Today, at the beginning of the 21st century, the world is submerged in a wide range of demographic trends which have the potential to radically change the demographic, cultural and ethical mixture of the population in many countries within just a few decades.
Top managers often say that their company's people are its most important asset. In a tight job market and a global economy a company that puts people first - regardless of their race, religion, gender, age, sexual preference, or physical disability - wins.
Companies, especially big multinational players which have to deal with these changes, are growingly forced to react. Employees, once a homogenous group in many countries, are increasingly diverse and need to be integrated within and into working environments. Diversity can present an immense source of opportunities but it can also mean the opposite, a big threat.
Diversity management is a managerial approach in response to these trends and can help companies to effectively and efficiently manage their personnel diversity, i.e. personnel made up of diverse and multifaceted people. The text argues that a diverse workforce can be regarded as an instrument of sales promotion, a marketing tool to induce customers to buy certain products or services.
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To be successful at creating workforce diversity program involves attracting and retaining the highest quality individuals in the talent pool. For the HR professional it means looking beyond obvious recruitment methods and venues for good people, then learning how to manage human potential sensitively. It requires an ever-increasing awareness of how people from different backgrounds deal with authority, communication, overall business etiquette, and relate to their communities of affiliation.
Promoting workforce diversity is a process that takes place in many stages and on many levels. It requires HR professionals first to recruit a competent and qualified staff, then to accommodate individual needs within the context of the work team and the organization.
In today's world of cultural diversity, our business can't thrive unless we implement aÂ workforce diversity initiative. Besides tapping into the unique abilities and talents of people from different backgrounds, we can improve our image in the community by opening up a place of business to anyone regardless of race, color, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability.
1.2 WHAT IS DIVERSITY?
Diversity to us means all aspects in which people differ from one another. This includes both the visible and relatively easily demonstrable personal characteristics such as gender, age and ethnicity, as well as the less visible personal characteristics, such as competencies, needs and wants, work styles and character traits. Each employee has his or her own, unique combination of such characteristics. Another definition describes diversity as creating high performing organizations through valuing and using all the talents of employees of different groups. Regardless of how diversity is defined, it is an issue that is weeping the nation. If the corporate society does not address the issue by learning how to manage diversity, they will fail.
1.3 DIVERSITY MANAGEMENT
Managing diversity is one of the most important challenges faced by manager sand their organizations. In today's work environment, co-workers are likely to be of different gender, age, religion, cultural background, race and ethnicity. They also differ in terms of lifestyle, choices available, perspectives, attitudes, value system, beliefs, behaviors, expectations, skills and experiences. These issues are not just about discriminatory practices but they modify the nature and demands placed on leadership and management and bring into prominence the concept of diversity. How well or how prepared managers are able to invest in the concept of diversity will impact not just on work issues but also on sensitivity to customer's needs, legal compliance, business' ethical issues, profitability and even social cohesion.
Diversity management is a strategic process to manage a diverse workforce-including the fight against stereotypes, prejudice and all kind of discrimination due to the individual perceptions and assumptions- in the manner to maximize the benefit and minimize barriers of different opinions, behavior and attitudes of human beings within a company.
DiversityÂ managementÂ is a strategy that is intended to foster and maintain a positive workplace environment. Usually initiated byÂ Human ResourcesÂ professionals and managed by department heads and supervisors, an effectiveÂ diversityÂ management program will promote recognition and respect for the individual differences found among a group of employees. The idea of this managementÂ style is to encourage employees to be comfortable withÂ diversityÂ in the workplace and develop an appreciation for differences in race, gender, background, sexual orientation or any other factors that may not be shared by everyone working in the same area of the company.
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DiversityÂ managementÂ can be adapted to many different types of working environments and be integrated into many different types ofÂ managementÂ styles. Promoting recognition and acceptance ofÂ diversityÂ among the employees can convert aÂ hostile workplaceÂ environment into a welcoming environment where people freely communicate and support one another with any tasks associated with the job. In doing so, the implementation of aÂ diversityÂ managementÂ approach often makes it possible for productivity levels to increase dramatically.
