Cultural Diversity Is At The Highest Point It Has Ever Been

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Abstract: -In today's society, cultural diversity is at the highest point it has ever been. As companies are becoming more diverse, it is becoming more important for them to understand and manage that diversity. People of different backgrounds, races, ages, gender, and/or religions create a diverse workforce. There is an importance of having a diverse workforce in order to provide better performance overall. With a diverse workforce, there arises a need for new management strategies, which require organization leaders and managers to know the differences among their employees and to know how to handle situations involving these differences. As Dr. Sondra Thiederman, a leading expert in workplace diversity, stated, ``whether you are a business owner, executive, salesperson or customer- service professional, your success will increasingly depend on your ability to function in a culturally diverse marketplace''

The world's increasing globalization requires more interaction among people from diverse cultures, beliefs, and backgrounds than ever before. People no longer live and work in an insular marketplace; they are now part of a worldwide economy with competition coming from nearly every continent. For this reason, profit and non-profit organizations need diversity to become more creative and open to change. Maximizing and capitalizing on workplace diversity has become an important issue for management today.

Supervisors and managers need to recognize the ways in which the workplace is changing, evolving, and diversifying. Since managing diversity remains a significant organizational challenge, managers must learn the managerial skills needed in a multicultural work environment. Supervisors and managers must be prepared to teach themselves and others within their organizations to value multicultural differences in both associates and customers so that everyone is treated with dignity.

Companies that encourage diversity in the workplace inspire all of their employees to perform to their highest ability. Company-wide strategies can then are executed; resulting in higher productivity, profit, and return on investment.

Workplace diversity strategies help to build the organization's relationship with the community, enhance the contribution of its employees and improve the quality of its programs, products and services.

The most successful organizations focus on inculcating and embedding the principles of diversity in their culture and management systems. These organizations truly value diversity and recognize it in the way they do business.

Managing diversity successfully means creating an environment that values and utilizes the contributions of people with different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. Organizations need to develop people management strategies that accommodate differences in the background, perspectives and family responsibilities of their employees. They need to recognize the contribution that diversity of perspectives makes to generating new ideas and ways of doing things.

John F. Kennedy once said "If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity."  

Keywords: - workplace, employment, diversity, disability, inclusion, ethnic, racial, gender, multiculturalism, globalization, affirmative, action, ethnic, minorities.

1. Introduction:-

Diversity in this context covers gender, age, language, ethnicity, cultural background, sexual orientation, religious belief and family responsibilities. Diversity also refers to the other ways in which people are different, such as educational level, life experience, work experience, socio-economic background, personality and marital status. Workplace diversity involves recognizing the value of individual differences and managing them in the workplace.

Managing diversity successfully means creating an environment that values and utilizes the contributions of people with different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives.

Organizations need to develop people management strategies that accommodate differences in the background, perspectives and family responsibilities of their employees. They need to recognize the contribution that diversity of perspectives makes to generating new ideas and ways of doing things.

The concept of workplace diversity includes the principle of equal employment opportunity (EEO). EEO policies address continued disadvantage experienced by particular groups of people in the workplace, including women, people with disabilities and those who suffer disadvantage on the basis of race or ethnicity. These policies remain an important foundation for workplace diversity policy.

2. How does workplace diversity fit into the wider organization?

Workplace diversity principles should be integrated with and underpin all aspects of human resource management, such as planning, selection and recruitment, performance appraisal, training and development, occupational health and safety and workplace relations.

Workplace diversity strategies help to build the organization's relationship with the community, enhance the contribution of its employees and improve the quality of its programs, products and services. The most successful organizations focus on inculcating and embedding the principles of diversity in their culture and management systems. These organizations truly value diversity and recognize it in the way they do business.

Diversity is reflected in their approach to people management, including performance management. It is a core element in leadership and leadership development and reinforced through performance feedback and assessment.

3. Benefits of diversity

3.1 Increased innovation

A diverse workforce with a range of different backgrounds and perspectives gives organizations a broader range of ideas and insights to draw on in decision making and policy development. Diversity therefore makes good business sense.

3.2 Improved service to clients

A workplace that reflects the diversity will understand its clients better, which will lead to improved service. A diverse workplace will have good communication with its clients based on a deep understanding of the needs of the community.

3.3 Competitive management practices

Organizations that value and capitalize on employee diversity have productive and fulfilling workplaces which help them attract and retain employees. This leads to savings in recruitment and training costs, as well as maintaining corporate knowledge and expertise.

4. Establishing effective workplace diversity programs

This section describes how to establish a workplace diversity program that achieves its intended outcomes and contributes to organizational and business goals. It sets out a process for developing an effective program.

4.1 Planning

Establishing an effective workplace diversity program could involve:

• considering what the program will achieve;

• deciding how the program will be developed and implemented;

• drawing links to organizational objectives;

• undertaking consultation; and

• assessing the resources required.

Heads, senior executives and line managers should have input to the plan and the approach taken.

