Organizations are made of people who hold different values and cultures. It is thus imperative for the human resource manager to know how to best address the diverse needs of the workers within the organization (Wilson, 2005). Managing diversity has in the recent past defined a successful human resource management team in various facets.
Diversity refers to the differences in the workforce within a given organization. Diversity has been lauded as the most imperative objective towards achieving organizational goals. Many organizations are reverting to employing a diverse workforce in the wake of the numerous changes that have taken place in the employment circles worldwide.
There are many challenges that are present when meeting the needs of the diverse work force. People values are constantly changing in today's dynamic world. It is therefore imperative that organizations device effective ways of dealing with these eminent changes. There is hence need for the organization to develop programs that bolster multiculturalism. This will ensure that every employee is considered and thus high productivity achieved.
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According to Loosemore, Dainty and Lingard (2003), the essence of managing diversity has an underpinning force which is derived from the management's ability to succinct understand the needs of the employees and address these needs in time. Managing diversity may entail a review of the company's policies and practices as well as the organizational culture. Perhaps these are the parameters that define the organization's way of life. Organizational culture is thus defined by the kind of diversity programs that have been put in place within organizations.
On the contrary, the equal opportunities approach may jeopardize steps towards achieving multiculturalism with the organization. With people's diverse cultures, norms and values, it would not be effective to take the equal opportunities approach.
Theories of Equal Opportunities Approach
The theory of equal opportunity stipulates that every worker should be given the same treatment and opportunity. Indeed, this theory goes ahead to stipulate that all employees have the same needs which must be met by the same approach. There are several assumptions that the theory makes. The first assumption is that all employees work within a uniform environment and routine without preference. They all report to work at the same time and all work within the same set of rules. This is indeed true, however, not all employees may like this kind of setup, but do they have any otherwise?
Critics of this theory suggest that the equal opportunity approach will indeed create indifferences within the employees. However, proponents of the theory staunchly believe that this theory is supported by the fact that employees are generally the same handling similar tasks across the organization and reporting to the same management.
Moreover, Gardenswartz and Rowe (1998) argue that this theory is founded on the belief that employees can easily adapt to the changes within the organization. Employees are people who can easily fit into the different schedules that the management will design. This assumption is however timed out due to the fact that many organizations today are shifting their attention wholly to their employees since employees have been identified to be the most important people or assets that the organization has.
This theory is based on the belief that addressing the employees' diverse needs would result in inequality amongst the employees. However, this can only be the case where employees are not made to understand the need to identify their individual needs.
Therefore, the theory of equal opportunities lacks diversity and consideration of the various multiculturalism aspects of the employees. According to Bagilhole (2009), the theory of equal opportunities is closely linked to that of equal before the law. Researchers suggest that this theory is not backed by sound management concept. Management should learn the employee environment and develop programs that fit into the schedules of the employees and not vice versa.
Legislations that support the theory of equal opportunities
There are various legislations that detail the various aspects of equality in areas pertaining to age, race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religious belief as well as age (Nowak, 2010).
The Race Relations Act (1976) makes it unlawful to discriminate employees on the basis of color, race and nationality. Under this law, there should be equality in terms of race, color and gender.
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The Sex Discrimination Act (1975) makes discrimination on grounds of sex or marriage unlawful. Any form of discrimination arising out of marriage or any legally recognized union is unlawful.
The Equal Pay Act (1970) stipulates that individuals have the right to the same contractual salary and benefits as people of opposite sex doing the same kind of job.
The Disability Discrimination Act (1995) denies any discrimination based on disability. It basically stipulates that disabled people have the same rights as those who are not disabled.
Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations (2003) makes discrimination on religious grounds unlawful.
The Age Discrimination Act makes it unlawful to discriminate individuals on the basis of age especially if they have attained the contractual age.
All the above legislations therefore support the theory of equal opportunities approach.
The Theory of Diversity
This theory dictates that management should understand the various aspects of employee needs and design an effective system that will meet these needs succinctly. Moreover, the theory identifies that employees have various differences that should indeed be treated as unique and addressed separately. The main differences as identified by Shone (1999) are on the basis of gender, age and nationality. The level of productivity per employee will thus depend on their diverse cultures.