1.4 PRINCIPLES OF DIVERSITY MANAGEMENT
1.5 CATEGORIZATION OF DIVERSITY MANAGEMENT
Diversity management can be divided into two categories:
1. The internal effect has an influence on organizational structural changes within the company.
2. The external effect concerns the environment of the company e.g. customers, stakeholders, suppliers etc.
The concept of diversity management is extensive; there are various components of diversity as follows:
Diversity of ethnicity, nationality and cultures.
Diversity of demography (gender, age and experience).
Diversity of competencies (educational and professional backgrounds).
Diversity of organizational functions and processes.
Diversity of networks (i.e. relationships and communications channels and/or patterns etc.)
Miscellaneous diversity (sexual preferences, occupational disabilities, i.e. handicap or physical mobility, etc.)
2.1 WORK FORCE AS A CHALLENGE
First, there is an increase in the cost of training. This increase comes from costs associated with seminars, programs and lectures given to promote diversity in the corporation. These types of training are given to all levels of staff within the organization. They teach employees others. These programs also teach one how to deal with conflicts and prejudice in a professional and civil manner.
A disadvantage of diversity in the workplace is an increase in conflicts.
Conflicts arise when two or more individuals or groups do not see eye to eye on a particular situation. In regard to diversity, conflicts arise largely due to ignorance. Prejudice feelings or derogatory comments cause a lack of acceptance. "This can produce negative dynamics such as ethnocentrism, stereotyping and culture clashes". The most common conflict comes from one feeling superior. If management ignores such conflicts, the company's performance may suffer. If conflicts can be managed and controlled, creativity and performance can be increased. Employers will work harder to gain acceptance by creating a solution or invention first.
Increases in labor turnover and absenteeism are another disadvantage in having a diverse workplace. Research has shown that the turnover rate for African Work Force as a challenge.
First, there is an increase in the cost of training. This increase comes from costs associated with seminars, programs and lectures given to promote diversity in the corporation. These types of training are given to all levels of staff within the organization. They teach employees others. These programs also teach one how to deal with conflicts and prejudice in a professional and civil manner.
Increases in labor turnover and absenteeism are another disadvantage in having a diverse workplace. . Research has shown that the turnover rate for African Ameri-Ongori and Agolla 075cans in the US workforce is 40 percent greater than whites. Another study by Corning Glass stated that between the years 1980 - 1987, the turnover rate for women in a professional job was two times higher than males. Women also have a 58 percent higher absentee rate than men. Yet, another study shows that a person, who is not a member of the "inner group", will be one of the first to leave a company. Some research contradicts the idea that flextime reduces these rates; however absenteeism and turnover can cost a company up to and over $3 million annually.
Workforce diversity increases labor turnover and absenteeism in organizations on employee satisfaction and productivity. Employees who perceive themselves as valued members of their organization are harder working, involved, and innovative. Unfortunately, minority-group members often feel less valued than do majority-group members due to stereotyping, ethnocentrism, and prejudice. Mismanagement of diversity in the form of denied access or unfavorable treatment can have negative consequences, such as inhibiting workers' abilities and motivation.
2.2 WORK FORCE DIVERSITY: BENEFITS
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Workplace diversity refers to the variety of differences between people in an organization. That sounds simple, but diversity encompasses race, gender, ethnic group, age, personality, cognitive style, tenure, organizational function, education, background and more.Â
Diversity not only involves how people perceive themselves, but how they perceive others. Those perceptions affect their interactions. For a wide assortment of employees to function effectively as an organization, human resource professionals need to deal effectively with issues such as communication, adaptability and change. Diversity will increase significantly in the coming years. Successful organizations recognize the need for immediate action and are ready and willing to spend resources on managing diversity in the workplace now.Â
2.3 BENEFITS OF WORKPLACE DIVERSITY
An organization's success and competitiveness depends upon its ability to embrace diversity and realize the benefits. When organizations actively assess their handling of workplace diversity issues, develop and implement diversity plans, multiple benefits are reported such as:Â
Organizations employing a diverse workforce can supply a greater variety of solutions to problems in service, sourcing, and allocation of resources. Employees from diverse backgrounds bring individual talents and experiences in suggesting ideas that are flexible in adapting to fluctuating markets and customer demands.Â
Broader service range:
A diverse collection of skills and experiences (e.g. languages, cultural understanding) allows a company to provide service to customers on a global basis.Â
Variety of viewpoints:
A diverse workforce that feels comfortable communicating varying points of view provides a larger pool of ideas and experiences. The organization can draw from that pool to meet business strategy needs and the needs of customers more effectively.Â
More effective execution:
Companies that encourage diversity in the workplace inspire all of their employees to perform to their highest ability. Company-wide strategies can then be executed; resulting in higher productivity, profit, and return on investment.Â
2.4 WORKFORCE AS AN OPPORTUNITY
Managing diversity can create a competitive advantage. Potential benefits of this diversity include better decision making, higher creativity and innovation greater success in marketing to foreign and domestic ethnic minority communities, and a better distribution of economic opportunity.
