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In the last decade, the increase in globalization has led to a more diverse workforce. This diverse workforce comprises of people with differences. These visible and non-visible differences like gender, culture and religion could develop into conflicts if not properly managed. However, while many organizations respond to this by adopting a fire-fighting approach, others respond by adopting equal opportunities and diversity policies. These policies are aimed at supporting antidiscrimination laws of host or home countries that promote equality and diversity regardless of these differences. The issue is that having these policies in organization does not guarantee the desired result that supports their business or organizational goal. This essay provides an in-depth understanding of the effects of equal opportunity and diversity policies in different organisational settings and how managers can use this information in improving relationships within the workplace. Next, let us look at the significance of this topic.
Significance of the study
According to CIPD (2010), studies reveal that people are more committed to /work for organizations with good ethical practices and policies than organizations without. This means that organisations that adopt and properly implement equality and diversity policies can attract and retain the required skill especially in the current skills shortage. In doing this, organisations can improve their market competitiveness and corporate reputation. Unfortunately, this is not the case for all organisations who adopt these policies; many still experience some undesirable outcomes like conflicts or lawsuit. These continued undesirable outcomes may impact negatively and result in poor reputations, the inability to attract employees and ultimately in organisational failure. The rationale behind this is that effective equal opportunities and diversity policies can improve corporate reputation, competitive edge, the attraction and retention of skilled workers (Kandola, 2009). Next, let us look at the objectives of this study.
Objectives of this study
This research will focus on the effects of equal opportunities and diversity policies in UK organisation. While, this topic can be broad and complex this study will focus on the effects, and formulate ways for improvement which can be applied to many businesses or organisations. The aim of this action based research is to:
Identify the effects of equal opportunities and diversity policies/ incentives in various UK organizations.
In achieving my aim, I will focus mainly on interviewing key HR professionals, top management, employees and customers. The objective of doing this is to:
Recommend strategies for improvement that can be applied in any organization.
Definition of terms
Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD, 2010), defines Diversity as: "valuing everyone as an individual, valuing people as employees, customers and clients". Though this definition describes diversity in terms of value, however many refer to diversity in terms of ethnicity, race, and gender. Diversity simply refers to the value we bring to the workplace, regardless of gender, language, nationality, culture and height. Many companies make good use of diversity initiatives by using members of a diverse workforce as ambassadors, as they branch out into new markets, especially when expanding overseas.
Equality simply refers to the inclusion treatment amongst all groups of people. An example of legislation is the Equal Pay Act 1970 addresses the discriminatory pay practice of most organisations. Policies refer to guidelines that employers or organizations create for employees to follow (Liff, 2006). Next let us look at the limitations.
Limitation of study
This study will be based on survey, observations and interviews with HR managers and employees of different organisations. The potential limitations are:
Sample size may be too small compared to the actual number of organisations in the UK leaving room for generalisation.
The combinations of these methods (survey, observation and interviews) may not yield to the exact cause and effect of this phenomenon.
Availability of HR manager and employee for observation and interview could be a challenge.
Trust issues may arise as some managers and employees may not be comfortable expressing their opinions on the topic.
Many organisations that adopt equal opportunities and diversity policies are simply stating that employees will not encounter discrimination or bias due to visible and non visible differences like culture, age, disability or sex in their organisation. This means that despite any differences, they will be included in any organisational participation, benefits and not subject to discrimination or bias. However, these policies are not only beneficial to employees but to the organisation as well (Milliken and Martins, 1996: MacDonald, 2004).
These benefits stems from a financial stance and ethical view point. While one school of thought may argue that these policies will improve the financial performance by preventing them from law suits or poor corporate reputation. On the other hand, many argue that equal opportunities and diversity policy is the right thing for organisations to do. Regardless of these benefits, the HR department need to fully participate and comply with both host and home country laws dealing with discrimination. However, the responsibility of compliance is not the role of HR alone but a collaborative effort by everyone. A large responsibility would fall on the leadership team for its success through the equal opportunity and diversity policies (Mulholland, 2005: Thomas et al, 2005). Next let us take a brief look at the historical background of these laws.
The Historical BackgroundÂ
There has been a shift in the business workforce; this shift is due to the economical (globalization) and social (consumer demands) changes that have evolved. This has resulted in the passing of legislations like Equal Pay Act in 1970 and Disability Discrimination Act in 1995. These laws were passed to discourage discrimination and improve equality (Thomas, 2004). However, many scholars argued that these laws only promoted equal treatment of employees rather than diversity which is the way forward. Their rationale is that equal opportunities policies in compliance with passed legislations are not enough to meet the current organizational goals but a culturally diverse work force would provide creativity and innovation required to meet the demands of today's consumer and organizational goals. Thus to compete successful, organization would need to have a more diverse team. These debates have led to further legislations like the Equality Act 2006 (Allen, 2004).
