Understanding what cultural diversity is

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Culture:

The word "culture" derived from Latin word cultura "growing". As a noun culture means, the arts, costumes, and institution of nation, people or a group.

The arts and other instances of human intellectual achievement regarded as a whole.

A refined understanding of appreciation.

When it has been converted into adjective it means,

"Relating to the cultural of society."

"Relating to the arts and intellectual achievements."

Thus when different types of arts, costumes or group of people come together can be consider as a cultural.

Diversity:

The word "diversity" derived from the Latin word "diversus"

As an adjective means,

Widely varied, assorted, different, dissimilar, distinct, divergent, heterogeneous, miscellaneous, mixed, multifarious, varied, various.

Over the years, the study and the practice of management and organizational behavior has become influence by various social issues. With the entry of women, people from minority groups, and physical disabled into the workplace, managing diversity is becoming an important issue for organization. In the past diversity was considered a legal issue and discrimination against women, minorities and the disabled was against the law. However, organizations have now realized that diversity can help build strong and competitive organizations by making the use of the talents of a diverse group of people. Organizations are also realizing the importance of ethical behavior in managing a diverse workforce. Therefore diversity and ethics have become very important areas in the work place.

Introduction of Multicultural Organization:

A multi cultural organization possesses a set of core cultural values and displays continuous commitment to the removal of social inequities from the entire organization. It involves people from diverse social and cultural groups when taking decision regarding the growth of the organization. Although an increasing number of organizations would like to reach this stage. Most of them are yet in a stage of transition.

CONCEPT AND NATURE OF DIVERSITY

Fred Luthans has defined diversity as the presence of members of different ages, genders, ethnic groups, and/or educational background in an organization. Since the composition of workforce has been changing over the past few years, managing diversity has become a challenge to organizations. In the past, in many organizations white male employees occupied prominent managerial positions. However the situation today has undergone a radical change with people from diverse backgrounds occupying managerial positions.

REASON FOR THE EMERGENCE OF DIVERSITY

A major reason for diversity is changes in the demographic structure. Government legislation against discrimination and increasing globalization of the firms has also led to the diversity of the workforce. In addition, modern organizations have realized that diversity should be encouraged because it enhances their competitiveness.

Changing Demographic Structure of the Workplace:

Changing demographics is one of the most important reasons for the emergence of diversity. The modern workforce includes women, minorities, older employees and highly educated people in large numbers. The composition of the workforce in the past was very different form the composition of the present day workforce. The increase in skills and education levels across the entire population combined with the legal provision of equal opportunity for all have led to an increase in the number of people from diverse backgrounds occupying managerial positions.

Government Legislation and lawsuits alleging discriminations:

Legislation and lawsuits have also responsible for beginning in modern organizations. Legislation has made it binding on organizations to provide equal opportunity for all employees. In the United States there are numerous laws that prohibit discrimination i.e. Age Discrimination Act 1978, Pregnancy Discrimination Act 1978, Civil Rights Act 1991, Family and Medical Leave Act 1993 etc…

After Independence, the composition of the workforce in India changed dramatically. An increasing number of women and minorities entered the workplace. The government of India has passed several important laws to encourage the participation of women in the country's economic growth and to prevent organizations from discriminating against them. These laws try to provide a free and fair work environment. As like Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 etc…

Thus the laws have been helped people from various minority groups to enter the workplace. In addition, they have enable those discriminated against to file lawsuits against discriminating authorities to ensure that numbers belonging to the minority group are provided with equal opportunities in future.

Enhances Competiveness of Firms:

Organizations have now realized that diversity can help them remain compitive. Those firms that adopt a proactive, affirmative, approach to recruiting people from diverse backgrounds generally have talented and capable workforce. Moreover organizations which hire people from likely to attack competent employees. Qualified employees in such organizations feel that they have better opportunities for growth as these organizations tend to follow fair and progressive policies.

A diverse workforce also enables organizations to obtain diverse viewpoints when taking decisions. These diverse viewpoints can lead to the development of innovative ways of doing things and thus help organizations gain a competitive advantage over others. For examples, the suggestion offered by woman employees at Reebok that the company should consider manufacturing shoes for aerobics (Since good shoes were not available for aerobics) created history for the organization. Reebok accepted these suggestions and began marketing aerobics shoes. This segment became a very profitable segment and gave the company a distinct competitive edge over others in the industry.

Increasing Globalization of Firm:

An organization faces the challenges of blending different cultures when it expands its operation beyond its national boundaries. Managers and technical personnel who go to foreign country to put an organizational system in place will have no change their leadership style, communication patterns and other practices to suit the culture of the foreign country. By so doing they assist in bringing about a fusion of cultures of and increasing employees productivity for the benefit of both the organization and the country. Those organizations which value diversity are in better position to work with people from different cultures, customs and social norms when they go global. Therefore in a business environment, where geographical borders no longer act as a constraint, organization have to ensure that people of the host country are part of its workforce so that the organization can function smoothly in that country.