Organizations with a diverse workforce can provide superior services because they can better understand customers' needs.
2.5 WHY SHOULD WE STRIVE FOR DIVERSITY IN PERSONNEL?
An often heard argument to avoid having to put energy into diversity is that it only leads to misunderstanding, undesired formation of groups, communication problems and conflicts in the work force. When put like this, paying attention to diversity seems a useless investment.
But demographic developments cannot be ignored. In situations like labor
shortage, organizations cannot permit themselves to exclude a substantial part of the labor force. Diversity in personnel has different advantages pertaining to business economics:
Attraction for a wider group of customers: more people can identify with the organization. This could increase your turnover;
More creativity within the organization: diversity leads to innovative products and services, which is necessary to compete with other businesses;
An improved business image: more people see you as an 'employer of choice'.
Diversity covers a wide variety of issues, including communicating with
employees, whose first language is not English, helping a diverse team cope
with conflict, learning which rewards are valued by different groups, and
dealing with discrimination. Managers can improve handling of diversity issues
by following these eight behaviors.
Embrace diversity:Â Successfully valuing diversity starts with accepting the principle of multiculturalism. Accept the value of diversity for its own sake -not simply because you have to. You need to reflect your acceptance in all you say and do.
Recruit broadly:Â When you have job openings, work to get a diverse applicant pool. Avoid relying on referrals from current employees, since this tends to produce candidates similar to your present workforce.
Select fairly:Â Make sure your selection process doesn't discriminate. Particularly, ensure that selection tests are job-related.
Provide orientation and training for minorities:Â Making the transition from outsider to insider can be particularly difficult for nontraditional employees.
Sensitize all employees:Â Encourage all employees to embrace diversity.
Provide diversity training to help all employees see the value in diversity.
Strive to be flexible:Â Part of valuing diversity is recognizing that different groups have different needs and values. Be flexible in accommodating employee requests.
Seek to motivate individually: You need to be aware of the background, cultures, and values of employees. What motivates a single mother with two young children and who is working full time to support her family is likely to be different from the needs of a young, single, part-time employee or an older employee who is working to supplement his or her retirement income.
Encourage employees to embrace and value diverse views:Â Create traditions and ceremonies that promote diversity. Celebrate diversity by accentuating its positive aspects. But also be prepared to deal with the challenges of diversity such as mistrust, miscommunication, and lack of cohesiveness, attitudinal differences, and stress.
3.1 IMPORTANCE OF DIVERSE WORKFORCE
Our Nation is made up of people from diverse backgrounds, cultures, customs and beliefs. It is those differences that contribute to the richness and strength of our society. Like our Nation, the workforce Is also becoming more and more diverse. As a result, in order to recruit, hire and retain the best people from every background and community, we must foster diversity in our workforce, manage it effectively, and value what it has to offer. A diverse workforce is critical for any organization that seeks to improve and maintain a competitive advantage. Focusing on diversity and looking for ways to achieve an inclusive environment is not just a "nice to have objective," it makes a good business sense. A diverse workforce offers greater productivity and a competitive edge. Diversity improves the quality of our workforce and offers
a higher return on our investment in human capital. Our agency's future
depends on the quality of employees we recruit today. New employees often consider an organization's diversity efforts when deciding whether to accept or reject an employment offer. Potential candidates are usually more attracted to employers that are committed to sustaining a diverse workforce. Moreover, diverse perspectives increase creativity as they offer different perspectives, ideas and solutions.
