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The issue which we are highlighting in this report is the most common issue faced by an organization, family or a group working towards a goal. Diversity can be a clearly a foundation for opportunities and never-ending dissensions and challenges. Incorporation of a diverse workforce can help organizations in dealing with the worldwide industries and it smoothes their process of implementing business strategies for growth through innovations and integrations.
In this report, we will review the concept of diversity and what attracts an organization to adapt it. We will be specifying how the diversity can add to creative problem solving and blossoming of a successful workforce along with a few issues that occur due to the extensive cultural mix. We will be observing the best practices in (cultural) diversity for the organization as a whole, the management and the employees. The Human Resource Development team intervention with the help of these practices can lead to effective performance of the organization in today's globally competitive business environment. Finally, we will draw some conclusions and make a few recommendations that would assist in maintain a well balanced diverse workforce.
What is Diversity?
Diversity purely refers to both the differences and similarities; related tensions that exist in any setting which is not necessarily confined to workforce. It is extensive of age, personal and corporate background, education, function and personality along with race and gender. Diversity also constitutes of standard of living, sexual preference, place of origin, term in an organization and management or non management. (Thomas Roosevelt - beyond race and gender).
In different parts of the world, diversity has different meanings; however it is greatly regarded as a distinctive asset and strength to an organization. Diverse nationalities, religious and ethnic backgrounds and culture are a magnificent continuum of expertise and inflow of innovative ideas and thinking style which enriches the organization.
Due to globalization, we live in an age where people from varied cultures work together and communicate with each other more and more. Though the whole idea of making connections seems interesting and appealing, it can be backed with frustrations and loaded with uncertainty. This is what cultural diversity means.
(http://www.pg.com - 6:55 pm 1/12/09)Proctor and Gamble (P&G), one of the Fortune 500 companies in America, sees diversity as uniqueness that each of their employees bring to the organization to fulfill their values and achieve the goals. They proudly boast that they have crafted an advantage from their differences (in cultures), by building on their common values and goals. P&G believes that their work environment encourages collaboration, which in turn helps them produce superior services and products.
As reviewed in the above case example, cultural diversity is more than often enforced in the life of an organization for its various benefits. In clear terms, incorporating a diverse environment is as simple as embracing and efficiently managing the changing workforce and bringing out the best from them to serve the best to its customers. Companies that consider cultural diversity as one of their competitive differentiators are encouraged to overcome the roadblocks they encounter whilst dealing with a diverse environment in order to ensure valuable business and customer solutions.
Multinational organizations have/make diversity policies because it is become an integral part of our modern culture and has been highly desirable too. The employees of such an organization believe that the presence of diversity is inherently right.
Along it with its significant benefits, a diverse workforce can bring about its share of disadvantages in an organization. When people from different cultures, backgrounds or religions come together with differences in opinions, ideas and lifestyle, disagreements are definitely to be probable.
In group meetings, decision making/problem-solving scenarios can often result in conflicts over time, management or financial resources - which clearly negate the advantages of collaboration. In situation like these, it becomes difficult to arrive at a decision with the consensual agreement among the team members which ultimately result in cultural clashes and negative forces at work. (Donatus I. Amaram)
A diverse team struggles through times of uncertainty and intricacy and which may often leads towards disappointments and confusion. Ancona and Caldwell (1992 p 323) observes that the blending of different cognitive styles, values and attitudes, which can be found in diverse teams can become a quite cumbersome affair.
Allard (2002 p14) notes that, having a diverse workforce does not necessarily contribute to greater organization success, nor does it promise noticeable social and creativity improvements. Workforce diversity can be organizations strength only when it is managed effectively. The ill effects of not managing diversity may include communication gaps, conflicts and tension, confusion, low morale and ambiguity (Thomas and Ely 1996, Cox 1993).
Best Practices in Cultural Diversity
The human resource development approaches diversity as a well integrated, organized, system oriented, and long term process change that focuses on complications organization levels and dimensions. In order to “maximize the utilization of its human capital, organizations must go beyond merely creating a more diverse workplace. Once there, the value of having diverse employees must be recognized.” (J. Ranae Norton and Ronald E. Fox. The change equation Washington DC: American Psychological Association 1997, p.80)
According to Dr. Edward E Hubbard “when aligned with organizational objectives, diversity can be a powerful contributor to the organization's competitive advantage.” organizations that promote and achieve diverse workplace will attract and retain quality employees and increase customer loyalty. It also translates into effective delivery of essential services to communities with diverse needs. Now is the time to move beyond viewing diversity as merely the numerical the numerical representation of certain groups. It is time for systematic application of diversity concepts to the business of the organization. Aligning diversity with the mission and business of the organization increases employee satisfaction and retention; improves competiveness and productivity; increases responsiveness; adds value to the customer. Organization can actually gain victory with diversity by infusing it into all the processes and ensuring that diversity is integrated in the core values of the organization.
A diversity policy of an organization specifies its standpoint on face, disability, gender, age, religion and sexual orientation. In the recent times, these policies have been integrated with the HR practices so that these policies are emphasized to the entire organization and not demoted to groups or individuals.
The diversity policy of a company lists objectives and encloses information concerning:
- The importance of diversity in achieving company goals
- Management support of these beliefs and activities.
- The different areas covered (training, education)
- The scope of the diversity policy
- Who is responsible to abide by the policy?
