Diversity has become a buzz word which has gained a remarkable position in the workplace and labour lexicon widely used in various contexts. It has become integrated into management and human resource circles in organisations of all types and sizes are rapidly embracing it. The word denotes different meanings to different people. There appear not to be a single definition for diversity because it is a complex concept and it depends on the situation on which it is used. The definitions range from a narrow to broad perspective. The narrow definition defines diversity in terms of race, ethnicity and gender (Kossek and Lobel, 1996). While Morton and Fox (1997) classify diversity in a much broader definition which includes age, religion, sex, disability, values, lifestyle, physical appearance and numerous others. It has come to designate not only a variety of differences in workforce demography and culture, but a distinction by the presence of numerous religions, ethnicity, skin colour, sexes, varying style of behaviour and many different attributes (Miller and Rowney, 1999). According to Kamp and Hagedon-Ramussen (2004), diversity is a harmonious coexistence of elements of difference within organisational boundaries. Such differences could be visible and non-visible to include gender, age, race, disability, ethnicity and more. It is a systematic process of cultural transformation established to reduce any form of exclusion or discrimination in an organisation (Gilbert et al., 1999; Kersten, 2000).
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Recently, anticipated changes in the labour market, indicating that the workforce of the future will consist largely of people from diverse background and as such many organizations have included diversity as part of their strategic plans in their workforce (Zanoni and Janssens, 2004; Dutton, 1998). This is further buttressed by Farrer (2004) who argued that only organisations with a culture that supports diversity will be able to retain the best talent necessary to remain competitive. Due to the importance of diversity in contemporary organisations, a flurry of books, training manuals, exercise materials and diversity consultants have sprung up to assist organisations to deal with it (Golembiewski, 1995; Gentile, 1996; Thomas, 1996). Specifically, many companies now provide cultural and emotional intelligence training to enable employees become more knowledgeable, understanding and sensitive to the differences that exist in the workplace (Friday and Friday, 2003).
Although, diversity has been hailed as a positive change in organisations, it also has its challenges in practice. In spite of the wide and general positive publicity generated by workplace diversity initiatives, there are indications that it also creates problems for organisations (Barbosa and Cabral-Cardoso, 2010). They conclude that in the past, it was often seen as a threat rather than an asset to be valued. All organisations especially those run for profit have recognised the importance of diversity in their workforce and have expended resources to benefit from its advantages (Egan & Benedict, 2001).
Driven by globalisation and market leadership through competitive advantage, private-run organisations adopted diversity as a strategy to respond to competition (Chow, 2003; Barbosa and Cabral-Cardoso, 2010). In addition, increased demographic changes should convinced business managers that diversity is the future trend of organisations. This cannot be said for public-run organisations such as Glasgow city council.
Much of the literatures and research on workplace diversity are based on private or profit-run organisations (Cox, 1994; Ely and Thomas, 2001). Diversity tends to be adopted to achieve organisational performance and other benefits, in this case, competitiveness and increased bottom-line (Farrer, 2004; Hicks-Clarke and Iles, 2000). It is understandable why private organisations would adopt diversity. In some case, it is a clear case of presenting an all-inclusive identity to customers and others who come in contact with the firm. Having said this, would it be necessary for public or government establishments to adopt diversity as a strategy?
The aim of this report is to investigate how workplace diversity challenges are being managed in Glasgow city council.
ESTABLISHING A CLIMATE FOR DIVERSITY
Reichers and Schneider (1990) define organisational climate as the perception of particular aspects of the organisation, in this case, diversity climate based largely on organisational rules and regulations and individual's interpretation of those rules and regulations. Organisational climate is highly dependent on policies or practices and it is considered to be influenced by the amount of power and access to organisational resources as well as opportunities which an individual or group of individuals possess (Hicks-Clarke and Iles, 2000). Organisations have different priorities and as such, a climate for any of its priorities is highly essential for success. Climate for diversity precedes an actual establishment or adoption of workplace diversity in the real sense of it. This is supported by a framework developed by Hicks-Clarke and Iles (2000) which posit that for workplace diversity to be successful, there is the need to develop a positive climate to sustain it. In another framework developed by Cox (1993), the international model of cultural diversity (IMCD), he argued that diversity climate involves three sets of factors: individual-level factors, group/intergroup factors and organisational-level factors. He elucidated further by suggesting that the individual level factor includes identity structures, prejudice, stereotyping and personality. While the group/intergroup factors include cultural difference, ethnocentrism and intergroup conflict and finally, organisational-level factor includes structural integration, acculturation process and institutional bias in human resource systems.
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Cox (1993) argues that the outcome of diversity climate is directly proportional to organisational performance. This is in the form of the extent on how individuals are valued regardless of what makes them different from the majority in a workplace. In perspective, an organisation with a favourable diversity climate that supports equal opportunities for all employees is better positioned than competitors and such employees are also better motivated (Gagnon and Cornelius, 2002).
