Cultural diversity in the workplace is becoming more and more prevalent. Corporations in all industries are encouraging minorities, women, elderly workers, people with disabilities as well as foreign workers to join white males in the workplace. The following analysis will focus on these groups and how companies are encouraging them to join an ever-expanding workplace. Even if affirmative action is dismantled, diversity of the workforce is clearly here to stay.
Business owners and managers, experts say, will still need to maintain or step up efforts to recruit and advance ethnic minorities in the 21st century. That’s essentially because having a diverse work force and managing it effectively will simply be good business for various companies. This practice comes under Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO), Affirmative Action (AA) and Diversity Management (DM). 1. 1 WHAT IS DIVERSITY? “Diversity exists in a group or organisation when its members differ from one another along one or more important dimensions” (Lewis, D.
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French, E. & Phetmany, T. 2000). Many different definitions exist for diversity in terms of race, ethnicity and gender, however, in broad terms; diversity can refer to any difference between two individuals. 2. 0 DIVERSITY MANAGEMENT One organisation that has successfully introduced DM practice is the British charity, Nacro. Nacro is involved in taking people from minority or disadvantaged groups and placing them in positions of employments that might help their rehabilitation or remove them from a cycle of previous criminal behaviour.
The aim is to equip them with life skills and training that will benefit them as well as the community that they live in. This is an example whereby an organisation has made it their sole aim to target under-represented groups such as asylum seekers and Black Minority Ethnic (BME) candidates, that otherwise would not have been employed, thus moving away from the idea of AA to more of a business objective. (Anonymous 2006). On a local note, the workforce in Australia is a diverse population.
Various issues have affected Australia’s past in terms of the heritage of the citizens. In the last 60 years, the proportion of overseas-born Australians has risen from ten percent in 1947 to over 40% today, that is almost half of the nation’s population being of foreign origin. The same proportion however does not apply to the majority of workplaces. (Lewis, D. French, E. & Phetmany, T. 2000). 2. 1 AFFIRMATIVE ACTION Managing diversity goes ‘far beyond’ meeting the legal requirements of equal employment opportunity and affirmative action.
Whereas Affirmative action is based on mandatory compliance regulations designed to bring the level of representation for minority groups into parity, diversity initiatives within organizations are voluntary in nature. It takes Affirmative action a step further. Organizations that incorporate diversity initiatives as a part of their organizational objectives will be the most prepared, they will be to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Whereas Affirmative Action focuses on including those on the basis of race, gender, and/or ethnicity, Diversity initiatives, when well implemented, focuses on all elements of diversity.
Management must embrace the inclusion of employees not only with regard to obvious differences of race, sex, and age but also without regard to such secondary factors of diversity as marital or family status, sexual orientation and disabilities (Stone, R. J. 2008). In any case, it will be easy to tell when affirmative action is no longer necessary. When an individual can look around the workforce and see that members of all groups are being employed and that they are being employed at the high levels as well as at the lower levels, then it won’t be needed anymore.
It is possible that most corporations are on that road. The increasing presence of women and minorities has altered the way that companies look. 2. 2 WOMEN Diversity means optimizing the productivity of ALL people in an organization. As small companies move into the 21st century, there are some compelling reasons for expanding their diversity, according to business leaders and experts. One of the most important reasons is that employers can increase the quality of their workforce.
It would be a mistake for small businesses not to embrace diversity, in this sense. Women have a lot to offer in this regard. They are a major group that has often been underrepresented in the workforce, are clearly below those of white and black males. Recent trends are showing that there are an increasing proportion of women who are successful and are managing or own small businesses. Because of this trend, the corporate world needs to recruit women and other minorities into previously withheld positions in management if they choose to remain competitive.
The owners of these female-run businesses may find it easier to sell to and more desirable to buy from businesses where women and other minorities are included at management levels. There are a number of arguments promoting women in the workplace. Another such argument is that women tend to have a greater relationship orientation while men have a greater task orientation. Given that diversity consulting is focused on ways in which more effective relationships can be fostered within the workplace so that everyone can be at their best and most productive, which in turn will benefit the company in reaching its goals and profit objectives.