People have a lot of viewpoints and having people from many backgrounds and places in life brings a lot of those viewpoints into the mix. In some situations, alot of viewpoints give us a lot of options. Plus, since there are many different viewpoints and environments in the workers, there are many opportunities for these different viewpoints to come into the planning of strategic initiatives, allowing the firm to serve a wider group of consumers and interests. The Various .advantages of having a diverse workforce are the following;
1. It helps motivating employees.
2. It enhances the innovation and creativity of employees.
3. It helps in reducing cost.
4. It creates flexibility in the organization.
5. Immediate access to problem solving.
6. Easy transfer of knowledge.
7. Better marketing structure.
8. Innovative work environment.
9. Immediate outcomes.
10. Fulfillment of social responsibility.
11. It helps attract and retain employees.
Management of Diversity in leading INC's
A manager or the superior must be aware of the background, cultures, and values of employees. The motivation factors for a full time working mother to support her two young children are different from the needs of a young, single, part-time employee or an older employee who is working to
supplement his or her retirement.
3.2 ACCENTURE DIVERSITY
"Accenture is passionately committed to cultivating a diverse workforce both because it's the right thing to do, and it's a key element of achieving high performance," said Armelle Carminati-Rabasse, Accenture's managing director of Human Capital and Diversity globally. "Our company comprises people from a wide range of cultural, educational and geographic backgrounds-people who are able to challenge conventional thought, offer unique perspectives and generate innovative ideas. Our rich diversity is part of what makes our company strong."
In an independent study commissioned by Accenture on cross-cultural communication problems, it was found that the chief factors causing problems between onshore and offshore workers were different communication styles (76 per cent of the times), different approaches to completing talks (53 per cent), different attitudes toward conflict (44 percent) and different decision-making styles (44 per cent). About 200 US business executives whose companies have outsourced business processes outside the country were interviewed here.
"We know the markets we serve are growing increasingly diverse and we are proud of how diversity management has become part of our day-to-day business practices," saidÂ Clyde Jones, ADP Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer. "To consistently take our business growth to the next level and beyond, we must do the same regarding our commitment to diversity. This recognition from Diversity Inc is an important acknowledgement that we have continued to move in the right direction."
3.3 GOOGLE DIVERSITY
"Diversity plays a large role in the way we're developing our engineering organization around the world. We're building a large worldwide office presence to establish ample global representation among our engineers, and we're applying that same focus to establish a balanced representation of employees at Google. In the end, these efforts help us more accurately and relevantly represent our users, and our continued success depends on the best minds working from different perspectives and insights.
3.4 INFOSYS DIVERSITY
Globalization has changed the character of the modern workplace global company's employee base should reflect the diversity of the world it serves. Infosys strives to employ people representing the widest possible variety of nationalities, cultures, genders and gender identities, sexual orientations, employment histories, and levels of physical ability. In doing so, the company is able to recruit new employees from all available global talent pools and provide paths to employment to all members of world societies, including talented individuals from groups who may have in the past been under represented within the IT industry. Within such a diverse company, people bring to the workplace contrasting opinions and worldviews. As these people interact, they develop new ideas, methods, and perspectives. Infosys recognize sand promotes this power of diversity to drive innovation.
Infosys actively fosters inclusivity across all of its business units and in everyone of its company offices. It encourages all employees to focus on the commonalities they share and leverage their differences towards productive team work. Inclusivity ultimately makes for a more informed and sensitive employee base that is better able to serve clients.
Infosys was the first Indian IT company to establish a company office to manage and drive all company initiatives dealing with diversity and inclusion. Today they have employees from over 70 countries. Women constitute more than 32% of their workforce.