- Who is covered under the policy (contractors, consultants, employees)
1.2 Workforce Planning
According to Dr John Sullivan3, workforce planning “is based on the premise that a company can be staffed more efficiently if it forecasts its talent needs as well as the actual supply of talent that is or will be available”. This team falls under the Human Resource department of an organization; is responsible for ensuring that the organization is staffed with the right people (with potential skills and knowledge) at the right position at the right time. The members of the workforce planning team have to vigilantly make plans (long and short term) relating to recruitment, selection, retention and development & training. They are liable to maintain a well balanced diverse workforce in the organization - keeping in mind the cultures and backgrounds of people from different countries.
1.3 Strategic Plan
The strategic diversity plan of an organization aims on creating quantifiable means diversity can support the vision, goals, resources to achieve these goals and strategic decisions of the organization. Today's management has realized that in order for a business to have competitive advantage - the inclusion of diversity in strategic planning is essential. It is lined and aids for providing support to the business objectives and strategic decisions.
1.4 Recruitment for diversity
The recruitment team of an organization is responsible for identifying the right people from varied backgrounds and withholding required experiences - to add substantial significance to the organization. Recruitment is also inclusive of retaining the staff recruited by them. In addition they should provide the opportunity of promotion for internal candidates along with making it a well known fact that they are open to diversity. It is a well proven fact that a diverse workforce results in better staff retention rate as compared to a homogenous one. A recruitment process should ideally be very flexible so that the managers have a larger choice of talent to choose from.
Taking the example of Dell - the recruitment team are well efficient to assist the management to identify the different and well suited diverse workforce. They have identified that a well balanced diverse workforce abets the organization by bringing in innovation through new ideas.
One of the main pillars of diversity initiatives is employees; their contribution should be accessed as essential for organizations to build and sustain effective diversity policies. The managers must encourage their co-workers in learning the skill of interaction and managing people with dissimilar cultures. In a study conducted by US department of commerce on best practices in achieving workforce diversity, they concluded that organization have strong beliefs about the importance of employee participation and feedback in achieving diversity goals.
Many organizations offer diversity training programs that are focused on valuing diversity for its people, to encourage the growth of well balanced organizational cultures that would support effectual development of a diverse workforce. Workforce diversity training helps employees by increasing their understanding of skills in valuing individual differences and ultimately changing their attitudes towards the existence of multicultural environment.
Organizations take keen interest in providing diversity training to their employees so as to make them aware of the changing demographics, political and religious differences, understanding the behaviors of the people. This type of training should be incorporated in the company's goals and objectives. Also, the training team should be well equipped to measure the outcome of the training programme. Employees can be enlightened about the topic through others means than training like videos, posters, bulletin boards, brochures and meetings.
The different training programs that can be used are:
- Cross cultural awareness training that will help employees to understand and be flexible in attracting and retaining the best and most qualified workers
This should be the initial step of introducing the topic of diversity to the new joiners. The induction should include the company values, the diversity policy, information on the total number of employees, the varied nationalities existing in the company and other relevant information pertaining to the organization.
In today's modern age, organizations that are seriously devoted to incorporating diversity in their culture have instituted mentoring programs - formally. Mentors - who are not necessarily members of the HR department, but volunteers from them various teams that have the required potential are facilitating the assimilation of new employees into the existing culture. Mentors provide guidance to employees. Also, organizations have internship / fellowship programs that are inclusive of intended skills evaluations, assignments and growth plans.
Ted Campbell, US employee relations manager, Digital Equipment Corporation introduced a mentor program, which resulted in substantial dropping the turnover rate of new college recruits and minorities. The company has successfully reduced turnover among new college recruits and minorities with a mentor programme. http://www.xperthr.co.uk/article/8764/workplace-diversity---new-challenges,-new-opportunities.aspx?searchwords=best+practices+in+diversity
Managers are primarily responsible for the success of diversity policies because they must ensure that the policies are effective. They should incorporate diversity policies into every aspect of the organizations functions and purpose. The managers should support the employees in learning how to effectively interact with and mange people in a diverse environment. Managing diversity is a comprehensive process that helps the manager create an environment
Managing Diversity Programme
1) Implementing a Diversity Management Programme
- Establish current levels of diversity management in your organization.
- Conduct a gap analysis
- Identify areas that need change
2) Set Appropriate goals
3) Gain support from top management
- Commit financial human resources
4) Write a diversity policy
- Compile a diversity action plan
5) Set the programme in motion
- Monitor and review
6) Establish an ongoing programme
In depth analysis illustrates that a diverse workforce can be a boon and a bane for the organization. Though it has been noted that managing diversity can be very intricate for organization, only by incorporating the best practices will they be able to achieve success in their diversity goal. Differences due to varied cultures, attitudes and styles can lead to problems in communication and understanding, conflicts and confusion.
Managing diversity effectively can provide the organization with an idiosyncratic advantage to achieve greater business results.
The following conclusions can be drawn from the study:
“Copy-catting someone else's best diversity practice is not best practice. Most best practices are not visible processes. There are always contextual factors such as the organisation's values and culture, the strategy and the morale, the company's market position, the financial and human resource capabilities, and the technology. So most programmes you can't just mix-and-match and find an automatic fit. You are going to have to look at what are the common elements that would work in your organisation. And then you are going to have to tweak it a lot anyway to get it to work.”