Olsson (2000) argues that in order to maximize productivity, management should be able to meet these diverse needs succinctly while ensuring that there is no inequality. This implies that no single employee should be treated in a very special way. Diversity is fast becoming an acknowledged aspect of the employee management portfolio. Human resource managers should also be able to institute training programs which will address the training needs of the employees.
According to Wong (2001), the business environment is always dynamic and so are the people who work within the business world. Research reveals that most employees who change jobs frequently do so due to lack of appreciation of their efforts by the management. High employee turnover is indeed a heavy cost to the organization since the organization has to float job advertisements and deploy financial and time resources towards finding the right employees.
The theory of diversity therefore acknowledges this and suggests that it is imperative for organizations to know the various needs of their employees before striving to meet these needs. These needs of course emanate from the diverse cultures within the organization.
This theory is fast being adopted within most organizations today.
In my opinion, the theory of diversity is thus better as it seeks to accord employees the right kind of treatment without any discrimination. This ensures that the morale of the employees remains high and focused since they feel appreciated. Moreover, employees basically feel that they are not same and hence their productivity.
I believe that diversity programs within organizations are the key to achieving organizational goals and objectives. Organizations will therefore be able to benefit more through the diversity theory than the equal opportunity theory which limits the organization to the legislative parameters.
Benefits of diversity to the Organization
Employing diversity within the organization will indeed yield a wide variety of solutions to problems within the organization. According to Wong and Davidson (2006), employees from diverse settings will enrich the organization with their individual experiences and talents that are imperative in finding formidable solutions to the problems that the organization faces from time to time.
In addition, diverse workforces are likely to be of benefit to the customers. Customers will be able to receive international standard services in good time since the employees poses different talents and experiences hence working together towards the realization of the organizational goals. Diverse workforce also poses a wide range of skills that are imperative to their performance of their daily duties (Golembiewski, 1995). This will benefit the customer as they will be served with great skill.
Teamwork is bound to be bolstered through a diverse workforce. The workforce will work together towards finding solutions to the problems that they encounter within the organization. This will in turn lead to the improvement of the organizational processes. It is often alleged that two heads are better than one. Hence, the experience that the diverse workforce has is deployed towards solving the problems that they encounter while on the job.
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Diversity within the organization among the employees also helps to create competition and hence employees will strive to be better than their peers. This will in turn lead to high productivity and service provision to the customers. Employees within a diverse workforce will always work towards being recognized by their fellow employees and management. This will therefore lead to more efficiency within the organization.
Leopold and Harris (2009) reveals that diversity also improves interpersonal communication within the organization as employees are able to interact more often while seeking solutions to challenges that they face. Diversity also leads to sharing of experiences and values amongst the employees and hence they are able to build upon their experiences and skills and also avoid mistakes that were previously committed by their fellow employees at their places of work.
The boost in interpersonal communication will provide a large pool of ideas from the sharing of previous experiences. The management can therefore draw from these ideas to aid in the achievement of their business strategy.
Challenges of Managing Diversity
The benefits of diversity do come without major challenges. However, with these challenges it is still possible for organizations to overcome them and implement successful diversity programs.
According to Mor-Barak (2005), ineffective communication within the workforce may create a major problem for the management's achievement of the organizational goals. The most pronounced communication problems pertain to cultural and language barriers which inhibit the sharing of skills and experience within a diverse workforce. Diverse workforce entails employees who have come from different settings and cultural affiliations. Often, they will speak different languages hence not be able to understand each other. In this case, the onus of bringing unity lies with the management to develop programs that will ensure that the workforce learns the same language such as English. This will boost communication of values within the diverse workforce.
Problems related to communication often result in low personal esteem, confusion and sometimes lack of teamwork. Teamwork often defines the success of an organization. Therefore, if teamwork lacks, then the organizational goals and objectives will not be achieved. Primarily, there should be an official language that employees are expected to communicate with in every organization. This will help to eliminate communication barriers.
Mor-Barak (2005) concurs that resistance to change has been found to be another major problem. Not all employees will embrace change within the organization. This is more so when adopting various diversity programs within the organizations. Such can be countered through prior education on the expected changes within the organization. This will help employees to prepare psychologically hence there will be less resistance to the change. Prior education of the expected changes will also help to change the employee's attitude and hence embrace new strategies that they deem to be successful.