Infosys Women Inclusivity Network (IWIN) promotes a gender-sensitive work environment. IWIN recognizes the unique aspirations and needs of women. It provides avenues for vocational, personal and psychological counsel to enable professional and personal development. Infosys won the first NASSCOM-India Today corporate award for excellence in gender inclusivity in 2007. Infosys actively seeks to hire and train persons with disabilities. In 2006 and 2007,Infosys BPO received the Helen Keller award for the best employer from the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP).Infosys announced an intake of 300 graduates from universities in the US in2006 and about 25 from universities in the UK in 2007 as part of its commitment to create a diversified workforce. The new employees will develop their engineering skills at Infosys Development Centers across India for six months before returning to Infosys offices in the US.
3.5 TCS DIVERSITY
Diversity in companies is no longer about being melting pots, but being salad bowls," according to Grady Searcy. "We want people to retain their identity yetbe integrated into the company Currently, 7.5 per cent of our workforce consists of non-Indians," said the EXECUTIVE VICEPRESIDENT and head Global human resource, TCS while speaking at the NASSCOM HR Summit on `The War for Talent' held recently in Chennai. In accession on managing cross-cultural teams, speakers emphasized that managing a diverse workforce is no longer a choice, but an imperative.
The Indian workplace is no different from global MNCs.TCS has announced plans to hire about 4,000 people from across the world.
3.6 WIPRO DIVERSITY
Wipro launched of its Women of Wipro (WoW) initiative, coinciding with the international Women's Day. Wipro honored its women workforce with the title of 'Green Ambassadors' besides felicitating women achievers. The WoW initiative has been launched as a chapter of the Wipro's Diversity Council, as the company's Green Ambassadors will influence a change in the environment by undertaking various projects that emphasize on the aspect of 'Green'.
The initiative will be driven by the Green Ambassadors at a personal level. Wow will also work towards creating visibility for its female leadership, both internally and externally. Building sustainable and growing networks that contribute to the success of business, the community and self-development would be the other highlight of initiative.
Wipro Chairman Azim Premji said: "In Corporate India, I have been seeing very positive shifts in the last few decades that have made it easier for women to contribute to organizational growth. There are many instances where the so- called glass ceiling has been shattered. There is no doubt that having more women in an organization can help in making it more profitable."
Eco Bags specially made for women employees were given away on the
occasion. The 'Eco-Bag' contains quick and easy list of green steps, called
"Shades of Green". Going forward, the WOW charter will include several
initiatives that have a significant social impact and where women can play a catalytic role in ushering change. The Core Diversity Council has been set up to breathe life into these initiatives so that they don't remain buried in a PowerPoint presentation. The council consists of representatives from every function at a senior level.
4.1 DIVERSITY PAYS
Today, with growing global consensus that workforce diversity is important, what trends do we see in India? If we take women in the workforce as a prime indicator, there is no question that the signs are encouraging. But are they similar across the country? Do companies big and small drive the change with the same vigor? Are we witnessing these trends across industries or only in more 'progressive' sectors? And more importantly, are an increasing number of women assuming senior leadership positions?
As a nation we have much to be proud of. Throughout the rich history of our nation, women have occupied positions of leadership, and have made a mark on the world stage. However, we have much to worry about as well. Female infanticide and low levels of female literacy indicate that many sections of our society are yet to accord an equal status to women.
So what is the connection? It is simple but important, businesses in India have a responsibility to send a strong message by their actions - everybody counts.
This will not be easy. How do we get there if our start point is three women in a workforce of hundreds? As always, we have to begin at the top. If the captains don't get it; then we shouldn't start! Let's not forget, in this talent scarce market companies (should) want to attract people of all backgrounds, promote gender diversity and spread the talent net as wide as possible. And frankly, once a company builds a diverse team the pay back is through superior performance. Workforce diversity is an obligation to shareholders, to society and toÂ employees.
Effective diversity measures and evaluation processes that determine the ROI of diversity management can provide an organization with invaluable information to support key business imperatives--such as the impact of diversity training and areas of improvement needed for recruitment strategies. Further, diversity initiatives that receive public acknowledgment through awards (e.g., Diversity In Top 50 Companies for Diversity) help attract bright talent and positively affect company brand and reputation.
