Cultural diversity in the workplace

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Introduction:

The world's increasing globalization requires more interaction among people from diverse cultures, beliefs, and backgrounds than ever before. People no longer live and work in an insular marketplace; they are now part of a worldwide economy with competition coming from nearly every continent. For this reason, profit and non-profit organizations need diversity to become more creative and open to change. Maximizing and capitalizing on workplace diversity has become an important issue for management today.

Human Resource management is on managing people within the employer-employee relationship. This involves the productive use of people in achieving the organization's strategic objectives and the satisfaction of individual employee needs.

Where its' objective is to measure target to be achieved within a certain time frame.

Diversity management is management initiated, rather than required by law. This involved in integrating non-traditional employees (such as women and minorities) into the workforce and using their diversity to the organization's competitive advantage, as well as considering other workforce diversity characteristics that need to be addressed to ensure fair and effective utilization of employees. (Raymond J. Stone, 2008)Diversity in management includes:

Cultural diversity is the variety of human societies or cultures in a specific region, or in the world as a whole. (The term is also sometimes used to refer to multiculturalism within an organization. Management of cultural diversity has been suggested as the human resource strategy enabling the effective management of the workforce diversity created by demographical changes generally in the late 1980s and the early 1990s. Retrieved from Oya Aytemiz Seymen(2006), according to Fleury (1999) explains cultural diversity management as an organizational answer or reaction to the need for competitiveness and to the increasing variety of the workforce. In the same resource, it has been stated that management of cultural diversity implies a holistic focus in order to create an organizational environment that allows all the employees to reach their full potential in pursuing the organizational goals.

Gender diversity means the proportion of males to females in the workplace. It is a more even distribution or is the employee pool composed of mostly males or mostly females. This can have an effect on how people interact and behave with one another in the workplace and would impact culture and social environment. Similarly other demographics such as population, racial characteristics and such all contribute to the work environment. According to Kochan et al., 2003, organizations are finding that racial and gender diversity, "if managed well, may even enhance performance"(retrieved from Luis L. Martins and Charles K. Parsons,2007). Researchers have proposed that a greater organizational emphasis on gender diversity management programs will have a positive effect on organizational attractiveness among women, as women are the intended beneficiaries of the programs (Luis L. Martins and Charles K. Parsons,2007)

Age diversity means the proportion of aged people work in the workplace. Age diversity was also positively correlated with health disorders--but only in groups working on routine decision-making tasks. Gender composition also had a significant effect on group performance, such that groups with a high proportion of female employees performed worse and reported more health disorders than did gender-diverse teams. As expected, effects of gender composition were most pronounced in large groups. Effects of age diversity were found when controlling for gender diversity and vice versa. Thus, age and gender diversity seem to play a unique role in performance and well-being. The moderating role of task complexity for both effects of age diversity and the moderating role of group size for both effects of gender diversity further suggest that the impact of these 2 variables depends on different group processes.( Ju¨rgen Wegge and Carla Roth, Barbara Neubach and Klaus-Helmut Schmidt & Ruth Kanfer , 2008)

Religious diversity is an important component of cultural diversity, which educators are now taking seriously in their pedagogies. However, cultural diversity and religious diversity are often evaluated quite differently. In our society now, there is at least a polite and superficial consensus that cultural diversity is here to stay and may enrich life. Minimally, people realize that cultural, ethnic, and class chauvinism create problems and are inappropriate, though they may be difficult to overcome. Regarding religious diversity, quite a different evaluation is often employed. Many people value the feeling that their religion is indeed superior to others and regard such religious chauvinism as a necessary component of religious commitment, or even a virtue to be cultivated among the faithful. In their official theologies, most religions have dealt with religious diversity only in a cursory or inadequate fashion. Frequently, religions have encouraged mutual hostility by teaching that foreign religions are not only different, but also demonic, or at least inferior. (Rita M. Gross(1999) retrieved from http://www.crosscurrents.org/gross.htm)

Body:

Benefits of Workplace Diversity

An organization's success and competitiveness depends upon its ability to embrace diversity and realize the benefits. When organizations actively assess their handling of workplace diversity issues, develop and implement diversity plans, multiple benefits are reported such as:

Increased adaptability - Organizations employing a diverse workforce can supply a greater variety of solutions to problems in service, sourcing, and allocation of resources. Employees from diverse backgrounds bring individual talents and experiences in suggesting ideas that are flexible in adapting to fluctuating markets and customer demands.

Broader service range - A diverse collection of skills and experiences (e.g. languages, cultural understanding) allows a company to provide service to customers on a global basis.

Variety of viewpoints - A diverse workforce that feels comfortable communicating varying points of view provides a larger pool of ideas and experiences. The organization can draw from that pool to meet business strategy needs and the needs of customers more effectively.

More effective execution - Companies that encourage workplace diversity inspire all of their employees to perform to their highest ability. Company-wide strategies can then be executed; resulting in higher productivity, profit, and return on investment.

