Diversity (business)

Diversity (business)

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The "business case for diversity", theorizes that in a global marketplace, a company that employs a diverse workforce (both men and women, people of many generations, people from ethnically and racially diverse backgrounds etc.) is better able to understand the demographics of the marketplace it serves and is thus better equipped to thrive in that marketplace than a company that has a more limited range of employee demographics.

An additional corollary suggests that a company that supports the diversity of its workforce can also improve employee satisfaction, productivity and retention. This portion of the business case, often referred to as inclusion, relates to how an organization utilizes its various relevant diversities. If a workforce is diverse, but the employer takes little or no advantage of that breadth of that experience, then it cannot monetize whatever benefits background diversity might offer.

In most cases, US employers are prohibited by federal and state laws from giving race or ethnicity any consideration in hiring or assigning employees.[citation needed] However, the US Supreme Court has upheld the use of limited preferences based on race, ethnicity, and sex, when there is a “manifest imbalance” in a “traditionally segregated job category.”[1][2]



[edit] Workplace diversity

Cultural diversity includes the range of ways in which people experience a unique group identity, which includes gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnic and age. An organization’s culture tends to determine the extent to which it is culturally diverse.

While diversity in the workplace brings about many benefits to an organization[citation needed], it can also lead to many challenges. It is the responsibility of managers within organizations to use diversity as an influential resource in order to enhance organizational effectiveness. In the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, C.L. Walck defines managing diversity in the workplace as "Negotiating interaction across culturally diverse groups, and contriving to get along in an environment characterized by cultural diversity"[3].

In a journal entitled The multicultural organization, by Taylor Cox, Jr., Cox talks about three organization types which focus on the development on cultural diversity. The three organization types are: the monolithic organization, the plural organization, and the multicultural organization. In the monolithic organization, the amount of structural integration (the presence of persons from different cultural groups in a single organization) is very minimal. "In the United States, this organization usually represents white male majorities in the overall employee population with few women and minority men in management jobs"[4]. "The plural organization has a more heterogeneous membership than the monolithic organization and takes steps to be more inclusive of persons from cultural backgrounds that differ from the dominant group"[4]. The multicultural organization not only contains many different cultural groups, but it values this diversity. diversity is a noun

[edit] Benefits of diversity in the workplace

Diversity is beneficial to both the organization and the members.[citation needed] Diversity brings substantial potential benefits such as better decision making and improved problem solving, greater creativity and innovation, which leads to enhanced product development, and more successful marketing to different types of customers[4]. It provides organizations with the ability to compete in global markets[5]. Diverse organizations will be successful as long as there is a sufficient amount of communication within them. Because people from different cultures perceive messages in different ways, communication is vital to the performance of an organization. Miscommunication within a diverse workplace will lead to a great deal of challenges. Diversity, the idea, is not only prevent unfair discrimination and improve equality but also valuing differences an inclusion include ethnic, age, race, culture, sexual,orientation of physical disability and religious and belief.

Scott Page’s (2007) [6] mathematical modeling research of team work supports this view. He demonstrated that heterogeneous teams consistently out-performed homogeneous teams on a variety of tasks. Page points out that diversity in teamwork is not so simple in the messy real world. Too often the cultural differences create problems. The goal is to manage diversity to take full advantage of it.

[edit] Challenges of diversity in the workplace

There are challenges to managing a diverse work population. Managing diversity is more than simply acknowledging differences in people. [7]

Many organizational theorists have suggested reasons that work-teams highly diverse in work-relevant characteristics can be difficult to motivate and manage. There are many challenges which face culturally diverse workplaces, and a major challenge is miscommunication within an organization. In an article entitled Developing Receiver-Centered Communication in Diverse Organizations, written by Judi Brownell, she explains that meanings of messages can never be completely shared because no two individuals experience events in exactly the same way. Even when native and non-native speakers are exposed to the same messages, they may interpret the information differently[8]. It is necessary for employees who are less familiar with the primary language spoken within the organization to receive special attention in meeting their communication requirements[9]. "In high context cultures, communicators share an experiential base that can be used to assign meanings to messages. Low context cultures, on the other hand, provide little information on which to base common understandings and so communicators must be explicit"[10]. Because of this fact, it is better to view all diverse organizational environments as low-context cultures.

Cultural bias is an additional factor which challenges culturally diverse work environments. Cultural bias includes both prejudice and discrimination. "Prejudice refers to negative attitudes toward an organization member based on his/her culture group identity, and discrimination refers to observable adverse behavior for the same reason"[4].

