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What is diversity? According to oxford dictionary, diversity means the state of being diverse or a range of different things. It is also defined as "All of the ways in which people differ, including innate characteristics (such as age, race, gender, ethnicity, national origin, mental or physical abilities, and sexual orientation) and acquired characteristics (such as education, socioeconomic status, religion, work experience, language skills, cultural values, geographic location, family status, organizational level, work style, philosophical and intellectual perspective, etc.)" (Office of Diversity and Inclusion). In business terms diversity management is "A process intended to create and maintain a positive work environment where the similarities and differences of individuals are valued, so that all can reach their potential and maximize their contributions to an organization's strategic goals and objectives." (Office of Diversity and Inclusion)
What is diversity in business?
Companies look for a mix ethnicity and gender to have diversity in the employees. Some companies add even more variables to it like culture, race, origin, personal factors, experience, knowledge and background to make it more diverse (Hamlin). The latest definition relates to persona leadership or work style.
Does diversity makes a difference?
The first answer would be a "Yes". Diversity among employees increases innovation, competition and creativity. "Additional studies indicate diversity - when supported by group culture with strong rules of respect individuals - increases quality of problem-solving within work teams" (Hamlin).
Diversity as a business strategy
If an organization wants to improve the creativity in its organization, wants to bring the innovation in the work style, want to have a competitive atmosphere at work place and want to improve its quality problem solving then introducing diversity is a smart move (Hamlin). The theory is that a diverse mix increases the overall emotional IQ and intelligence of the board. This is without any doubt, that organizations improve when they adopt diversity in them. If diversity increases creativity, produces solutions with better tensile strength, and creates cultures where individuals feel respected, it seems well worth the investment to make it a strategy in any organization (Hamlin).
Why diversity should be a strategic business initiative?
Having a diverse environment is a competitive advantage. Cate Roberts who is a director of diversity and community affairs at Textron Inc. is of the view "The three tenets of our business case are: Race for Talent, Need to Globalize and Innovation, we believe that diverse work teams create more innovative products and make us more competitive." (Selko, 2008). This is clear that how important diversity is in an organization.
Global business and economy
World has turned into a global village. This is the era of globalization. Similarly business and economy have also become global. In today's world a company is not confined to a specific culture or environment. Now a day's organizations are operated in multi-cultural and multi-national environment. How can companies deal with such a diverse environment? There can be many solutions but one of them is to introduce diversity in the work force so that they are better equipped to face every kind of diverse situation which can be cultural or national (Marcus).
Maximum use of diverse resources
Diversity enables an organization to maximize the diverse resources that are available to it. This can be in the form of workforce available to them. A company can get maximum diverse ideas from its employees ranging from different backgrounds, origin, ethnicity, culture, gender etc. these ideas can be used to enhance the strategies in which business can be operated in different nations and cultures. Diversity can be applied to every level in the organization. It can be applied to executives, board members, labor, etc.
Once there used to be recruitment from a specific culture or nation and mostly top executive posts were filled by males. There used to be male dominancy in the companies. People from different backgrounds are able to identify different aspects of the business. Women have a different perspective of a situation as compared to men. Men and women belong to different set of life and they see things in a different way. Having both genders in the organization helps an organization to understand many different aspects about an organization. Same is the case with the ethnicity. People from different nations also help an organization to help them understand different national aspects for a particular situation. While a person with disabilities will be able to identify issues that are important to a major number of a business'sÂ clientele.
Diverse range of customers
This is not debatable that most companies have a diverse range of customers. A customer can be of any origin, nationality, background and culture. The needs of the customers are also diverse. So how can these needs of diverse range of customers be identified? Only a diverse workforce can enable an organization to understand the diverse needs of its customers. Most of the businesses operate in many different countries; they are not confined to a single country. So there range of customers is also diverse. Consumers are diverse and the applications used by them should be diverse enough to suit the different needs of the consumers. "Successful management in a global environment may depend on using inside knowledge of different environments, culture and language. Success could be achieved by employing immigrants that already have those skills" (Marcus).
Growing trends in business
Trends are growing in business. Everything in modern business is diverse. Organizations are diverse. Employees are diverse and even customers and consumers are diverse. This growing trend makes the application of diversity as a business strategy compulsory in modern business environment (Ganly).
Diversity can be used to create a competitive advantage. A healthy competition among the employees can be generated by the application of diversity. Employees from different backgrounds can come up with innovative ideas in order to prove themselves as superior to other employees. This healthy competition can help the organization to lead in the business competitive environment.