Challenges of Workplace Diversity - Taking full advantage of the benefits of diversity in the workplace is not without its challenges. Some of those challenges are:

Communication - Perceptual, cultural and language barriers need to be overcome for diversity programs to succeed. Ineffective communication of key objectives results in confusion, lack of teamwork, and low morale.

Resistance to change - There are always employees who will refuse to accept the fact that the social and cultural makeup of their workplace is changing. The "we've always done it this way" mentality silences new ideas and inhibits progress.

Implementation of diversity in the workplace policies - This can be the overriding challenge to all diversity advocates. Armed with the results of employee assessments and research data, they must build and implement a customized strategy to maximize the effects of workplace diversity for their particular organization.

Successful Management of Diversity in the Workplace - Diversity training alone is not sufficient for your organization's diversity management plan. A strategy must be created and implemented to create a culture of diversity that permeates every department and function of the organization. (Retrieved from http://www.diversityworking.com/employerZone/diversityManagement/?id=9)

In preparing an organization to accept diversity, it is more important to change the corporate culture or to change structure of the organization.

Organization Culture

Basically, organizational culture is the personality of the organization. Culture is comprised of the assumptions, values, norms and tangible signs (artefacts') of organization members and their behaviours. Members of an organization soon come to sense the particular culture of an organization. Culture is one of those terms that's difficult to express distinctly, but everyone knows it when they sense it. For example, the culture of a large, for-profit corporation is quite different than that of a hospital which is quite different that that of a university. You can tell the culture of an organization by looking at the arrangement of furniture, what they brag about, what members wear, etc. -- similar to what you can use to get a feeling about someone's personality.

Corporate culture can be looked at as a system. Inputs include feedback from, e.g., society, professions, laws, stories, heroes, values on competition or service, etc. The process is based on our assumptions, values and norms, e.g., our values on money, time, facilities, space and people. Outputs or effects of our culture are, e.g., organizational behaviours, technologies, strategies, image, products, services, appearance, etc. (Retrieved from http://managementhelp.org/org_thry/culture/culture.htm)

Identification with an organization is a fixed sense of one's role in relation to the organization. "When organizational members identify with their workplace, they define themselves in terms of the organization; they internalize its mission, ideology, and values and they adopt its customary ways of doing things. Eventually the member may see him - or herself as an exemplar or microcosm of the organization. Organizational identification, in other words, suggests a feeling of oneness with the organization. Diversity makes open organizational culture more rich, and insights and innovation more applicable to a wide range of contexts. High levels of identification with an organization can limit diversity by reducing communication competencies in the area of social perception skills, including the ability to pick up on the subtleties of social situations and adapt to them. This skill is essential in a cross cultural context. High levels of identification among employees can also produce a lack of organizational flexibility and creativity, over-conformity to organizational dictates, and tyrannical behaviour on the part of leaders. Highly-identified individuals could experience a lack of risk taking, loss of an independent self, and burnout. Redding indicates that a focus on high-performance goals in a context of trust and openness make it easier for employees to manage the ambiguity of gaining their sense of identity from shared visions rather than from a physical structure. Knowledge of self and openness in relation to shared goals create a safety zone in which people feel free to explore new ideas and new ways of approaching problem solving. (Retrieved from http://workplacewellness.blogspot.com/2005/08/identity-development-and.html)

Organizational Structure

Diversity is often viewed as a training program, limited to a human resources initiative focused on race and gender and separate from organizational change efforts. However, as the article describes, the definition of diversity is much broader, encompassing primary, secondary, and tertiary dimensions that go beyond race and gender. The aim of diversity is to allow all individuals to contribute fully to the success of the organization. Thus, integrating diversity and organizational change efforts can enhance the success of most types of organizational change. Organization development theory and principles can also add significantly to the outcomes of diversity initiatives through the effective use of contracts, assessments, action research methodology, and other critical components.

In the current competitive world, diversity and organization development must be partners in successful organizational change efforts. (Ginger Lapid-Bogda, Ph.D., 1998)

The Contribution of diversity to organizational

Integrating diversity and organizational change efforts can enhance the success of most types of organizational change. All major organizational change involves a cultural change, and a diversity effort is cultural change at its core. It requires an organization to search its collective soul and focus on essential aspects of its culture: seminal values; organizational demands for conformity in thought, interpersonal style, and action; power structure and power dynamics; employee participation; and inclusion/exclusion issues, to name a few.