Managing diversity has become a popular issue in numerous organisations since its adoption in public sector companies in the USA and Canada since the 1980s and 1990s (Miller and Rowney, 1999). It has reached an unprecedented level in these countries where minority groups have formed an established part of the society over many decades or centuries (Cabral-Cardoso, 2006). At the same time, managing diversity remains unclear to some organisations as such different meaning has been assigned to it in different conditions. Approaches to managing diversity differ from organisation to organisation and from nation to nation considering the need to adapt it to different operating context within such organisations; however, it does not differ greatly from the general principles of core management (Boxenbaum, 2006). Diversity management assist in shaping peoples thoughts and beliefs, therefore understanding how to tailor it to suit specific context is essential.
Managing diversity means changing standard accustomed working procedures to include difference. Kilian et al. (2005) argue that managing diversity is an effort by which organisations actively recruit, retain and facilitate working relationships among individuals from a variety of background under its employment. This involves the adoption of managerial skills and policies that optimises and emphasise employees' maximum contribution to the achievement of organisational goal. For organisations to fully reap the benefits of a diverse workforce, employees must perceive that their organisational supports and values the contribution of all employees by integrating the differences, experiences and insights that arise from such a group (Mor Barak and Lewin, 2002; Ely and Thomas, 2001).
Managing diversity in UK organisations is an offshoot from equal opportunity policies in the past (Kirton and Greene, 2001). In relation to managing diversity in the UK, the work of Collier (1998) comes to mind. In this study, a detailed explanation on how organisations can meet public expectations of the management of diversity is well presented. The study went further to present a moral and business case for the advancement of equality and diversity in UK organisations.
WORKPLACE DIVERSITY IN THE UK PUBLIC SECTOR
According to Wilson and Iles (1999) the UK public sector has a longstanding commitment to diversity in the workplace which dates back to the 1970s. This is evident from several government Acts which have been enacted to support possible victims of any form of discrimination in the workplace and the general society. Table 1.0 provides a breakdown of some of the government policies. Some sections of the public sector are credited with the effort of championing the course more than their private sector counterparts (McDougal, 1996). Workplace diversity was further entrenched after the tragic murder of Stephen Lawrence and the subsequent negative report by Sir William MacPherson that indicted public organisational on institutional racism (MacPherson, 1999). The report claimed that the collective failure of an organisation to provide a professional or appropriate service to people on the grounds of their ethnicity, culture, religion, beliefs or colour in a process either through attitude or behaviour amount to discrimination. A further progress on the issue of diversity could be found in the Labour Party website as part of its policies on diversity, where it promised to promote a fair and equal society by tackling all forms of discriminations (Labour Party, 2010). In a recent survey conducted among countries in Europe on diversity, UK was found to be ahead of other countries in the survey (Singh and Point, 2006). According to Rajan (2006) 7 out of 10 entrants into the UK labour market are members from either the minority group or women. It is assumed that the NHS is the UK public sector organisation with the highest number of people from diverse groups (Kalra and Esmail, 2009). However, despite over 30 years legislation on workplace diversity, there are still evidence of challenges (Holly, 1998). Some of these challenges are due to the increased competition faced by public enterprise from private organisations (Maxwell et al., 2001).
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Although, the recruitment of this section of the UK population into public organisations' workforce demonstrates commitments, however, people under this category do not always feel they are part and parcel of such organisations. According to Edmondson et al. (2009) this could be as a result of misalignment between the organisational diversity commitments and communication towards employees from diverse background. In some cases, it is believed that an outward projection of a diverse workforce projects some UK organisations and institutions as delivering on their corporate social responsibility as well as a demonstration of an ethically accepted and all-inclusive workforce (Bassett-Jones et al., 2007). This signifies the fact that not all organisations truly believe in the entire concept of diversity. In line with this assertion, Dipboye and Colella (2005) conclude that there is still a fair amount of workplace discrimination against minority group in numerous organisations in the UK. This is further confirmed by Giscombe and Mattis (2002) on the black and minority ethnic women in the NHS who undergo double marginalisation based on their gender and minority status. Would this be the case in Glasgow city council?
Equal Pay Act 1970
Sex Discrimination Act 1975
Disability Discrimination Act 2005 (2005)
Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 (2001)
Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 (2001)
Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation)
Gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals and transgenders
Employment Equality (Religion or belief)
Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006
Old and young people
Table 1.0 Source: Hussein and Ishaq (2008).