An example of diversity in business
Payments are always important in any company. There are some consumers who are convenient in paying online through credit cards and also there are some who would like to pay in person. If a company goes for just one option of payment, there is a chance that they may lose half of their consumers. But on the other hand if a company adopts the both options of payment, this will attract more consumers. This strategy is a benefit of diversity in payment methods. This is one of the many examples in which diversity can be used as a strategic advantage.
Multi-languages spoken by the consumers
English is accepted as an international language to communicate. But what if a consumer in Asia has no knowledge of English? A company cannot lose its consumers just because of the language issue. The best way to overcome this problem is to recruit people in the organization who have an Asian origin. This will help the company not only in understanding Asian mindset but will also help the company in communicating well with its Asian consumers. This is again possible by introducing diversity in business. This strategy will help any organization to make its roots stronger in the Asian market. Again this is one of the many examples of diversity that can be used as a business strategy. Language is a common place where business can be lost, and being equipped with a diverse workforce is an excellent strategy in business.
An example of IBM
The reputation of IBM is excellent when it is concerned with its diversity driving policies. "The definition of diversity at IBM today goes beyond race, gender and physical disability to include culture, age, religion, economic status, sexual orientation, lifestyle, marital status and genetics," says Cecila Ohman, who is responsible for diversity in the Nordics (Lindh).
IBM is a company with 355,000 employees and it is operating in around 170 countries. Diversity is of extreme importance for IBM and it has taken several steps in this regard to make its company look like a complete society. IBM has been recruiting women since 1935. And it believe that men and women should work equal and must be paid equally too. "Men and women will do the same kind of work for equal pay. They will have the same treatment, the same responsibilities, and the same opportunities for advancement," a letter issued by Watson Sr. in 1935 (Diversity and Talent Management Practices at IBM, 2006). Further IBM has taken a lot of care that it must recruit disables too as they also have the equal right to spend their lives freely and can contribute in the wellbeing of the society (Diversity and Talent Management Practices at IBM, 2006). IBM has also taken a lot of care to offer a work/life balance for its employees and in this regard there are 7 principles that have been adopted by the IBM. These principles are:
â€¢ Employees must take responsibility for their own work/life balance needs.
â€¢ Work/life balance should have a positive impact on all employees involved.
â€¢ Quality of output is more important than the amount of activity.
â€¢ Teams should be flexible when balancing working and personal needs.
â€¢ Employees must be treated as individuals.
â€¢ Ongoing performance and contribution are a prerequisite.
â€¢ Achieving work/life balance is hard work and ongoing
(Diversity and Talent Management Practices at IBM, 2006)
Value of diversity
There is globalization in every field of life. There is globalization in political, economic and social fields. Same is the case with business. Demographic changes are also occurring very rapidly. One can easily imagine the number of immigrants coming to USA, Canada, Australia or any other developed country of the world. Future work force will have a lot of variations in demography so it is necessary to use diversity in business as a strategy. Similarly diverse markets require diverse operatives; organizations must know the markets they seek to serve.
Increase in innovation
Diversity provides a company with a lot of different approaches to solve a problem. Different perspectives for a given problem can be understood. Diversity also strengthens an organization in rapidly changing business conditions all over the world due to globalization. Diversity also creates dynamic work environment by introducing a healthy completion in the organization through variety of perspectives.
"Innovation provides the seeds for economic growth, and for that innovation to happen depends as much on collective difference as on aggregate ability. If people think alike then no matter how smart they are the most likely will get stuck at the same locally optimal solutions. Finding new and better solutions, innovating, requires thinking differently. That's why diversity powers innovation. "-Scott E. Page, Professor, University of Michigan
"There is no better fertile ground for innovation than a diversity of experience. And that diversity of experience arises from a difference of cultures, ethnicities, and life backgrounds. A successful scientific endeavor is one that attracts a diversity of experience, draws upon the breadth and depth of that experience, and cultivates those differences, acknowledging the creativity they spark." -Dr. Joseph M. DeSimone
Diversity at workplace is indeed of a lot of importance in today's globalized world. In order to gain maximum advantages an organization must use it as a strategic business initiative. Diversity at work place not only provides a wider talent pool but also improves the sharing of knowledge among the employees. It also helps in enhancing the productivity for an organization. Diversity also helps to create better global citizens as well as helps to reduce discrimination.
Limitations are often seen in businesses. These limitations can be cultural as well as linguistic. By introducing diversity as a strategy in the business, these kinds of limitations can be overcome. Diversity at work place is essential for today's globalized businesses and economy. This not only helps a company to maximize the diverse resources available to it but also helps an organization in growing business trends.
Diverse range of customers can be better addressed by a healthy competitive diverse workforce available in an organization.