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How organisations can become better managers of cultural diversity on the global market

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

Introduction

The purpose of this article is to demonstrate how organisations can become better managers of cultural diversity on the global market. This paper argues that organisations can achieve success with diversity environment by finding and accepting visible and non- visible differences between values and factors in the workforce (Kandola and Fullerton, 1998). Consequently, individual organisations need to have their own theories and ideas about management and development diversity environment in the context of social-economic conditions, national legislation, culture, demography, history factors (Jones, Pringle and Shepherd, 2000; Syed 2008a). There is plenty of evidence which highlights cases of diversity management and its inputs into organisations.

A significant part of the discussion in this paper is based on the framework of micro-, macro- and meso-level analysis relevant to P&O Ferries as a multicultural organisation, while creating their strategy of working culture, respect and values around different level of diversity (Schneider, 2001: 27). In other words, the issue of diversity involved diverse personal characteristics, such as gender, race, culture and disability (Cox 1993; Ottaviano & Peri, 2006; Thomas 1991), but also social discourses, national structures, institution and organisational processes and behaviours in the development of a multicultural workplace.

This paper is structured as follows. The next section has been divided into three smaller sections in which each of them deeply explain diversity management levels based on P&O Ferries examples and some of criticisms. Those sections highlight aspects and approaches which need to be taken into concern in professional management decisions if organisations want to become better in a cultural diversity market.

Background

Diversity management is a cultural change process (Singh, 2002) of set values and recognises the difference between people and organisations. An integrated approach to managing diversity means understanding differences which has been created by environment, adopts an opportunity, improved employee motivation (Beaver stock, 1991) and at the same time meet organisation objectives. Globalisation, migration from developing countries and a shift away from economic barriers (Hill, 2009: 3) is extremely challenging for HRM in the context of human rights laws, limitation on employment opportunities, culture influences or organisational approaches towards managing diversity. According to researches, the phenomenon of managing diversity has taken into account the framework of multilevel factors, macro-national level, micro-individual level (Syed, J. Ozbilgin, M. 2009) which can improve rules of diversity legal organisation policies and respond to a power of different circumstances in the workplace (Johns, 2001: 39).

The micro level

Diversity based on individual attributes and aspirations which are part of the micro- level analysis. It is crucial to understand the individual- level factors if organisations want to achieve success and minimalism conflict and lower job satisfactions which can become the potential future problems (McMillan- Capehart, 2005). People should be treated equally regardless of race, ethic, gender, sexual, orientation or other social rewards (Jewson and Mason). For example, P&O Ferries employ over 35000 employers around the world of which 34% of them are non- British and that includes 65% of men and 35% of women. Average age is 19-55 years old for man and 23- 57 years old for woman. Over 25% of non- British employees are working in highest positions like: managers, officer or team leaders (56% woman, 44% man), about 40 % are working in P&O offices as call advisers and translators and the rest 35% are working as customer service stewards on boats (HRM- P&O, 2009) . Previous statistics suggest that culturally diverse backgrounds do not block their career and activities because of the separation from their home country. There is a limited evidence of companies where diversity management is well- organised like P&O Ferries. Organisation as a global institution need to take into concern national culture influences and design their jobs, values and multiple identities to effectively promote outcomes but also individual relationships and interaction within an organisation. Thus, Sign (2002) explain that by developing peoples opportunities “to the best of their ability” will be paid by commitment, innovation and creativity to organisations by employees. Managers, who manage diverse teams must adopt mix perspectives and make sure that diversity contributions are integrated into organisational objectives. Only by personal contact, face to face interactions or indirect electronic interactions, the organisation is going to build strong micro- level relationship where employees will feel that their contributions are influenced and noticed by employers. According to P&O Ferries, micro- level of analysis is representing by face to face communication between managers and employees. All ideas, problems or suggestions which involved organisation performance or sometimes even some employee private problems are discussed carefully with manager’s attentions and ideas to help.

The literature review criticises many organisations around the world in which the opportunity for foreign woman to achieve better positions are not the same as foreign men. This can be classified as sexual discrimination which is part of micro- level diversity recruitment. UK statistics show that women’s gross individual income is on average 51 per cent less then men (ECO, 2009). Employers still forget about relevant legislations and the fact that organisations need to “play by the rules” which cause controversial problems and criticisms. P&O Equal Opportunities Policy covers all legislations which deal with discrimination (EOP, 2007). Furthermore, women who work for P&O Ferries have the same respect as men and sex has no influence on the position they have. The company has 35% women working as a manager or a team leader which is 7% more and 27% in customer service which again is 12% more compared to men (P&O, 2009).

The macro level

In management- orientation, focus should be not only on organisation benefits but also on people performances from difference of capital, labour, skills, knowledge, behaviours, communications and other cultural differences which are keys of organisation’s improvement and ” positive action” (Bratton and Gold, 2004). The local phenomenon of managing diversity cannot be separate from its social- cultural, social- economic, social-political and institutional contexts (Syed and Ã-zbilgin, 2007). Professional diversity management offered by organisations needs to be universal and flexible for cultural changes. The multicultural, multilingual and multidisciplinary nature of the professional workplace has to take responsibility for cross- culture communication, corporate and dimensions.