It has been acknowledged that women consultants would more often be more successful in bringing this focus on the relationships between employees of diverse backgrounds (Stringer, D. M. 1995). Another factor to be considered with women in the workforce is work hours. Many women, who also keep a home, will be less likely to want to work the longer work hours that are often required of top level management. Not to say that they don’t want the higher positions or can’t do the work, but the work demands don’t meet their needs in terms of a job that suits them.
This is a contribute factor to the levels of women in managerial positions (Walsh, J 2007). 2. 2 THE ELDERLY Elderly workers are another major demographic group that has begun to be included in the workforce due to diversity initiatives and sensitivity training programs. This presents a number of different challenges for businesses today. Older employees may prefer more time off instead of other benefits that the younger employees might prefer. There is stronger resentment against elderly people as compared to women and minorities however, because those individuals are generally expensive to keep.
Most elderly people have high salaries along with good and expensive benefit packages, including pensions. This creates a situation where many large companies feel that it is better to downsize these employees and pay severance packages rather than allowing these employees to stay on and collect top dollar on their benefit packages. Others seem to think otherwise, and believe that the ageing workforce can benefit organisations immensely. Nonetheless, diversity initiative programs have put some pressure on corporations and especially large conglomerates, to include elderly employees into their hiring and promoting practices.
It should be pointed out that currently, thirty percent of the workforce is 55 or older. This essentially means that corporations are forced into incorporating an ever larger portion of the elderly work force into their sites. Diversity training and sensitivity classes will undoubtedly make this process a smoother one. Elderly employees have to continually be trained and re-trained so that they become more compatible with the person-organization fit that so many corporations are now stressing and will stress in the future. 2. 3 RELIGION
Even though most businesses and organisations do not include religious beliefs as a part of their mission statement or objectives, it must be highlighted that many of their employees will have religious beliefs, some only nominal, others strongly practicing their faith. In today’s day and age where people are often alienated in their own little bubble at home and at work, they are often left to their own means, and as such feel vulnerable or neglected. This often troubles employees silently, along with various pressures such as health concerns, fears of their personal safety and belonging.
There is also a trend that shows people are wanting to find a deeper meaning to life through spirituality, which is something that is a 24/7 consideration for many. Therefore, religious persons often ask for the employer to be accommodating of their religious beliefs, the most common of which is time off for religious observance. In order for employers to be better equipped to accommodate these needs, there has to be a level of understanding of the religions of their employees.
This will not only benefit the employees but will also ensure that the employers have realistic expectations as to how much time is reasonable to be granting for time off (Ball, C & Haque, A 2003). 2. 4 TRANSSEXUAL ISSUES In society today there is an increasing number of men and women who are taking steps to change themselves in a way that years ago would have been shunned. As men and women undergo gender reassignment, whether male to female or female to male, it creates a new issue for employers to deal with.
As this is not a very common occurrence still, many other employees and employers may find it uncomfortable to accommodate transsexual people in the workplace. In most cases people will undergo gender reassignment as a process, all the while, working for the same employer. Employers need to be aware of the needs and issues that each of these people face, and if they are accommodated well, the employees who may have been productive in the workplace prior to the may very well become more productive post-change.
The key to effective management of transsexual issues are clear policy and procedures including harassment policies, effective communications and consultation over realistic time periods, and training support for all those involved. Its important to be aware though, that even if all these issues are dealt with, even with the best will in the world, the transsexual person may only obtain tolerance rather than acceptance (Barclay, J. M. & Scott, L. J. 2006). 3. 0 DIFFICULTIES OF DIVERSITY MANAGEMENT
Even when there is a sincere commitment to strive for a diverse workforce, many times it takes work to change deeply rooted prejudices and stereotypes. The desire to make it happen must come from the top down if subordinates are to truly get the message of importance. Unfortunately, many top-level managers are reluctant to change or alter the very system in which their careers prospered. Backlash by white males is too often the by-product of diversity initiatives. In recent years, many white males have taken a stance against Affirmative Action programs and diversity initiatives claiming reverse discrimination.