4.2 Where are we now?

To develop a workplace diversity program it is helpful to gather information about the current environment. This information forms the starting point for setting the program's objectives. Relevant information might include:

• Corporate and business plans;

• A demographic profile of employees;

• Any external factors which will affect the organization during the program;

• Assessment of the prevailing culture and business requirements of the agency;

• Previous workplace diversity (or EEO) performance; and

• Existing human resources policies and practices, such as recruitment and Selection practices, anti-harassment strategies and performance management schemes.

This information is baseline data that will be used to measure the success of the workplace diversity program.

4.3 Where do we want to be?

The next step is to define the objectives of the program. It is important to set out a

clear picture of the intended outcome of workplace diversity strategies, linked to

corporate goals.

Outcomes could include:

• awareness of, and commitment to, workplace diversity principles;

• recognition of the positive value of a diverse workforce to the agency;

• integration of workplace diversity principles in business and human resources practices and systems; and

• creation of a harmonious and supportive work environment

4.4 How will we get there?

Once the program's objectives have been agreed, strategies can be developed to help to achieve them. Strategies might cover issues identified during the information gathering stage. Strategies should reflect the agency's business and human resource needs. A high degree of consultation will help to gain commitment throughout and ensuring that the strategies are relevant.

Having a senior executive responsible for workplace diversity can be helpful.

Demonstrated support and consistent modeling of workplace diversity principles by senior executives is essential to the success of any program.

Strategies need to be realistic and, where possible, measurable. It can be useful to tie the strategies to the agency's existing accountability processes, such as consultative mechanisms, staff surveys and performance agreements. Workplace diversity measures need to be built into business plans and accountability frameworks.

Even though strategies will vary between the organizations, they should cover: preventing discrimination, valuing and utilizing the diversity of employees, balancing work and family responsibilities and eliminating disadvantage for EEO groups.

The workplace diversity program must also include performance indicators, ideally for each objective or strategy. These indicators will help to monitor the success of the program. It is best if they are simple and easy to measure and there is a clear process for monitoring and evaluating the indicators.

4.5 Implementation

Implement the program, communicate and promote the strategies

After the organization Head has approved the program, all employees should get a copy of it and have a chance to discuss how it will be implemented in their work areas.

This can be done through training programs or workshops. Managers may need training in their responsibilities or other support mechanisms to help them feel confident about implementing the strategies.

There can be challenges in implementing a workplace diversity program, including the need to sustain interest and energy, changes in key employees, changes to the environment and resistance from managers feeling the pressure of their line responsibilities.

Useful responses include targeted discussions, reviewing the program, ensuring ongoing support from senior management, establishing a network of diversity 'champions' and publicizing success stories.

4.6 Monitor progress

Performance indicators are the basis for monitoring the progress of the program.

Monitoring progress regularly will show whether adjustments need to be made to the program to ensure its relevance and success. Measurements can include changes to the employee profile, particularly those in the EEO groups. The employee profile could cover employment status, level, recruitment and retention patterns and takeup of training and flexible working arrangements.

Monitoring can be done by means of staff surveys. Other indicators of corporate health could include the rate of absenteeism or the number of harassment complaints that relate to diversity.

Methods of monitoring could include progress reports, reports to consultative committees or to senior management, changes to the employee profile, feedback from staff or interviews with key management.

4.7 Evaluation

Are we making progress towards achieving our objectives?

Evaluation will establish the effectiveness of workplace diversity strategies and help assess why particular outcomes occurred. Data gathered during planning can be compared with the information gathered for evaluation. Both quantitative data and people's perceptions gathered through surveys will help to assess the effectiveness of the program.

The results of the evaluation are then considered by the organization. The results will be useful in either modifying existing strategies or developing new strategies.

4.8 What changes do we need to make?

Building an organization that values and utilizes diversity effectively is a continuing process. Senior management needs to regularly assess how the agency is faring in terms of their performance indicators and legal obligations. The mere establishment of a workplace diversity program does not of itself fulfill an organization's obligations.

Under the Directions, Organization Heads must annually evaluate and report on the effectiveness and outcomes of the workplace diversity program.

5 .The role and responsibilities of a workplace diversity coordinator

The role and responsibilities will vary according to the nature, structure and size of an organization.

The role is to:

• articulate how diversity can enhance the business performance of the organization;

• actively promote the benefits of diversity, both for the agency and staff;

• gain an understanding of the workplace diversity needs of agency staff;

• help all staff to be aware of workplace diversity issues;

• advocate the inclusion of equity and diversity issues on strategic planning agendas;

• promote the integration of workplace diversity issues in human resource policies

and practices;

• develop, implement and monitor the workplace diversity program;

• monitor the organization's compliance with relevant laws and regulations;

• develop, implement and monitor the workplace diversity program; and

• keep senior executives informed about workplace diversity issues and about

the effectiveness of the workplace diversity program.

