1 Diversity Education
Diversity Education-Is It an Effective Business Practice?
Dr. Patricia A. Alvara
2 Diversity Education Diversity Education- Is It an Effective Business Practice?
With a rapidly growing diverse population, the need for tolerance and acceptance has now become a necessary part of our daily lives in order to live and work harmoniously. One wonders how members of an organization can begin to cope with this new era of globalization when the workforce is not properly prepared to deal with culturally diverse populations. How much of an impact does culture play in how people interact with others at work? What are organizations doing to train their employees to prepare their workforce to be able to handle working with people from other cultures and is diversity training effective approach? Diversity education has now become a fundamental aspect of many organizations or a moral responsibility, especially since the tragic events of 9/11. Many organizations are searching for answers and seeking out training programs for their employees in current diversity initiatives. What is meant by diversity? The definition of diversity is rather broad. Diversity is the presence of difference between individuals and among groups. It varies from personalities, work styles, religious beliefs, socioeconomic, education, to race and sexual orientation. In the US, diversity and demographics are changing constantly in terms of age, disability, ethnicity, and race, gender, language and culture, sexual orientation and other differences that make one different. Said differences in work-style, skills, talents, education and geographic locations are only a mere example of other diversity dimensions that can make a difference in how people interact. “Among the ones that
3 Diversity Education frequently damaging to an organization or a group are factors around education, socioeconomic and work experience (SHRM, Diversity, 2001 p1).” One or more of these factors can be irrelevant to some people, but to others they play a vital factor in their lives. Regardless of one’s definition of diversity, the key factor to keep in mind throughout this paper is where does one envision him or her self within an organization? Questions to reflect upon: • • Why do most Hispanic-Americans get hired in housekeeping industries? Why are African-Americans often absent from managerial responsibilities? • Why are women continuing to be placed in support roles?
Opening up dialogue in an organization on diversity, can increase awareness and interest among employees in an organization. Companies can leverage diversity and use it as an asset to build, make and demand changes in their market place and necessitate a search for a new and more effective way to serve the needs of their diverse customers. Therefore, when managed effectively, these organizations can utilize their differences, broaden their organizations’ capabilities to respond globally to their customers’ needs. (SHRM, (What is the Business Case, 2001). Do you often find yourself questioning why your colleagues do things in a particular fashion? One behaves in a particular fashion for reasons related to our cultural belief systems or value systems. Culture is very powerful. “Culture tends to create
4 Diversity Education ethnocentrism (Geertz, 2000 p2).” Clifford Geertz (a Princeton University professor, an anthropologist or ethnographer) describes culture as a “soft science” because one applies and interprets meaning from it (O’Reilly, 2000 p.1). What one regards as normal is by far abnormal to another person. Often, one tends to see the world through one’s own view and judges the world by what is familiar to them. Theoretically, culture shapes our perception of our world, ourselves and how we see others. Culture affects every aspect of our lives; it shapes people and organizations consciously and unconsciously. Culture is the way one shares patterns of feelings, behaving, thinking for generations which give an identity to groups of people from various regions around the world. Culture is a shared meaning and understanding (O’Reilly, 2000 p.1). People from like regions share culture values, norms, traditions, institutions and myths. Culture specifies rules within a defined community or organization- what is acceptable, and what not acceptable is (Wheeler, 2000). Fons Trompenaar, author of, “Riding the Waves of Culture,” published by Nicholas Brealy Publishing Limited of London in 1993, defines culture as, “A way in which a group of people solves problems. He compared various ways in which organizations interact culturally. Cultures differ in the way they perceive time. Time is not thought as in all cultures. Some countries use time effectively, and deadlines become crucial in business transactions. While to others are not bogged down with time. Universalistic and pluralistic cultures vary in relation to contracts and obligations. The universalistic approach Fons Trompenaar describes is, “What is good and right can be defined and always applies (Hall and Poots, 2000).” The pluralistic place an emphasis
5 Diversity Education on obligations of relationships and unique circumstances; friendships are everlasting and always set the precedence and may go first. Universal cultures are US, UK, Germany and Scandinavian; where as pluralist cultures are Latin, Arabic, Indian, African and Asian. An example could be described in how an organization from the US and another from India conduct business transactions. An US organization would send attorneys to draw up contracts and negotiate on behalf of the organization -very impersonal. Where as in India, the opposite is true; established relationships are more important then legal binding contracts. The Indians place a higher value on relationships. If by chance a corporation bails out of a contract with a US organization, the US attorneys would file a suit. While the Indian organization would not seem to be particularly threatened by a law suit because the Indian Courts are back logged for the next 300 years (Organizations and Consultancy-One Pine, 2000). Trompenaar also discussed how cultures varied within societies such as individualism and collectivism. An individualistic person is an independent thinker, looking out for the individual, an American employee; while the collectivist, a Japanese employee, is the opposite. They will look out for the whole group to be sure not to deface any one in particular (Organizations and Consultancy-One Pine, 2000). By increasing our understanding and awareness of each others’ culture, it will lead us to a greater understanding, tolerance and acceptance of others whom we interact with. Clifford Geertz (an anthropologist or ethnographer) and Michael Pacanowsky (Professor from the University of Colorado) interpret culture as deriving from a network