Cultural Differences

In addition, most organizational changes involve diversity components. An organizational redesign, for example, may combine functions that have previously been separate, such as marketing and manufacturing. Certainly, marketing and manufacturing have two distinct "cultures" and a successful redesign needs to pay attention to those cultural issues involved. Diversity offers both the perspective and the technology to deal with these intercultural issues, whether they are triggered by redesigns, mergers, or global expansions. When an organization is redesigned, some of its subsystems discover they have to transact a new form of "business" with new, unfamiliar "partners." Naturally, they assume that their established styles of doing business, their traditional practices, priorities, values, and methods, will be perfectly acceptable, perfectly functional. Thus, marketing is surprised when this assumption turns out to be invalid for manufacturing. Marketing assumes that its new partner, manufacturing, simply has not appreciated the benefits of changing and adapting to marketing's traditional way of doing business. Thus, organizational redesign invariably leads to organizational conflict. A diversity perspective adds insight to the identification of and techniques for the management of such issues. Conflict, by definition, means that differences exist. These differences may be based on style, role, values, priorities, power, mental models and patterns of thinking, or culture. The diversity perspective of valuing and utilizing differences offers a positive framework from which to manage conflict. (Ginger Lapid-Bogda, Ph.D., 1998)

Team Effectiveness

Team effectiveness has even clearer diversity connections. For a team to develop and be effective, its members must find productive ways to both elicit and manage individual and subgroup differences. In any group development model, there is always some version of a "storming" stage fairly early in a group's development. The group must navigate this troublesome phase successfully to evolve toward more productive phases of development. Successful navigation cannot occur if differences are submerged or conformity is forced upon diverse members. To be effective means to acknowledge differences and to utilize them creatively to gain the team's objectives. (Ginger Lapid-Bogda, Ph.D., 1998)

Organizational Cultural Shift

In the case of a complex organization change (for example, going from a production-driven to a marketing-driven focus or moving toward Total Quality), a fundamental shift in organizational culture must occur. A cultural change of this magnitude and complexity poses a major challenge for most organizations because of the ambiguity involved and the enormity of the task. An understanding of diversity enables organizations to find ways not to insist on conformity in a major change process, but to encourage employees to contribute, to take a fresh look, and to continuously evolve. (Ginger Lapid-Bogda, Ph.D., 1998)

Diversity oriented HRM policies

It is the responsibility of the HR manager to facilitate the organization's ability to use staff efficiency and effectively to achieve strategic business objectives. The HR manager is also responsible for ensuring that all employees are rewarded fairly and equitably for their contributions to the organizations. Fair and equitable rewards not only includes wages and salaries, but also opportunities for training and career development and the provision of a work environment in which all workers are treated with respect. Ensuring that all employees are treated fairly and equitably is not only a matter of legal and ethical responsibility, but also recognises that employees who perceive that they are receiving unfair or inequitable treatment may be less committees to the organization and thus may be less productive.

The HR manager can achieve these outcomes by:

  1. Identifying the significant difference in their organization's workforce and in the labour market from which they draw employees.
  2. Exploring the potential advantages to be gained from hiring persons from particular groups.
  3. Identifying relevant diversity factors existing in the present workforce.
  4. Developing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating staff management practice that facilitate the ability of each employee to contribute effectively to the organization and to be rewarded appropriately.

It is also the professional and business responsibility of the HR manager to establish audit measure that identify and quantify the advantage gained from diversity employment practice and that minimise the costs of diversity employment. (Raymond J. Stone, 2008)Diversity in management includes:

Conclusion

A diverse workforce is a reflection of a changing world and marketplace. Diverse work teams bring high value to the organizations. Respecting individual differences will benefit the workplace by creating a competitive edge and increasing work productivity. Diversity management benefits associates by creating a fair and safe environment where everyone has access to opportunities and challenges. Management tools in a diverse workforce should be used to educate everyone about diversity and its issues, including laws and regulations. Most workplaces are made up of diverse cultures, so organizations need to learn how to adopt to be successful practices.

References:

  1. Stone, Raymond J., (2008). Human resource management, 6th edition
  2. Seymen, Oya Aytemiz., (2006). The cultural diversity phenomenon in organisations and different approaches for effective cultural diversity management: a literary review
  3. Martins, Luis L., & Parsons, Charles K., (2007). Effects of Gender Diversity Management on Perceptions of Organizational Attractiveness: The Role of Individual Differences in Attitudes and Beliefs
  4. Wegge, Ju¨rgen., Roth, Carla., Neubach, Barbara., & Schmidt, Klaus-Helmut., & Kanfer, Ruth., (2008). Age and Gender Diversity as Determinants of Performance and Health in a Public Organization: The Role of Task Complexity and Group Size
  5. M. Gross, Rita., (1999). Religious Diversity: Some Implications for Monotheism, retrieved from http://www.crosscurrents.org/gross.htm
  6. Lapid-Bogda, Ginger, Ph.D., (1998). Diversity and Organizational Change, retrieved from http://www.bogda.com/articles/DiversityandOrgChange.pdf
  7. http://www.diversityworking.com/employerZone/diversityManagement/?id=9
  8. http://managementhelp.org/org_thry/culture/culture.htm
  9. http://workplacewellness.blogspot.com/2005/08/identity-development-and.htm

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