business group. The group believes that a diverse workforce is crucial to its success. The workplace aims to be free of harassment and discrimination by promoting a culture that respects all nationalities and ethnic backgrounds. All employees, irrespective of their backgrounds, are provided training and development opportunities, free medical insurance, and a conducive work environment (Al Ghurair Group, 2010).

Balfour Beatty is one example of a multinational company operating within the UAE that employs extensive diversity management programs and practices that render a wide range of services for its employees to establish a sense of belongingness. Their training activities are marked by equal treatment of each employee. The company also offers its employees facilities to practice their individual religious beliefs and provides debit cards and ATM services to the migrant workers. Their Zero Harm Safety programme developed for their employees is carefully tailored and translated into several different languages and dialects, most commonly used by their employees (Balfour Beatty, 2009).

Emirates Airlines is another example of a company that has been successful in managing diversity within its workforce. The company’s corporate values provide the basis for quality services, employee development and learning programs and employee benefits that are equally offered to every employee. Over 150 nationalities make up the workforce at Emirates, thus, giving it one of the most culturally diverse and innovative employee base that ensures its sustainable success. The company, however, faces challenges of female employee retention and increasing the number of UAE nationals in the company, who currently comprise about 5% of the Emirates workforce (Sull, Ghoshal and Monteiro, 2005).

Managing Diversity

There are a number of measures that can be adopted to manage diversity within workplaces that can only be determined by the intensity of diversification and assimilation of various groups within the organization, and the quality of interactions and relationships they possess. In order to determine which approach works best for any given context, it is important to firstly analyze the environment.

If a workplace is composed of very understanding, cooperative, tolerant and respectful employees, then adopting extensive methods for diversity integration would prove infeasible. Creating awareness and verbalizing the need to introduce and furnish further diversity can improve the present environment even more (Golembiewski, 1995). However, in this case, it is extremely important to consider the fact that even though possessing a tolerant workforce is a necessity for supporting diversity, it does not completely address the situation of diversity within any corporation. It is important to set evaluation standards that measure individual performance based on objective facts, and compare the ongoing interaction and grievances that might arise from time to time.

Diversity management can be made effective by objective analysis of the growing needs of each work group. Ensuring that employees are considerably compensated and equitably treated through proper social, professional and financial standards requires acknowledging the presence and formalizing of diversity action plans. It is paramount to create awareness and provide employees with comfortable grounds for communication, where they can address issues that they might encounter (Ozbilgin et’al, 2007).

A firm commitment of upper management establishes a strong acceptance for diversity and promotes individual tolerance of employees towards other diverse groups. In some cases isolation is an important method for protecting the interest of certain diverse groups and the organization. This suggests that every measure that is to be adopted to promote diversity should ensure that each group must be offered security through whatever means possible in order to function well (Kreitner and Kinicki, 2009).

Conclusion

Managing diversity in a multicultural environment is both challenging and favorable. Owing to its innumerable advantages and benefits, organizations are shifting towards the trend of incorporating more diversity within their work environment in order to prosper in today’s fast paced era. For a multicultural context, it becomes highly necessary to develop formal codes and practices that ensure safety and certitude of operability. In the absence of such management, a multicultural organization would only cease to exist.

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