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Until recently, white American-born males dominated the U.S. workforce. Although the number of white male workers is expected to continue growing, the numbers of women, and the numbers of African American and Hispanic workers are expected to grow faster. People of different backgrounds, race, and religion are just a few of the things that create a diverse workforce. As companies are becoming more and more diverse it's becoming more and more important for companies to understand what it means, and how to manage it correctly. It is important to have a diverse workforce; it provides a better level of performance. There are perspectives of managing the diverse workforce, which require organization leaders and managers of being responsible of attaining better diverse workforce. Tomorrow's workers will be more varied than ever.
What is diversity? Diversity today can be defined in several ways, but no matter how you choose to define it, diversity refers to much more than age, skin color and gender. These differences include religious affiliation, age, disability status, military experience, sexual orientation, economic class, educational level, and lifestyle as well as gender, race, ethnicity, and nationality just to name a few . In other words, diversity is not just tolerating others, but rather the ability to accept and recognize all the characteristics that make each individual unique. By utilizing these differences, an organization can expect to see many advantages.
The advantages of a diverse workforce are: the ability to attract and retain motivated employees, better perspective on a differentiated market, the ability to leverage creativity and innovation in problem-solving, and the enhancement of organizational flexibility. When diversity is valued, all employees, are encouraged to actively participate and to develop their own skills and perspectives. An organization can cultivate a diverse workforce by including the following five elements: secure top management, conduct organizational assessments, attract a diverse group of qualified employees, train employees to understand and work with diversity, and retain talented employees (Bateman/Snell, 2011).
The most important element in this plan is to secure the commitment of all of the top managers, this is critical for diversity programs to succeed (Bateman/Snell, 2011). The easiest way for an organization to communicate their intentions to both the community and its employees, is to incorporate their diversity views into the mission statement, along with their strategic plans and objectives.
The next step in managing diversity is the need for organizations to routinely assess the workforce, culture, policies, and practices in major areas such as recruitment, promotions, benefits, and compensation. Because managers are able to evaluate how many diverse candidates a company is attracting, or if the company is meeting the needs of its customers, they are able to adjust accordingly. The objective is to identify areas where there are problems or opportunities and to make recommendations when changes are needed.
Companies can attract a diverse, qualified workforce by using effective recruiting practices, accommodating employees work and family needs and offering alternative work arrangements. A company's image can be a strong recruiting tool. Companies with reputations for hiring and promoting all types of people have a competitive advantage. Many disabled persons and economically disadvantaged people are physically isolated from job opportunities. Companies can bring information about job opportunities to the source of labor, or they can transport the labor to the jobs.
Another way managers accommodate diversity is to offer flexible work schedules and arrangements. Things like compressed work weeks (four 10-hour days) and job sharing, in which two part-time workers share one full time job. Another option to accommodate working mothers and disabled employees is teleworking (working from home) or telecommuting (working from home via computer hookup to the main work site).
More job seekers today are putting family needs first. Along with providing child care, many companies now assist with care of elderly dependents, offer time off to care for sick family members, provide parental leaves of absence, and offer various benefits that can be tailored to individual family needs. Some companies are accommodating the needs and concerns of dual-career couples by limiting relocation requirements or providing job search assistance to relocated spouses.
Next your employees will need to be trained to understand and work with diversity. The majority of companies in the U.S. sponsors some sort of diversity training program. The goals of diversity training programs were created to help develop the skills needed by employees, and to identify and reduce hidden biases. Typically, diversity training has two components: awareness building and skill building.
Awareness building is designed to increase recognition of the meaning and important of valuing diversity. Its aim is not to teach specific skills but to sensitize employees to the assumptions they make about others and the way those assumptions affect their behaviors, decisions and judgment (Bateman/Snell, 2011). To build awareness, trainers teach people to become familiar with myths, stereotypes, and cultural differences as well as the organizational barriers that inhibit the full contributions of all employees. They help the employees to develop a better understanding not just of corporate culture, but requirements for success, and career choices that could affect their future opportunities for advancement. In most companies, the "rules" for success are unwritten, and perhaps inconsistent with written policy. For managers, valuing diversity means teaching the unwritten "rules" or cultural values; it also requires inviting "outsiders" in and giving them access to information and meaningful relationships with people in power.
Differences in skills and abilities is an area that maybe overlooked as a characteristic of diversity, as most people would view the differences in skills as nothing more than an assistance in the selection process. However, a workforce that has a variety of skill sets would tend to be more rounded and be able to see projects and issues from a more diverse viewpoint. Skill building aims to develop the skills that employees and managers need to deal effectively with one another and with customers in a diverse environment. Most of these skills are interpersonal, such as active living, coaching and giving feedback. Ideally, the organizational assessment is used to identify which skills should be taught, tailoring the training to the specific business issues that were identified. Training is flexible scheduling to help the managers meet the company's needs while accommodating and valuing workers who want to set aside time to advance their education, participate in community projects, or look after elderly parents. Tying the training to specific, measurable business goals increases its usefulness and makes it easier to assess.
As replacing qualified and experienced workers become more difficult and costly, retaining good workers is becoming much more important (Bateman/Snell, 2011). Companies can form minority networks and other support groups to promote information exchange and social support. Support groups provide emotional and career support for members who traditionally have not been included in the majority's informal groups. They also can help diverse employees understand work norms and corporate culture. These groups help new employees adjust and give management feedback about problems that concern the groups. To help individuals enter the informal network that provides exposure to top management and access to information about organizational politics, many companies have implemented formal mentoring programs. Mentors are higher-level managers who help ensure that high-potential people are introduced to top management and socialized into the norms and values of the organization.
An extremely important step is to make sure deserving employees get a chance at line positions. Women in particular are often relegated to staff positions, like Human Resources, with less opportunity to demonstrate then can earn money for their employers. Career development programs that give exposure and experience in line jobs to a wide range of employees can make senior management positions more available to them. Managers can support diversity by recognizing cultural and religious holidays, differing modes of dress, and dietary restrictions as well as accommodating the needs of individuals with disabilities. One of the most effective ways to ensure that diversity efforts succeed is to hold managers accountable for hiring and developing a diverse workforce. Organizations bust ensure that their performance appraisal and reward system reinforce the importance of effective diversity management.
Diverse staff is able to respond to an increasingly diverse consumer base in both local and world trends.
Team members with different backgrounds help to come up with more creative and effective problem solving techniques.
Companies who set aside time and resources to cultivate and capitazing on diversity will suffer fewer discrimination law suits, fewer union clashes, and less government regulatory actions.