Foster and Harris in their study on diversity management in retail organizations in the UK focused on "how operational managers are interpreting the management of diversity in practice" (p.4). The article makes a positive contribution towards a deeper understanding of intricacies of diversity management and its application in the work place. However, there remain a series of contextual factors which impact diversity management; and which organizations no doubt would need to address in the future.
In offering a critical review of Foster and Harris' paper, this essay focuses on four areas which are; the research methodology, the key findings, the contribution the study makes to an overall understanding of the complexities of implementing diversity management and the potential challenges for specialist responsible for implementing diversity management in the work place.
The central argument of the article is the view that " the diversity management literature concentrates on the potential business benefits and societal argument for employing a diverse workforce but pays less attention to issue of the application of diversity management in practice" (p.5). It can be inferred from this quotation that the practical implementation of diversity management paramount for Foster and Harris and led them to employ a variety of research methods in order to gather the necessary data. The study employed in-depth interviews, a case study and semi-structured interviews as a means of understanding how line managers implement diversity management in organisation.
Foster and Harris found that implementing diversity management across the retailing industry in the UK as "problematic". They offer four reasons to account for this. First, diversity management is ill-defined and as such means different things to different people. For example, the research revealed that a minority of line managers see diversity management and equal opportunities as essentially the same (p.10). Second, line managers were particularly cautious about legal compliance and the possibility of litigation over the implementation of diversity management. Drawing on the work of Leighton (2004), Foster and Harris conclude that "anti-discrimination legislation is in danger of becoming an obstacle to employers progressing diversity management practices if fear of the law leads line managers to a defensive and negative attitude to diversity issues" (p.11). Third, the "confusion which stems from attempting to balance an agenda that "appears to require them [line managers] to deliver sameness of treat on the one hand but to recognise and respond to individual difference on the other" (p.13). whilst scholars such as Copeland (1988), argue that more diversity in the workplace can "enhance decision-making through the generation of different ideas" (Copeland 1988 cited by Foster and Harris) Foster and Harris contend that a "more diverse team was not only more difficult but that too much diversity could be decisive and have a negative impact on team cohesiveness" (p.11). Finally, the size, structure and external operating environment of an organisation are crucial in deciding the extent to which individual differences are recognised and valued in the workplace.
They also used a case study over a 12 month period as well as conducted 40 semi-structured interviews with those holding managerial responsibilities and senior HR specialist who are responsible for designing and implementing equality and diversity policies and procedures.
The main research finding indicated that managers understand the concept of diversity management differently and as result there exist some inconsistencies as to how different diversity managers apply the concept on a day-to-day basis. Hence Foster and Harris observe that "a lack of clarity about what 'managing diversity' means can lead to inconsistencies ...among those who required to put the concept into practice" (p.5). Managers were too concerned with the legal implication and potential litigation. This results in confusion an agenda to deliver sameness of treatment but at the same time to treat people as individual. 2 there is no universally accepted definition of diversity management and as a result this can lead to inconsistencies in the way managers apply the concept. In other words, the lack of a clear definition of diversity management means that managers even within the same organisation can adopt different approaches (p.5). Similar problems to those expressed by Foster and Harris were highlighted by.. on
According to (Boyce and Neale 2006) one of the problems with in-depth interview is that it is prone to bias. In this context interviewers can ask interviewees questions in order to get a particular response. Another issue with in-depth interview is that is difficult to make generalisation because of the size of the sample. However, using in-depth interviews means that a researcher can get more detailed information. Case study also poses its own set of problems which can lead to inappropriate result. Researcher is likely to be influenced by the case study (Yin 1984 Keke to get).
One of the problems with using semi-structured interviews is that it is easy to digress into other areas (Ref needed Modupe to get). As long as this digression helps the interviewer to gain a deeper understanding of the subject this is not an entirely bad concept. In the case of Foster and Harris it is difficult to determine whether this was a problem but on average it would appear that the interviewers were able to peruse issues relevant to the data collection which could not be planned for.
Limitation of the study
Foster and Harris study was based mainly on the test and procedures for studying perception of diversity management in retail organisations solely in the UK however objective measures may be engaged in the future to weight major differences in diversity management theory and its actual application in reality. Furthermore the main focus of the researching the UK retail industry as a sample of other organisation may not bring an objective conclusion of its findings of other cultures industry and countries in the global economics of the world.
However, the research and its selection of various samples in the organisation expresses the feeling various employees from various section of the organisation on diversity management.
Foster and C established literature explore the organizational initiative of an organization's workforce as an effective but under-mined dimension of diversity management and equality. The Literature which viewed various contributions to perceiving diversity management concepts in relation to their importance and operational reality.
The concept of diversity as an opposition to the equality opportunities policies is one of the three major perspective highlighted by the author. In criticizing this approach, the author does cite 'right-based' approach by Webb (1997) without giving a detailed insight as to how this reflects an opposition to the diversity management approach. Our studying of the study of equal opportunities by Webb (1997) and Sue Johnston's (2010) recent publication of diversity management and flexibility for female managers in the Australian retail sector, some positions of equality opportunities policies is embedded in the concept of diversity management; even has major differences still take its place (Greene AM and Kirton, G 2009: 33) and should not be viewed as an opposition to the Diversity management concept.
The insufficient evidence and lack of clarity as to the diversity management concept different from the equality approach and the assertion that it could be viewed as an opposition to diversity management (2005:5) would undermine the view of Foster and harris as to how different they are and its effects in a retail organisation. Nevertheless, the deficit perspective serves to throw the alternative "equivalence model" (2007: 57) into sharper relief.
The authors also highlighted another perspective of diversity management concept as the
This study postulates that performance appraisal will be effective to the extent that managers and subordinates have a shared perception of its purpose and function and the degree to which it meets the needs of both groups. A two part research project was conducted to: 1) identify manager/subordinate perceptions of the purposes served by the formal performance appraisal process; 2) determine, the extent to which these purposes are being satisfied in organizational practice; and 3) assess if managers and subordinates have a shared perception of the effectiveness of the appraisal process. The sample for the study included 36 managers and 143 subordinates from a division of a large Midwest service organization. The results were mixed with regard to the appraisal system effectively accomplishing its diverse goals. However, in general, there was support for the notion that both managers and subordinates find the appraisal process to be a worthwhile organizational practice. Approximately 70% of the respondents indicated that they would participate in the appraisal program whether they were required to do so or not.
The article has clearly demonstrate the problems with the practical application of diversity and the phrase "easy to say, difficult to do" in the title of the essay truly reflects the problem with diversity management.
Webb, J. (1997), "The politics of equal opportunity", Gender, Work and Organisation, Vol. 4 No.3, pp.159-67.