But there has been no evidence to support the notion that Affirmative Action plans are pushing the traditional white male out the door. In efforts to avoid the “division” that can occur within organizations that implement diversity initiatives, advocates of organizational cohesiveness go beyond efforts to hire individuals simply on the basis of difference. Instead, they focus on hiring those with the skills, and abilities most suitable for the vacancy, regardless of race, age, gender, or ethnicity.
Others recruit people who represent the company’s underlying core values and otherwise demonstrate a high degree of compatibility. However, it should be noted that when the recruiting and selection process does not achieve “person-organization fit”, the organization may be left with a weak culture that sends unclear messages about values and provides employees no clear direction. Advocates of a strong organizational culture believe that a high level of person-organization fit is advantageous for all parties; employers, new and current employees, and job seekers.
A study of eight large public accounting firms in the US, for example, looked at compatibility between what new staff accountants valued most in an organization and what their employers valued most. Researchers found that high compatibility on the part of employees led to quicker adjustments, higher job satisfaction, and lower turnover. Recent studies have found that women and members of racial or ethnic minority groups are exposed to discrimination and exclusion in the workplace more often than are white men.
Given this experience, they are more likely to have a poor view of the policies and procedures of the organisation (Cox, T 1991). They tend to be less satisfied with promotions and have a negative work attitude (Chow, H. S. & Crawford, R. B. 2004). 3. 1 BENEFITS OF DIVERSITY The majority of companies will only enter into a market or a policy or procedure that will impact positively on their bottom line profits. That being said, diversity management is one area that can be perceived by some as being an unnecessary cost to the business in terms of training and implementing diversity management strategies.
There are, however, some good business reasons to champion workplace diversity (Council, W. P. 2001). These include: Employee retention – people like to feel comfortable in their work environment, no one likes being ‘the only one’. A diverseified workplace will allow workers to socialize and relax with each other, resulting in lower employee turnover. Cost saving – local vendors often have lower cost structures than the larger companies and are often owned my minority groups or women. These lower cost structures enable savings to be passed on to customers. Competitive edge – many clients in areas of minority roups will be more likely to patronise those businesses that are run/owned by members of the same minority group. There are many other numerous reasons for diversification, the benefits of which can be experienced by employers, employees and the clients they serve. 4. 0 CONCLUSION In conclusion, minorities, women, elderly workers, people with disabilities and foreign workers are all groups that have been excluded from the workplace in the past. Some Federal legislation acknowledges this history and are making substantial effort to assimilate all people regardless of difference.
Yet there is still much work to be done and it is only through collective effort that we can acknowledge the disadvantaged past and disadvantaged present of certain groups of people. Embracing Diversity must truly be embraced as our living spaces and working spaces become ever more unified. References: Anonymous 2006, “When the rhetoric doesn’t match the reality: equality and diversity in recruitment and retention of staff”, Human Resource Manual International Digest, Vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 29-30. Walsh, J 2007, “Equality and diversity in British workplaces: the 2004 Workplace Employment Relations Survey”, Industrial Relations Journal, Vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 303-319 Ball, C & Haque, A 2003, “Diversity in Religious Practice: Implications of Islamic Values in the Public Workplace”, Public Personnal Management, Vol. 32, no. 3, pp. 315-330. Barclay, J. M. & Scott, L. J. 2006, “Transsexuals and Workplace Diversity”, Personnel Review, Vol. 35, no. 4, pp. 487-502. Council, W. P. 2001, “Managing Multiculturalism: Valuing Diversity in the Workplace”, Journal of Property Management, Vol. 66, no. 6, pp. 22-26. Lewis, D. French, E. & Phetmany, T. 2000, “Cross-Cultural Diversity, Leadership and Workplace Relations in Australia”, Asia Pacific Business Review, Vol. , no. 1, p105. Stringer, D. M. 1995, “The Role of Women in Workplace Diversity Consulting”, Journal of Organisational change Movement, Vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 44-51. Chow, H. S. & Crawford, R. B. 2004, “Gender, Ethnic Diversity, and Career Advancement in the Workplace: The Social Identity Perspective”, SAM Advanced Management Journal, Vol. 69, no. 3, pp. 22-31. Cox, T 1991, “The Multicultural Organisation”, Academy of Management Executive, Vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 34-47. Stone, R. J. 2008, “Managing Human Resources”, 2nd Edition, Wiley, Australia