SPECIFIC CHARACTERISTICS OF DIVERSITY:

Many demographic attributes have contributes to diversity. Some specific objectives characteristics of diversity are age, gender, ethnicity and education. An understanding of these characteristics will help managers better understand the nature of diversity.

AGE:

The percentage of older people I workforce is increasing now a days i.e. the percentage of employee between the age group thirty five to fifty four is increasing. Many factors have contributed to this trend: Improve health and medical facilities and the abolition of certain compulsory retirement rules. Such a change in the compositions of the workforce has led many organizations to improve the way in which they treat older employees.

Earlier, people retired after particular age. The abolishment of the retirement age led to an increase in the number of older employees. This has also led to an increase in number of age discrimination complaints. As the number of older employees has increased, organizations must learn how to manage older employees.

Many older people are upset over the downsizing taking place in organizations. To reduce costs and increase productivity, many organizations have resorted to laying off older employees. Younger employees who are ready to work form less pay are replacing high earning experienced employees. This has annoyed many senior employees as they feel unwanted in the same organization which they helped build.

Manager should understand that the need of older employees differ from the need of younger employees. While older employees seek appreciation and respect, younger employees seek career enhancement and job diversity.

Organization should also be able to manage younger employees whose values differ vastly from those of their older counterparts. Young employees lack feelings of loyalty and commitment towards the organization, unlike their older counterparts. Now a days, young employees no longer desire to remain with a single organization too no longer offer the guarantee of lifelong employment. Modern business trends such as downsizing are having an impact on both young as well as old employees.

Gender:

An increasing number of women have been employed by organization over the past four decades. It is estimated that very soon they would constitute half of the American workforce. This change in gender composition at the workplace has necessitated changes in organizational policies and practices.

One of the major forms of discrimination against women is the "glass ceiling effect."The glass ceiling refers to the invisible barrier in the organizations which prevents women from being promoted to top management positions. Moreover, women are paid less than their male counterparts for the same kind of work. However for legal and ethical reasons organizations must continue to examine and change their policies and practices to eliminate gender bias and discrimination. This will help them meet the challenge of providing equal pay and career opportunity to all employees regarding of sex, color, race or religion.

Ethnicity:

Ethnicity refers to the ethnics' composition of group or organization. The racial mix in the American population is expected to change drastically in the coming years due to the increasing number of people, especially from Asia, immigrating to a American. These changes in racial mix would lead to greater workforce diversity. Organizations will have to learn to deal effectively with these changes and try to accommodate people from this ethnic group in their workforce.

Education:

There has been general improvement in the educational level of the workforce in most countries. However, it is distressing to note that wild the new entrants an existing employees in the workforce are , on an average , more educated, at the same time, section of the population which have little or no education are also increasing. The illiteracy of employees can be highly damaging for the growth of an organization. For example when the Brenlin Group, an Ohio based manufacturing concern which has 17 plants across America, wanted to implement a total management program in its plants. The management realized that its employees lacked even the basic skills to understand the necessary quality control measures. When the test was conducted they found that up to 30% of workers scored below the 5th grade level in reading and comprehension ability and 70% of workers scored below 5th grade level in basic mathematics skills.

The above example helps one to understand what major challenge organizations will have to face in the upcoming years. Though maintaining a diverse workforce is very challenging, it helps a firm utilized the talents of a wide spectrum of people.

How to Manage Diversity in Organization?

Creation of family-friendly workplaces

Should provide part time work

Should provide Career break scheme

Providing diversity training to employees

Developing mentoring programs for employees

Individual approaches should be given

Organization approaches also should be given

Alternate work schedule has to be given

Multicultural Organization can be describes as one that:

Acknowledges the contribution made by various, cultural and social groups and highlights their interests in its mission, operations and products or services.

Discourages the practice of any form of social oppression within it.

Includes members of diverse social and cultural groups in the decision-making process.

It's a social responsibilities entity, and supports other institutional efforts to do away with all forms of social oppression.

Bibliography: Books

Hersey, Paul, Kenneth H. Blanchard and Dewey E. Johnson. Management of Organizational Behavior - utilizing human resources. 7th Edition. New Delhi: Prentice-Hall of India Private Ltd., 1998.

Luthans, Fred. Organizational Behavior. 8th Edition. India: Irwin McGraw-Hill, 1998.

Moorhead, Gregory and Ricky W. Griffin. Organizational behavior - Managing People and Organizations. 5th Edition. New Delhi: A.I. T. B. S. Publishers and distributors Regd., 1999.

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