Let us take a brief look at a list of laws organisations would need to comply with in the UK, but not limited too are: Sex Discrimination Act 1975: Race Relations Act 1976 and 2000 (Amended): Disability Discrimination Act 1995: Employment Equality (Age) Regulation 2006: Part-time Workers (prevention of less favourable treatment) Regulation 2000: Equal Pay Act 1970: Data Protection Act 1998: Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1994: Asylum and Immigration Act 1996: Race and Religious Hatred Act 2006 (Worman, 2005). Next let us take a look at diversity management.
The business place has seen a shift from Equal opportunities where employees are treated the same to managing diversity where employees are treated differently. In many organisations, managing diversity begins by recruiting a multicultural workforce which is an important asset for the organizations success and competitive edge especially in this changing global economy. They continually evaluate equal opportunities and diversity policies to assess the future challenges and possible plan ahead (Thomas, 2004). The rationale behind the drive for diversity is that if employees are treated fairly not the same, they may would feel valued and contribute to their organisation's performance. For this reason many organisations go the extra mile to comply with anti-discriminatory laws to adopt diversity policies regarding people issues, market competitiveness, and corporate reputation. However, it is important to note that though the benefits of managing diversity can not be understated, there is no one right way of treating people as each person differs in their values, beliefs and needs. Next, let us take a brief look at the three sections of diversity policies (Worman, and Williams, 2005).
According to CIPD (2010), studies revealed that people want to work for employers with good employment practices and policies than those without. To survive in this current economy with increased competition, organizations need to attract and retain the best skills to create a better competitive edge. Thus, it is in the interest of all organizations to create a favorable and inclusion workplace culture in which people can feels valued especially in the recent skills shortage. The rationale is that the happier an employee is, the better organizations can attain their goals (CIPD 2006: CIPD 2010). Next let us briefly consider corporate reputation and competitiveness.
Corporate reputation and competitivenessÂ
Organizations should be aware that they are not divorce from the community or society in which it operates in. What this means is that any societal exclusion or poor corporate reputation can limit the organizations growth and performance. Poor corporate reputation resulting from cases like the Nike scandal and Coke discrimination lawsuit (Salk and Arya, 2005) have forced organizations to consider their corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the context of diversity. The rationale is that the more socially responsible a company is, the more successful they are in competing this in turn leads to improved growth and performance (Tatli,2006). The importance of diversity policies can range from improved quality assurance, building a competitive edge, improved market competitive and good corporate reputation. However these policies do not always result in the desired outcome. Next, let us take a look at some other considerations that should apply when adopting equal opportunities and diversity policies.
Organizational cultures are subjective to the host country laws (antidiscrimination laws) and customs which dictate `fairness' in the workplace (Schwartz, 1999). The Nike scandal and its involvement in child labour violation in Asia buttress the reasons why organizational concerns are not just the role of the organization but the wider society. Today, international organizations are expected to address a wide range of social concerns; however this remains a politically sensitive issue. In tackling diversity and fairness issues, many international organizations adopt policies that reflect various cultural differences incorporated in the organisational culture (Milliken and Martins, 1996). This is aimed at reducing conflicts and promoting strong organizational culture. There are many ways to creating a favourable culture but the two main ones are by formulating strategies to manipulating or to changing existing cultural patterns. It is important to note that effective strategies are influenced by the internal (leadership) and external environment (key stakeholders) of these organisations (Bate 1994). Cultural changes involve altering the organization's images values, communication and behaviours. The first step of managing OC (strategies) is to identify the myths, symbols, rituals, values and assumptions that fortify the current culture (Hofstede, 1997). However, in multicultural work force there are various dimensions of cultural differences, let us take a closer look.
Studies by Hofstede (1980, 1982, 1991) illustrate the dimensions of cultural differences attached to thrift, persistence, and a long-term time. The survey was based on employees of an international organisation present in 60 countries at different time periods. He also ranked countries according to the five cultural dimensions of power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism, and masculinity and Confucian dynamism. As a result, many international organizations relied heavily on these rankings.
Secondly, Schwartz (1999) studies revealed seven cultural types by considering three value dimensions in 40 countries: conservatism versus autonomy, hierarchy versus egalitarianism, and harmony versus mastery over environment. He mentioned that these dimensions relate individualism (individual relationship) to collectiveness (groups, community or social setting) (Schwartz, 1999).
Thirdly, Fiske (1992) proposed four models of social relationships: communal sharing, authority ranking, equality matching, and market pricing. He also suggested that social relationships influence the individuals' value which reflects in the individuals' behaviours. Thus, the management of culture is based on an understanding of the spoken and unspoken construct of the existing culture. Next, let us take a look at communication.