These functions are not the sole responsibility of the workplace diversity coordinator. For example, it is critical that senior management articulate how diversity can enhance the business performance of the agency and actively promote the benefits of diversity. Senior management also has an important role to play in advocating the inclusion of equity and diversity issues on strategic planning agendas.

A workplace diversity coordinator needs to be familiar with the business and operational environment of the organization. They should have up-todate knowledge of diversity issues and research. They should know about best practice and any recent developments which may affect their organization's policies, procedures and practices.

A workplace diversity coordinator needs well-developed facilitation and liaison skills, and strong analytical, management and communication skills. A workplace diversity coordinator should have a personal commitment to the organization's values and workplace diversity principles.

Workplace diversity coordinators need support from senior management and the

Organization's Head. Responsibility for workplace diversity does not rest solely with the coordinator. Workplace diversity is a mainstream responsibility, which should be part of the organization's management systems and culture.

Workplace diversity coordinators should be encouraged to take advantage of training opportunities in order to keep up with current issues and policies.

The network helps members keep up to date on diversity issues and

A network newsletter is circulated to all members and draws their attention to new developments and resources.

Many organizations are recognizing that their work force needs to change as their customers change. A company with a growing Hispanic customer base, for example, will have a competitive advantage if its sales representatives speak Spanish. In many companies, the process of managing diversity has already begun. The Workforce 2000 survey indicates that 44% of respondents already have programs in place to deal with cultural diversity. In addition, 39% have plans for future programs. Over the past two years, diversity training programs, existing or planned, have increased from 47% to 73% - an impressive rise.

According to R. Roosevelt Thomas Jr., Ph.D., in his book Beyond Race And Gender (AMACOM, American Management Association, New York, 1991, $22.95), companies that start the process now (or have already started) will reap an overwhelming competitive advantage in years to come. Those that lag will suffer as the marketplace and the labor force becomes increasingly more diverse. "If we don't begin to ... unleash the power that all the various groups in our national work force have to offer," Thomas says, "we will compromise all our institutions - business, academic, religious, governmental and civic."

He sees the corporation's culture as the "roots" of the organizational tree, invisible yet controlling the tree's development and sustenance. He summarizes the process of managing cultural diversity this way:

* Examining an organization's corporate culture.

* Identifying those elements of the culture that are fundamental, the "roots" from which corporate behaviors

6. 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:

6.1 Increased adaptability

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.

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.

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.

6.2 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.

Challenges of Diversity in the Workplace

Taking full advantage of the benefits of diversity in the workplace is not without its challenges. Some of those challenges are:

Communication - Perceptual, cultural and language barriers need to be overcome for diversity programs to succeed. Ineffective communication of key objectives results in confusion, lack of teamwork, and low morale.

Resistance to change - There are always employees who will refuse to accept the fact that the social and cultural makeup of their workplace is changing. The "we've always done it this way" mentality silences new ideas and inhibits progress.

Implementation of diversity in the workplace policies - This can be the overriding challenge to all diversity advocates. Armed with the results of employee assessments and research data, they must build and implement a customized strategy to maximize the effects of diversity in the workplace for their particular organization.

Successful Management of Diversity in the Workplace - Diversity training alone is not sufficient for your organization's diversity management plan. A strategy must be created and implemented to create a culture of diversity that permeates every department and function of the organization.

7. Recommendations & Suggestions

Assessment of diversity in the workplace - Top companies make assessing and evaluating their diversity process an integral part of their management system. A customizable employee satisfaction survey can accomplish this assessment for your company efficiently and conveniently. It can help your management team determine which challenges and obstacles to diversity are present in your workplace and which policies need to be added or eliminated. Reassessment can then determine the success of you diversity in the workplace plan implementation.

Development of diversity in the workplace plan - Choosing a survey provider that provides comprehensive reporting is a key decision. That report will be the beginning structure of your diversity in the workplace plan. The plan must be comprehensive, attainable and measurable. An organization must decide what changes need to be made and a timeline for that change to be attained.

Implementation of diversity in the workplace plan - The personal commitment of executive and managerial teams is a must. Leaders and managers within organizations must incorporate diversity policies into every aspect of the organization's function and purpose. Attitudes toward diversity originate at the top and filter downward. Management cooperation and participation is required to create a culture conducive to the success of your organization's plan.

Recommended diversity in the workplace solutions include:

Ward off change resistance with inclusion. - Involve every employee possible in formulating and executing diversity initiatives in your workplace.

Foster an attitude of openness in your organization. - Encourage employees to express their ideas and opinions and attribute a sense of equal value to all.

Promote diversity in leadership positions. - This practice provides visibility and realizes the benefits of diversity in the workplace.

Utilize diversity training. - Use it as a tool to shape your diversity policy.

Launch a customizable employee satisfaction survey that provides comprehensive reporting. - Use the results to build and implement successful diversity in the workplace policies.

As the economy becomes increasingly global, our workforce becomes increasingly diverse. Organizational success and competitiveness will depend on the ability to manage diversity in the workplace effectively. Evaluate your organization's diversity policies and plan for the future, starting today.

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