Going beyond political correctness
As mentioned right at the beginning of this article, diversity should not be confused with political correctness. Take some typical situations. A white manager fears being perceived as racist if she gives critical feedback to her black subordinate. A black engineer passed over for promotion is reluctant to raise this concern for fear of being seen as "playing the race card." A woman associate who wants to reach the board in an MNC resists seeking coaching on her leadership style; afraid that this would only confirm the notion that women don't have what it takes to get to the top. A manager in an Indian public sector company takes care to ensure that the people belonging to scheduled castes in the department are never taken to task for poor performance.
In politically correct cultures, people worry about how others view them, rather than think of what is good for the organization. They feel inhibited and are afraid to address even mundane issues directly. People impulsively draw private conclusions and keep things to themselves. Resentments build, relationships fray, and performance suffers. The atmosphere becomes such that people skirt around the issues and one another. The result is misunderstanding, conflict, and mistrust, undermining both managerial and team effectiveness.
The Business case for diversity
The shift in labor market demographics seems to be the main reason businesses are supporting diversity. In many countries, companies are increasingly looking at talent pools they have not considered so seriously before. In India, women are entering the job market in a big way. In the coming years, people from the rural areas will also enter the job market in a big way. This trend has already started and will pick up momentum in the next five years. Many Indian software companies are also adding a large number of foreigners to their workforce. At a Nasscom HR summit in the middle of 2006, Infosys announced an intake of 300 graduates from universities in the US in 2006 and about 25 from universities in the UK in 2007 as part of its commitment to create a diversified workforce. TCS announced plans to hire about 4,000 people from across the world. So far foreign recruits have been mainly used by Indian IT companies in overseas locations to manage relations with foreign clients. But as India becomes an increasingly important and prestigious location for foreigners to work and add to their experience (and to their C.V.), a new dimension will emerge. Diversity will become even more important in helping these people to contribute to full potential.
Another area where diversity has the potential to create real business value is innovation, which has become extremely important today in view of the rapid changes in the business environment and diminishing cycle times. One of the best ways to encourage innovation is to have diverse teams where different perspectives are brought to the table. Age is a big factor here. The young can think out of the box but the old with their experience are better at knowing what works and what does not.
As creativity expert, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi mentions, the young, have fluid intelligence, or the ability to respond rapidly. They have quick reaction times and can compute fast and accurately. This type of intelligence is largely innate and its various components peak early - teens, twenty's or thirty's. With age, these skills weaken, and after 70, the decline is usually quite severe.
The older people have crystallized intelligence which helps in making sensible judgments, recognizing similarities across different categories, using induction and logical reasoning. These abilities depend more on reflection than quick reaction. They usually increase with time, at least until the age of sixty. By having teams with a judicious blend of old and young people, creativity can be enhanced significantly.
Diversity can also play a crucial role in improving the quality of decision making. As James Surowiecki mentions in his much acclaimed book, "The wisdom of crowds," diversity not only adds new perspectives but also weakens some of the destructive characteristics of group decision making. Homogeneous groups may be harmonious and good at doing what they normally do, but they are quite ineffective at investigating alternatives, which is important while dealing with unstructured problems that have not been previously encountered. Diversity expands the range of alternatives and allows the group to conceptualize problems in novel ways. Diversity also makes it easier for a group to make decisions based on facts, rather than on influence, authority or group allegiance. Homogeneous groups become more easily insulated from outside opinions. They try to rationalize away possible counter arguments to the group's position and refrain from dissent. When there is pressure to conform, people change their opinion, even when they are convinced because it is easier to change their opinion than challenge the group.
Towards a new paradigm
Just as truly global companies know how to strike the right balance between global standardization and local customization, similarly companies serious about diversity must learn to blend two polar approaches - viewing everyone as same and accepting and celebrating differences. David Thomas and Robin Ely, point out that traditionally, companies have looked at diversity from the point of view of discrimination and fairness. Here the emphasis is on equal opportunity and fair treatment. Everyone is the same and differences do not count. The focus is on assimilation, i.e., to achieve a demographically representative workforce whose members treat one another exactly the same. The progress under this paradigm is typically measured by how well the company achieves its recruitment and retention goals with respect to targeted segments on the basis of sex, age, race etc. The philosophy here is rooted in affirmative action.