According to National Statistics (2007), Great Britain has 507,000 non- British which constitute 87% of all UK population on the end of 2007. This means that diversity is more usual than it was before and it is giving organisations opportunities to be competitive and flexible on the global market. For example P&O Ferry’s staff come from different countries like: Scotland (34%), Poland (20%), Spain (3%), Slovakia (9%), Italy (5%), Ireland (10%), France (15%) and other (4%). Those differences are building high performance and quality customer services compared to other subsidisers (P&O, 2009). If diversity management is prepared to take organisational culture into the company environment, their success will be higher. The key point is to understand “social difference codes” in the workplace. Ridgeway (2006) explain social difference codes as the “widely shared cultural beliefs that delineate the socially significant distinctions among people on the basis of which a society is structured and inequality is organised” (p.180). In other words people can be categorized based on individual attributes and dimensions of diversity which has been mentioned as a part of micro- level but also adopted into macro- level analysis where focus is on social stratification and stereotypes as a person’s status or ethnicity (Syed and Ã-zbilgin, 2007). The diversity management effort must integrate both micro- and macro- diversity awareness to make organisations effective and a friendly place for employees with different backgrounds. Management should design a polycentric strategy for managing diverse environments.

There are lots of literatures which criticise the ethnocentric ways of looking on diversity. There are still many organisations where staff have not been trained to work in a diversity environment and cannot recognise the potential of cultural diversity. It is hard for them to accept the fact that changes can be good and an ethnocentric strategy will cause many problems and will not bring any improvements into the organisation. There are evidences which criticises how the host market ignored and stayed closed for changes. For example, being a foreign employee can be a disadvantage because English is not their first language (Bertone, 2004) and some employers cannot understand that foreign qualifications are as good as home ones. As a result, an immigrant’s education is less important as a home citizens and the possibility to find a job in their profession becomes “mission impossible”. P&O is not allowed to discriminate anyone who has got international qualifications, because that company focuses on knowledge and training their staff to make sure that performance and high quality of service is competitive compared to other similar companies. P&O is quite happy to train those people who are open for development and improvement in qualifications as long as those qualifications are relevant to job. Diversity management should in their behaviours and decisions appropriate international standards not ethnocentric mentality and go forward to improve all the time.

This paper also argues that national or organisational laws, labour policies and social- economy issues can affect diverse workers. Nowadays, there are many organisations which have designed their own diversity- oriented policies. Indeed, as a result of human rights and equal opportunity laws, those policies create anti-discrimination rules in the context of micro- and macro- levels. P&O in their policies clearly explain that discrimination on those levels is not allowed (EOP, 2007). Management in their responsibility must ensure that they do not engage in any form of discrimination and that they are fair with their decisions. The management strategy should not only provide rivalry (Porter, 1990) but take opportunities to embrace the high- performance based on high trust, commitment and productivity and at the same time not forgetting about employment social relationships (Godard, 2004).

The meso level

The last but as important as micro- and macro- level is the meso- level of analysis which highlights relationships between organisational context and component behaviour in the aspect of organisation outcomes (McCarthy, 2002: 59). In other words, social capital (Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1992) is a resource which is important for a diversity manager’s work through organizational levels and networks between companies and employees.

Most organisations expect from foreign employees to assimilate to the domestic culture. It is the management responsibility to make that happen and help a diverse workforce to achieve that access (Thomas and Ely, 1996). Being a multicultural workplace is compromised when they give employees opportunities to make their own choices based on cultural backgrounds and by not playing organisational rules. Thomas and Ely (1996) calls that approach multiculturalism. The work environment is not involved in only multiculturalism but also in the context of diversity circumstances. Bourdieu said that diversity habits like: what the worker eats, their practices, political opinions and all other individual activities are principles in the workplaces for employees. Professional organisations create friendly environments for those values, beliefs which in some points are responsible for organisational improvement and success (Syed and Ã-zbilgin, 2009). Because P&O have employees from different part of the world, some of the diversity habits have been taken into concern in management decisions. Food and drinks which are served for different cultured staff included French, Polish and Spanish meals. The same is with customers. The Dover- Calais route offers French and English menus. So, everyone can find something nice in the menu’s that the company offers. Konrad (2003) notes that it is important for managers to have focus on power relations between various identity groups in organisations and in all dissimilar individuals’ behaviours to avoid misunderstanding.

Stone, Stone-Romero & Łukaszewski (2007) recommended that HRM processes and practices must change to be more flexible on increasing cultural diversity and HRM as a “modernist project” (Legge 2005: 337) should support diversity management with improvement in their decision making within the working environment.

Conclusion

This paper explains a framework through which diversity management can be understood from different perspectives. That framework not only brings together micro-, macro- and meso- level analysis but also helps better understand how important each of those approaches is for multicultural organisations. Both multinational businesses and multinational management need to learn how to recognize the significant of multidimensional investment in human resource development which approaches the need to develop strategy, collaborative and cross- culture competence to improve business and employees performance (Ã-zbilgin, Tatli 2008: 65). Managers need to understand that a diverse workforce can improve organizational productivity and creativity. Managing a diverse workforce is a challenge. When people from different backgrounds come together in the workplace, there is a potential for great improvement, but also a possibility for conflict.

This paper has highlighted the diversity efforts on different levels and P&O Ferries is an example of a company where diversity management is still developing on all micro-, macro- and meso- levels.

The paper has also argued that organisations still have to change in their structures, strategy and management knowledge about diversity. Improvement and understanding is needed to become better employers, managers or leaders of diversity teams.

The implications of the paper is that managers need to do more then just manage people, they have to take into account the above framework and try to “do the right things” (Druckers, 2001) because managing people is a challenge but also a compromise.

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