According to Golembiewski (1995), the greatest challenges when implementing diversity programs within the organization would be the various legislations that support equal opportunities approach or theory. Indeed, these legislations would impair the implementation of these programs since such programs would be considered illegal or unlawful. This can be overcome through the development of programs that adhere to the equal opportunities approach partially.
Moreover, the diversity programs that are implemented with the workplace are usually specific to certain organizational setup. These programs should therefore be customized to fit into the structures of specific organizations. Generalizing the diversity programs would make them ineffective and therefore not suitable for certain organizational setup. Instead, organizations should develop a case-by-case approach when implementing these diversity programs.
Olsson (2000) reveals that introducing diversity within organizations is not alone enough to realize success. Diversity programs should be followed by effective management to ensure that they aid the organization in achieving the organizational goals. There is need to come up with a strategy for implementing and ensuring the successful functioning of the diversity programs.
The implementation of a successful diversity plan requires personal commitment from the employees. More often this lacks amongst the organizational human resources, thus hindering the implementation process of the diversity programs.
It is widely emerging that diversity programs will require great time and financial resources to be deployed towards the success of this venture. Many organizations usually lack the good will to implement these programs. Moreover, financial issues are normally highly debated thus leading to the deployment of less financial resources. This of course limits the successful implementation of the diversity programs.
In view of the challenges involved in implementing successful diversity programs, it shall be imperative to consider several recommendations as stipulated below.
Management should involve everybody in the changes that takes place within the organization. Inclusion is view by Wilson (2005) as the best approach towards reducing resistance to change. Once every employee is included and involved in the program, then there is a possibility that there will be less resistance within the organizational facets.
It is also imperative to boost openness in the organization. This will ensure that every employee contributes his or her idea towards a certain expected change within the organization. This will also enable employees to share their experiences openly and hence lead to more transparency among the employees. This kind of environment is necessary to ensure that employees remain committed to the organizational goals and objectives since they will feel as part of the organization. Otherwise, employees feel abandoned and hence low self esteem which will in turn affect their productivity and as such negatively.
The other important recommendation is for the organizational management to launch successful diversity leadership. Such kind of leadership will ensure delegation of authority from high cadre management positions to the employee levels. The employees will therefore have a feeling of success which will catapult the organization towards successful ventures and achievement of goals and objectives.
More thorough diversity programs should be introduced. These training programs will ensure that employees training needs are succinctly met. The result would be that the diverse workforce will have more confidence to deal with the challenges that they are bound to face within their organization. The employees will also be able to overcome certain communication barriers.
Management should also consider customizing the diversity programs so that they are not launched across the boards without the due consideration of the effects of launching the diversity programs (Wong, 2001). It may also be pertinent that management changes its attitude towards certain employees and take all employees as valuable assets without pointing fingers at the lazy employees. This will help to bolster the self esteem of such employees and increase the organizational productivity.
The diversity approach is indeed superior to the equal opportunity approach and ensures that employees are able to work gain more experience and skills. Moreover, this approach ensures that employees share their acquired skills and experiences.
There are however major barriers to this kind of approach, the most profound being resistance to change. This can be countered by extensive involvement of the employees prior to introducing certain changes. More thorough training should also be considered with regard to the employees so that they are in the picture regarding the impending changes. Inclusion is important in reassuring the employees that they are valued within the organization. It is therefore imperative to include all the employees when initiating and implementing diversity programs.
Communication barriers may also be a major problem to the employees who emanate from diverse cultures. The organization needs to adopt a common language thus limit language barriers. Employees who come from different cultures could be integrated within the organization into training programs aimed at fostering their cultural affiliations and ensuring that there is harmony at the workplace.
Diversity programs are beneficial to the organization as they avail a pool of experience and skills that the diverse workforce poses. Diversity thus increases the organization's success as well as competitiveness hence realizing its goals and objectives without many hitches. The rich experience that the employees bring into the organization ensures that the employees deliver spectacular results in terms of the organizational goals.
Diverse workforce can also be able to utilize their talents and experience towards improving customer service. Customers will be served with great skill hence lead to better customer satisfaction. Diversity work plans should therefore include all employees to reduce resistance and ensure overall participation of all the employees.