Another challenge faced by culturally diverse organizational environments is assimilation. According to the journal Cultural Diversity in the Workplace: The State of the Field, Marlene G. Fine explains that "Assimilation into the dominant organizational culture is a strategy that has had serious negative consequences for individuals in organizations and the organizations themselves. Those who assimilate are denied the ability to express their genuine selves in the workplace; they are forced to repress significant parts of their lives within a social context that frames a large part of their daily encounters with other people." She goes on to mention that "People who spend significant amounts of energy coping with an alien environment have less energy left to do their jobs. Assimilation does not just create a situation in which people who are different are likely to fail, it also decreases the productivity of organizations"[5].

[edit] Creating the Multicultural Organization

"The key to managing a diverse workforce is increasing individual awareness of and sensitivity to differences of race, gender, social class, sexual orientation, physical ability, and age"[5]. There are several ways to go about creating the multicultural organization that performs extremely well.

Cox mentions language training as a way to promote a multicultural organization. "Language training is important for companies hiring American Asians, Hispanics, and foreign nationals. This type of training helps to communicate to employees that languages, other than English, are highly valued". Equal opportunity seminars, focus groups, bias-reduction training, research, and task forces are methods that organizations have found useful in reducing culture-group bias and discrimination"[4].

In her article, Judi Brownell identifies three skills which help to develop effective communication in diverse organizational environments. These skills include self-monitoring, empathy, and strategic decision-making. Self-monitoring refers to a communicator's awareness of how his or her behavior affects another person, and his or her willingness to modify this behavior based on knowledge of its impact. Empathy enables the receiver to go beyond the literal meaning of a message and consider the communicator's feelings, values, assumptions, and needs. Strategic decision-making implies that the communication sources and channels used to reach organization members, as well as the substance of the messages conveyed, are mindfully selected[11].

[edit] Managing diversity tools

Managing diversity goes far beyond the limits of equal employment opportunity and affirmative action. High performing diversity managers recognize that specialized skills are necessary for creating a productive, diverse workforce. They seek out continuous learning opportunities and some go as far as acquiring certification. Managers must be willing to work towards changing the organization in order to create a culture of diversity and inclusion. Assessment skills and diversity education are key elements of culture change. However, the leadership’s support of the change cannot be understated.

[edit] Implementation

Diversity issues change over time, depending on local historical and dynamic conditions. Overt "diversity programs" are usually limited to large employers, government agencies and businesses facing rapid demographic changes in their local labor pool and help people work and understand each other.[citation needed] The implementation of diversity is often limited to the Human resources department[citation needed] when there is also a good economic case for UK companies to use it as a tool to reach new market shares.

[edit] Legal frameworks

US anti-discrimination laws prohibit employers giving any consideration to customers’ preferences for being served by employees of a given gender, ethnic group, or color. In general, the laws also prevent consideration based on religion, although the law allows major exceptions of this provision for religious organizations. Many countries are also introducing anti-discrimination laws (for example the DDA in the UK) forcing companies to be more aware of diversity. The law student organization Building a Better Legal Profession generated significant controversy in October 2007 for reporting data suggesting that most private law firms themselves lacked demographic diversity.[12]

[edit] See also


[edit] References

  1. ^ United Steelworkers v. Weber, 443 U.S. 193 (1979), http://supreme.justia.com/us/443/193/case.html</a>
  2. ^ Johnson v. Transportation Agency, 480 U.S. 616 (1987), http://supreme.justia.com/us/480/616/
  3. ^ Walck, C.L. (1995). Editor's introduction: Diverse approaches to managing diversity. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 31, 119-123).
  4. ^ a b c d e Cox, Jr., Taylor (1991). The Multicultural Organization. Academy of Management Executive, 5(2), 34-47.
  5. ^ a b c Fine, Marlene G. (1980). Cultural Diversity in the Workplace: The State of the Field. Journal of Business Communication, 33(4), 485-502.
  6. ^ Page, Scott (2007). The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 13: 978-0-691-12838-2. http://press.princeton.edu/titles/8353.html. 
  7. ^ Vaughn, Billy (2006). High Impact Diversity Consulting. San Francisco, CA.: Diversity Training University International Publications Division. ISBN In progress. http://www.dtui.com/consultbkadvall.html. 
  8. ^ Brownell, Judi (2003). Developing Receiver-Centered Communication in Diverse Organizations. Listening Professional, 2(1), 5-25
  9. ^ Brownell, Judi (2003). Developing Receiver-Centered Communication in Diverse Organizations. Listening Professional, 2(1), 5-25
  10. ^ Brownell, Judi (2003). Developing Receiver-Centered Communication in Diverse Organizations. Listening Professional, 2(1), 5-25
  11. ^ Brownell, Judi (2003). Developing Receiver-Centered Communication in Diverse Organizations. Listening Professional, 2(1), 5-25
  12. ^ Adam Liptak, In Students’ Eyes, Look-Alike Lawyers Don’t Make the Grade, New York Times, October 29, 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/29/us/29bar.html?em&ex=1193889600&en=4b0cd84261ffe5b4&ei=5087%0A

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