Diversity Within The United Kingdom Commerce Essay


There are some comparisons and many contrasts when it comes to managing diversity with equal opportunities. It all boils down to whom you ask or what books you read that define the similarities and distinctions between them. Moreover, there are several hundred theories, definitions and examples which can be discussed. With the use of Torrington et al's, (2008) "Major Differences" table, evaluation is enhanced when comparing the similarities and differences of the equal opportunities and diversity management approaches (Appendix: Table 1).

Firstly, the similarities between diversity management and the equal opportunities approach are very far and few between. The policy's are said to be polar opposites when it comes to the policy's aims, the direction it takes to succeed in that aim, and the way in which it affects the workplace (Kandola et al, 1996). However, some academics believe that both policies have to work in tandem to achieve what is best for society and the working environment (Dickens, 2006).

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The main consensus would be that both policies stem from the same legislative source where a minimum standard is set (Woodhams & Lupton, 2006). Equal opportunities approach was introduced in the 1970's and was the first model in trying to deal with minority disadvantages. The relatively new concept of diversity management came into common exploit within the last 15 years, (Gold, J, et al, 2010). Both policies have been created to help minimise equality issues, and was an attempt to quash discrimination but this is as far as the similarities go.

On the other hand the contrasts between equal opportunities and the diversity management approach are widespread and according to Gold et al (2010), the aims of both policies contrast significantly. The equality approach is viewed to be more of a liberal policy and takes more of a moral and ethical stance when in effect. It tends to be a very formal process and relies solely on the direction of European Union directives and UK statute to combat its aim of eliminating diversity for future and present employees (Gold, J, et al, 2010).

In comparison, the diversity management approach has the same fundamentals as equal opportunities and contributes to part of its aims, in the most basic terms, treating people fairly and with dignity (Kandola & Fullerton, 1998). The main UK supporters of diversity management, Kandola & Fullerton, have the view, that diversity management was introduced to develop a more enthusiastic position for equal treatment, from the organisation itself, so that they want to commit to the ideas within the concept of equal opportunities. Diversity management's main focus is therefore not necessarily on the moral standards but on the "business and other benefits" of having moral grounds (Kandola & Fullerton, 1998).

The prominence within equal opportunities and diversity is very clear as both are attempting to reduce discrimination in society and the workplace. Diversity management makes it more appealing to businesses as there are prospects of earning more benefits from it.

Further contradictions can be found at the focus points within equality and diversity management. These focus points are: who the policies centre on; the management activity focused on and who's responsible for the approach with the organisation.

The traditional liberal, equal opportunities approach was designed to minimise the variations between individuals and treat everyone as the same (Jewson &Mason, 1986). This 'sameness' approach, deals with large groups of people and the idea is based on removing irrelevant assumptions placed on minority groups. This is so that they are less prejudiced against, making opportunities "fair" (Liff, 1999) and giving an 'even playing field' for everyone within the work place to contend equally (Torrington et al, 2008). It is usually the responsibility of the HR department to ensure the morals are kept within the organisation and the equal opportunities approach is helpful particularly during the recruitment process. However the equality approach usually requires more encouragement for the organisation to voluntarily improve goals internally. This may be why positive action not positive discrimination is allowed to be used. Torrington et al, explains positive action with an example: British Rail had given minority groups extra coaching, as the test they were required to take was not part of their culture. This was done so that they could "compete equally" (Torrington et al, 2008, pg. 577).

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Conversely, the diversity management approach, aims to attempt to progress the chances for all, as individuals and not just those in minority sects (Torrington et al, 2008). Diversity includes virtually all ways in which people differ; not just the more obvious ones of gender, ethnicity and disability (Kandola et al, 1998). The main problem with the equal opportunities approach is that it took advantage of the large sections of the workforce, and instead of creating equal opportunity for all, those who were uninvolved felt it spoilt their prospects (Torrington et al, 2008).

Diversity management is an approach that all within the organisation should have some control and responsibility over however managers usually have more of an interest. Managers would have a keen concern on their staff developing to their fullest. This in turn means that they would cater to specific circumstances and situations of the individual. Organisations that use diversity management recognises everyone as individuals, rather than attempt to reduce differences, this is because distinctions should be viewed as constructive rather than unconstructive (Liff, 1996).

Overall, the similarities and comparisons between diversity management and the equal opportunities approach are varied and easily identified and by classifying them it has helped to recognise a superior approach.