Sessa (1992) argues that communication issues should be considered when managing diversity. He mentions that organizations should support and organize communication by target a specific group of employee, such as females, gays and lesbians. This means that cultural difference may become problematic within any of the five phases of communication: namely encoding, sending, receiving, decoding, and feedback. For example, in India there is a collectivism culture thus words like we are used, while, in UK there is an individualism culture were words like I are used. Thus, in the encoding stage of communication cross cultural teams with both nationalities would have issue communicating effectively and influencing a multicultural team which may lead to conflicts (Hofstede, 1980; Gibson, 1999). Next, let us consider other studies on this topic.
Studies like Deaux (1976) studies also showed that males tend to evaluate themselves more positively (confidence) than females. Similarly Buswell, (1999) showed that men have higher self-esteem (perception) than women. Makhijani and Klonsky (1992) studies found that men leaders were evaluated more positively than their female counterparts with equal qualifications. Similarly, Lawrence (1988) studies showed that older employees than the usually norm were not considered by managers for particular positions. While, in the last ten years, over 50's employment has risen significantly by 25%. These evaluations have contributed to the understanding and the formulation of many equal opportunities and diversity policies. In line with these researchers, this study will provide a better understanding of the effects of equal opportunities and diversity policies (policy failure), provide managers with ways of improving this issue and provide insights for policy markers.
In conclusion the importance of equal opportunities and diversity policies is one of the key topics affecting organisations today. The changes in the legislations for equal opportunities and diversity can be challenging for many organisations either from a financial or ethical view point, the importance of this topic can not be overstated. However, despite the strong equal opportunities and diversity policies adopted by many organisations, many still fail in this area (CIPD, 2010).
From the theoretical approaches to equal opportunities and diversity which we explored earlier, there are two elements are important prerequisite for success: culture and communication. A favourable culture that fosters these policies is equally important not just to the employees but for the corporate reputation of the organisations. Another important factor is communication, this is important in dealing and preventing any conflict that may arise (Arkin, 2005). Thus equal opportunities and diversity policies should match changes in the business place like increased globalization and improved overall performance. This can be achieved by adopting the appropriate culture and communication that foster these policies (Liff, 2006).
This is an in depth study of equal opportunities and diversity policies in UK organisations. The information collected through the survey, interviews and observation of HR managers and employees will be important in understanding the issues and opportunities facing the organization. Thus, the interviews will be the primary source of information while, secondary sources from books, journals, websites and online university library will also be employed.
On one hand, Dexter (1970 cited in Maxwell 1996) "argues that no one should plan or finance an entire study with the expectation of relying chiefly upon interviews for data". While, Lancaster (2005 pp133) argues that interviews are a major category of techniques for collecting data and has been acknowledged as being one of the most effective ways of doing so in the social sciences. Denzin (1970 cited in Maxwell 1996) go further to suggest that a triangulation method (a combination of various methods) should provide more reliability and validity of the data obtained. Due to aim and objectives of this study this approach will be adopted.
Type of Data
There are two main types of data in HRM research: Qualitative and Quantitative (Cassell and Symon, 2004). Qualitative and quantitative data can be obtained from primary and secondary sources. Creswell (1994) suggests that interviews and observations suitable means of gathering qualitative data. For this research the qualitative method was deemed appropriate for two reasons the aim of the study and type of data/information required. The aim of this research is to explore existing equal opportunities and diversity policies and provide recommendation on how to overcome the current challenges (ineffective) in organization. The second reason is that there will be no statistical evidence required as oppose to other research which require statistical evidence to support the effects of a phenomena. This qualitative study will require a pool of primary data obtained from survey, interviews with key management, staff and observing relationships within the workplace. Secondary data was also gathered from books, Journals, articles, CIPD surveys, company websites and online libraries.
Case Study Approach
A case study approach will also be employed; this is deemed appropriate because it focuses on the organisational behaviour with respect to their policies. The advantage of this is that it allows for flexibility and appears appropriate to the research objectives (Voss, 2003).
Individual Interview Technique
This study will apply one on one interview as oppose to group interviews because people behave differently in group and may become restricted by what they say. Also this will provide more time for an in-depth analysis of the actual current situation and perception of the issue (Voss, 2003). Though, the first set of interviews will be unstructured, subsequent ones will be semi-structured. Lancaster (2005) suggests that semi structured interviews are designed to be focused in terms of topics covered and yet provides flexibility in asking questions. Thus, the respondents may feel less pressurised and develop trust. The semi- structured interview is aimed at providing any missing information needed within a given timeframe.
Another important factor in this research is observation period, observing after reading related theories and approaches will be insightful and useful in this study (Voss, 2003).
A sample of 10 UK organisations will be explored. For each of these organisations: appointment, interviews with at least four key staff and surveys will be carried out for each one of them. The period for observation and evaluated will be within the timeframe of six months. Next, let us take a look at the project plan for this study.
The project is planned as seen in the Gantt chart below:
Fig 1: Gantt chart
Interview and Data collection
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