Other companies accept and celebrate differences. They realize they are operating in an increasingly multicultural environment. A demographically more diverse workforce will help serve different customer segments more effectively. Employees with multilingual skills can understand and serve customers better and gain legitimacy with them. This paradigm emphasizes the role of cultural differences, but in a somewhat naive way without really analyzing how they affect the work being done. It slots staff with niche capabilities into differentiated roles without fully understanding what these capabilities are and how they can be leveraged most effectively. In short, the approach is superficial and lacks depth. It is similar to a global company appointing natives as country managers across locations without fully considering whether that is the most appropriate way of staffing.
Companies most advanced in implementing diversity initiatives, embrace the learning and effectiveness paradigm. They incorporate aspects of both the paradigms discussed earlier but go beyond them by establishing deeper linkages between diversity and approaches to work. They realize that increasing diversity alone does not increase organizational effectiveness. What is more important is how the company leverages the experiences of the diverse. Companies must incorporate employees' perspectives into the main work of the organization and to enhance work by rethinking primary tasks and redefining markets, products, strategies, missions, business practices and even cultures.
Thomas and Ely mention eight preconditions for such an approach to be introduced in an organization:
A sincere appreciation of different opinions and perspectives
A good understanding of the learning opportunities and challenges associated with the expression of different perspectives
A culture that demands high performance.
A culture that is supportive of personal development
A culture that encourages openness
A culture that makes workers feel valued
A well articulated and widely understood company mission.
A structure that is egalitarian and non bureaucratic.
A shift to the learning and effectiveness paradigm requires a high level of commitment to learning more about the environment, structure and tasks of the organization. It also calls for a high degree of initiative, i.e. seizing opportunities to change and improve.
The diversity continuum
According to R Roosevelt Thomas Jr. approaches to diversity lie across a continuum:
â€¢ Affirmative action
â€¢ Understanding differences
â€¢ Managing workforce diversity
â€¢ Strategic diversity management
Affirmative action focuses on inclusion. The goal is a demographically representative workforce that complies with legal, moral, or social responsibility prescriptions.
Understanding differences focuses on achieving harmony among diverse organizational participants. Here the aim is to leverage the potential richness that can flow from diversity and avoid conflicts that can hamper productivity.
Managing workforce diversity focuses on creating a workplace environment that allows all participants to contribute to their full potential. This approach requires a willingness to assess the organization's core beliefs and practices, and to change these when needed. The company must address the complete range of significant people related differences. It goes beyond racial and gender differences. It accepts that differences in learning style, tenure with the organization, or family responsibilities may have more impact than demographic differences.
Strategic diversity management is the most comprehensive approach to diversity. It addresses workplace or business diversity in ways that support individual and organizational goals. This approach recognizes that non demographic workplace or business mixtures can create challenges equal to those created by workforce demographics. Workplace or business diversity mixtures include the following:
â€¢ Business units combined through acquisitions and mergers
â€¢ Distinct functional units
â€¢ Multiple product lines
â€¢ Customers, clientele, or constituencies
Implementing diversity initiatives
Implementation of diversity initiatives poses various challenges. Companies should not rush into implementing diversity initiatives with wrongly chosen metrics. It's very easy to fool oneself into believing that by meeting some numerical goals, a diversity issue has been solved. For example, it is easy to have a diversity trainer conduct "Understanding Differences" programs and count the number of people who have been trained. These actions can make it appear for a while that diversity has been addressed.
Soon, however, it will become clear that the more complex issues have been completely ignored. Minorities and women may come on board but not stay, or may stay but remain clustered at lower organizational levels. Goodwill generated in "Understanding Differences" workshops degenerates as the underlying issues that had created resentment earlier continue to surface and people start realizing that diversity is more hype and less reality.