Diversity management works in a different way for different types of organisation and the way that it is used, impacts on the benefits that can be achieved. Diversity management can offer many generalised benefits that come in different forms such as those that are proven and those that are debatable. Moreover when an organisation is successful in achieving both of these forms there is some indication that indirect benefits would occur. Examples include but are not limited to; giving a better overall image as well as progressive staff cohesiveness (Kandola, 1998). There is however very little evidence available to prove that these indirect benefits are achieved in all circumstances. The remainder of this essay will discuss the benefits and risks or difficulties that an organisation can face when implementing and using the diversity management approach.

There are three main benefits to an organisation of introducing and maintaining a successful diversity management plan. These three main benefits are: hiring from a larger pool of talented candidates; retaining talent within the organisation and the benefits of having lower turnover and absenteeism (Kandola, 1998). There are also several other benefits, which won't be discussed in depth such as: gaining a better marketplace understanding (Dechant, 1995); 'improving quality; promoting team creativity and improving customer service' (Kandola, 1998).

The first main benefit to the organisation of diversity management is the ease of access to a talented pool of candidates or employees. The idea of hiring someone because they are the traditional candidate i.e. white and male; is no longer the acceptable or competitive way to create a productive workforce. By hiring someone more ideal for the position, it gives the organisation an edge in terms of talent and skills in addition to being able to cut costs in training as the individual should already be of a standard that is paragon for the position. In synopsis there is a strong advantage to the business as there is a wider pool of candidates to choose from due to the lack of barriers, which would give access to the right individual with the proper skills therefore in essence, should help improve the quality of the organisation's workforce (Kandola, 1989).

Conversely there are some downsides to this benefit, generally associated by the recruiting process itself. The risk would be that if the wrong process was used, the organisation may not be able to fully utilise the pool of candidates. The organisation has to make sure those who run these processes are skilled in gauging criteria and as such making selection fair (Kandola et al, 1998). If not they are at risk of hiring run-of-the-mill individuals who have no particular asset to bring to the organisation.

This leads the discussion onto the next benefit of diversity management. By having a diversity management approach it helps the organisation retain the employees who are talented. Retaining the employee is important and should be viewed as an investment into the organisation. The reason for viewing retention as an investment is because of the cost in terms of time and money it takes to get the best from an individual. The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development state that it can cost around "£8,200 to replace an average employee which can rise to £12,000 for senior managers" (The Family Friendly..., 2009). By having such a large investment it would make business sense to retain staff, which diversity management claims to do. Studies have shown that there is a relationship between a positive diversity climate and job satisfaction and commitment to the organisation (Hicks-Clarke and Iles, 2000).

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The sheer amount of money lost by not retaining one part of your workforce is staggering. This can be viewed in the review by Ortho Pharmaceuticals who managed to save $500,000 by maintaining women and ethnic minorities within their organisation (Cox & Blake, 1991). In summary, the benefit of retaining staff is important in many ways to keep an organisation competitive, to save costs and to improve satisfaction and commitment to the organisation.

The final benefit to be discussed is the enhancement of performance and the additional benefits of team working. Campaigners for managing diversity state that they trust that diverse teams will end up giving more creative and innovative results. There is also some evidence to state that analytical and decision making processes would be much better thanks to diversity management (as referenced: Kandola et al, 1998).

On the contrary, Kandola and Fullerton find the evidence cited by these academics and campaigners as a bit loose in terms of conclusiveness. They found by studying the same evidence that there was not enough to prove that having a diverse team (heterogeneous) over a unison (homogeneous) team would have any benefit on performance (Appendix 2: Table 4.7). In terms of benefits and risks to the organisation, if it can be proved to work, group working would help improve the quality, productivity and moral of staff on top of enhancing creativity. However from this evidence which is difficult to rely on, the organisation may need to commit to researching further on the benefits of diversity management in terms of its affect on team working to ensure that the benefits supersede the risks. It would be rather risky without proper research to introduce diversity management if the sole benefit required by the organisation was to become more creative and innovative.

Besides the main points already discussed there are also several other benefits that can be achieved by using diversity management however there is difficulty in providing evidence for these. Marketplace understanding would be a secondary benefit especially if the workforce is a microcosm of the organisations marketplace, i.e. women on the board are more likely to be able to understand a women consumer's mindset. This has obvious advantages in terms of business use, for example: product development and maybe even marketing campaigns. Furthermore, there could be an improvement to customer relationship management, morale and staffing costs, or personnel quality and performance (CIPD, 2006).

In conclusion, there are several differences between equal opportunities and diversity management. From the first part of the essay it can be shown that both policies are different in terms of aims and overall performance whereas the second part helps show why the diversity management approach is a superior approach. However they are several academics who feel that diversity management on its own is not enough to have complete equality and diversity harmony.