WORKPLACE DIVERSITY IN GLASGOW CITY COUNCIL
According to the chairman of Glasgow city council, Steven Purcell, workforce diversity is a reality in Glasgow (Purcell, 2007). Historically, there has always been the influx of minority groups in Glasgow city since the industrial and commercial boom. Diversity became more visible over the last few decades as a result of the influx of migrants, refugees and asylum seeker as well as through family reunification (Ferguson, 2009). Glasgow city council values diversity and realises the benefits of having a workforce that reflects the community it serves (www.glasgow.gov.uk). According to Purcell (2007) diversity improves the workforce of the city council and it ensures that there are plans in place to monitor and continuously enrich the diversity of the workforce. One of such programmes was the establishment of the Council Plan 2003/07 which includes equality proofing and equality impact assessments to ensure the review and continuous improvement processes for disadvantaged groups as well as the opportunities for eliminating discrimination while also promoting equality of opportunities (Carpol and Ethornley, 2005).
In spite of these efforts, diversity still poses a problem for the city council. Walsh (1995) is of the opinion that a major reason that may be responsible for this could be as a result of the fierce competition from the private sector. The challenge Glasgow city council face as regards diversity is the concerns that minorities would displace the majority and take away their jobs. This led to some instances, where the workforce cohesion and integration became a problem for managers to handle (The market specialist, 2005). It is further stated that this led to a feeling of discomfort and less commitment to the council. To minimise this trend, the Glasgow city council established continuously monitored measures to address sensitive issues arising from diversity in the workforce.
Some of the strategies developed by Glasgow city council in response to the challenges prompted by diversity presently and in the past includes:
Equality of opportunity is delivered as part of the Council's social inclusion agenda;
Service improvements are accessible to all citizens and sensitive to their diverse needs; and that the Council complies with relevant legislation in this field
Consultation with faith communities and the founding of Glasgow Forum of Faiths
Launch of Every Kind Of People in 2004 which features people of different sexes, racial groups and cultural background
Cultural diversity integration and open days in library and learning centers
The statistical information on the city council diversity workforce is included as appendix.
To complete this work, a short interview strategy was adopted. This was facilitated by asking few questions (see Appendix 2) that were administered in person to a selected number of employees from Glasgow city council as diverse as possible willing to be part of the study. Questions centred on diversity within the context of the role of the council as employer and as service providers to the community. The aim was to obtain responses relating to the extent to which Glasgow city council had taken to manage the challenges of workplace diversity. About 13-15 members where approached, but only 8 were willing to respond provided their response was anonymous. It is pertinent to note that this study is limited by numerous factors; as such it provides limited information and analysis. The findings are therefore shaped around the information and data at the author's disposal. It provides the progress made or perceived in terms of how Glasgow city councils manage diversity.
Respondents were asked if they understood or have heard the word, diversity. All but 3 affirmed that they understood what the term meant and the provided varied responses. The author had to provide a brief explanation to the 3 respondents who didn't have a full understanding of the term. From the interview, their responses pointed to
"Any differences that exists between a group of people in the workplace"
"Every effort to promote differences in a workplace by employer"
On the question of how diverse the City Council was, respondents answered that it was obvious from the workforce that they were different in sexes, race, religion, beliefs, sexual orientation and many more. Respondents argue that there was not an equal representation of diverse groups and personalities that made up the organisation. This suggests that there is still much to be done in terms of implementation. As Maxwell et al. (2001) puts it, there is a disparity between the actual commitments to diversity and evidence of practices in organisations within the UK public sector. This somewhat suggests that in some cases, these are mere rhetoric.
On the perceived challenges observed in the council on diversity, respondents summed their responses as lack of formal education and negative attitudes from some people from the dominant section of the workforce. In this case, it could be the male, indigenous people or people without any form of disability. This was akin to lack of familiarity with people from diverse background and this result in the belief that such people are inferior.
Respondents were asked how the council managed the various challenges they felt about diversity. They responded that the council provides diversity awareness trainings to educate its workforce on the benefits of working together as one big family. In perspective, the respondent suggested that if all employees worked in harmony as colleagues, this would be reflected in the way they deal with customers who also fall under the category of diverse group.
Asked on the recommendations to the council on better ways to deal with these challenges, respondents suggested that all future employees should at least have a certain level of formal education that would introduce them to people from diverse background as well as also dilute their bias towards these groups. In addition, respondents suggested that the council authority could establish mentorship programmes or deliberately bonding employees that are different to work together as a team on specific tasks.
Diversity has become a constant phenomenon for workforce both in the private and public sector. Strategies and policies are therefore required to support organisations, employees as well as customers to conduct business and work without fear or favour. It is important to note that this involves a lot of hard work in orientating majority and minority groups on the importance of living in harmony especially as the world has turned into a global village. For public sector organisations, people from all walk of life look to them to live by their commitment towards diversity and discharge it as a social corporate responsibility. Either as employers or service providers, people want to be treated fairly and equally at all time.