The greater the clarity about where one wants to go and the process framework for making the transition, the greater the chance of progress. According to R. Roosevelt Thomas Jr, while monitoring implementation, leaders must address three questions:
1. What should we measure?
2. How should we measure it?
3. When should we measure?
First, the company should be clear what the goals are. Is it to encourage innovation? Is it to tap a hitherto untapped talent pool? Is it to change the culture? Is it to improve the quality of decision making?
Then the company must know how to measure them. In general, the measurement process will vary with the dimension in question. For example, in the case of how diversity is defined, informal surveys can be used. On the other hand, with cultural change, the culture audit must be repeated periodically to note improvements or regressions.
Then comes when to measure. Here again, a tailored approach is recommended. Measurements may be taken after each educational or training workshop. Evaluations of the planning process may coincide with the planning cycle, whereas cultural change measurements may be taken every four or five years. The measurement time frame must be matched to the specifics of the dimension.
Leadership holds the key to effective implementation of any diversity initiative. One barrier to a successful diversity initiative is non-supportive leadership. Top leadership must constantly send signals to people below that they will be rewarded on the basis of their ability to hire, develop, and retain people of all backgrounds. It is often the case that top management is well-intentioned but the middle management is not up to it.
Diversity initiatives in many companies proceed in a typical way. They often begin with affirmative action, aimed at helping disadvantaged and under represented groups who need some special attention and hand holding. These include women, handicapped people, linguistic and religious minorities. Conscious efforts are made to recruit such people and create special career paths. But too often, things do not move as expected and the expected career progression does not happen. Some of the frustrated minorities leave. Those who stay back remain confused as they have a nagging feeling at the back of their mind that the company has done them a favour. So they prefer to keep quiet. Typically after some time, the company's diversity initiatives start attracting widespread criticism. The cycle may start all over again, with the focus going back to recruitment.
To get the maximum leverage, interventions designed to bring the disadvantaged groups into the mainstream, must quickly give way to genuine attempts to respect the differences which exist among different people and help them perform to full potential. Indeed, instead of viewing diversity as "anything goes" and resigning oneself to a lowering of performance standards, companies must attempt to create real business value by using diversity.
Roosevelt Thomas Jr., suggests ten guidelines to get the maximum out of a diversity program:
Clarify the motivation: There must be a strong business case for diversity initiatives.
Clarify the vision: The aim of diversity programs should be to tap the full potential of every person in the workforce.
Expand the focus: Diversity should go beyond race, gender, creed and ethnicity, to include background, education, function and personality differences.
Audit the corporate culture: Culture building is a key part of any diversity initiative.
Modify the assumptions: Every time changes are made, the culture may resist them.
Modify systems: The systems should not just be optimal but should work for all employees.
Modify models: Mental models should not stand in the way.
Tell people they are pioneers: Implementing diversity initiatives involves change management. People should be judged as pioneers, not as seasoned practitioners.
Ask some key questions: Does this program, policy or principle give special consideration to one group? Will it only produce benefits for a disadvantaged group? If the answer is yes, many more challenges remain to be addressed.
Continue affirmative action: The ultimate goal is to manage the company without any unnatural advantage or disadvantage for any member of the workplace. But affirmative action may be needed initially to have a truly diverse workforce.
In India we still have a long way to go in the area of diversity. Even in a relatively basic issue such as representation of women in management, India lags behind the US by a huge margin. Women are still struggling to get into the boardroom and are currently holding less than 3 percent of managerial positions in India. According to the results of a recent study conducted by Prime Database, 6,560 individuals occupy a total of 11,391 directorship positions in 1,069 listed companies in India. Only 311 of these individuals are women. Gender representation in the US, by contrast, is far more equitable. Nearly 42% of management positions are occupied by women. Moreover, 88 percent of Standard & Poor's 500 companies have at least one female board member, while 49 per cent have two or more women directors. According to Egon Zehnder, the global HR consultants, addressing gender issues within the organisational set up, establishing discussion platforms, mentoring young women, sabbaticals with an option to re-enter the workforce, commitment to equal opportunity are all needed to promote greater gender equality in the workplace. Many large corporations in India have not yet taken simple measures like providing child-care, flexible work hours etc to support women managers who are serious about their career. Clearly, Indian companies will have to do much more to demonstrate that they are serious about diversity.