6 Diversity Education of social interactions which creates culture reality. Through communication, it allows one to make sense of the world, or create a meaning (O’Reilly, 2000 p.1). True, cultures do vary to some extent, however there are cultural universals that unite us, for instance in times of sadness and pain. Cultures tend to unite when one has encountered a tragedy. Reflect for a moment on September 11th; when such an event happens, people of various cultures come together for the good of mankind. But, the majority of times, cultures tend to exclude others whom happen to be from a different race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or anything that is not a norm for that particular culture. When one begins to exclude, it becomes a major obstacle for achieving organizations goals. Mahatma Gandhi said, “No culture can live, if it attempts to exclusive (http://www.wsu.edu).” Exclusion can impede development of the individual as an employee, can decrease productivity and can cost organizations missed sales and loss of customers to competitors (SHRM, 2001). How can society and organizations as a whole stop excluding people and begin to include all? How can organizations avoid the common pitfalls that occur because of the lack of understanding of cultural differences? When frequent problems are not addressed in a particular cultural group, tensions arise and drastic measures often take place. “A range of issues may exist when a certain group, policy or business practice excludes intentionally or unintentionally (Velasquez, 2001).” People need to stop thinking that everyone must assimilate in order to fit in, and begin to celebrate the diversity of others. Through diversity education, employers as well as institutions can begin to bridge this cultural gap where individuals can become fully integrated members in their organization
7 Diversity Education and feel valued as a human being. Diversity education can begin to build a climate in the organization in which all people can work to their full potential and contribute to society. Diversity training provides an opportunity to create an atmosphere in which people who are culturally fundamentally different can work together successfully, as well as promotes an over all environment of respect with the anticipation of eliminating past prejudices and stereotypes, while opening up avenues of spiritual enlightenment. Diversity education includes awareness education and positive recognition of differences among people within an organization. It extends Affirmative Action; it fully recognizes each person and their uniqueness as well as values what every member has to offer, while creating an inclusive environment. Diversity education is an extremely important tool for organizations because it provides people with the skills needed to step out of their comfort zones. People are afraid of what they do not know about; they become unwilling or not able to look outside their cultural realm; thus leading to an uncomfortable or frustrating experience. With an ever-increasing mixed population, people are encountering cultures that many have never been exposed to. Diversity training equips people with the skills and tools to handle the difference in those different cultures, furthermore leading to bridging the cultural gap (Malkam, 2000). These differences often cause tension within another culture and may effect or influence relationships at work or at home. Diversity training provides employees a different way of looking at the diversity in their workplace, and provides the opportunity and tools to create a more inclusive working environment for all… (Velasquez, 2001).”
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Other organizations are using an approach called Managing Diversity. This program tends to focus on the business aspect; it moves beyond valuing diversity in that it becomes a way to conduct business. “Managing Diversity is based on cultural change, is a pragmatic business strategy that focuses on maximizing the productivity, creativity and places a commitment to the workforce; while meeting the needs of the diverse customers (SHRM, 2001 p2).” All too often, managing diversity programs are confused with affirmative action and valuing diversity. “All are separate points of the continuum of interventions designed to stimulate the inclusion of people from different backgrounds in an organization (SHRM, 2001 p1).” Is there a need for a diversity program in organizations even though there are already laws established to protect us from discrimination? Currently, the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) and Affirmative Action (AA) exist but do not address the needs of all employees’ relations. Many organizations are implementing diversity initiatives because of the problems arising out of EEO and AA. Affirmative Action is a by product of EEO’s laws and regulations. It is a government initiative and mandated. EEO and AA are based on statistical analysis of demographic groups, containing goals designed to bring up the underrepresented groups of minorities, women and persons with disabilities in the of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It changes the mixture of people within the organization; labor market. Primarily, it protects those groups covered by Title VII. It’s a short term band aid and is grounded in assimilation of a population. The need for diversity education arose out of Affirmative Action. Diversity education programs
9 Diversity Education address issues related to HR, breakdowns of communication, relationships, conflict resolution, quality productivity and efficiency. Some HR issues addressed by properly managing diversity may be indirectly related to EEO and AA concerns. Tensions often escalate when employees feel they may have been denied a job promotion due to EEO and AA’s quotas. Organizations that are diversified tend to hire, promote and retain employees based on performance, knowledge, skills and ability, instead of meeting a specific EEO/AA quota. Diversified organizations do not assimilate but celebrate and practice inclusion policies. Diversity education can boost employee morale, increase productivity by utilizing talents; it creates an environment that allows everyone to reach their fill potential; it reduces complaint, grievances and allows one to acquire problem solving techniques. Workplace diversity prohibits discrimination in appointments or transfers bases on race, color, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, and political opinion, national or social origins (Thomas, 2000). People must begin to recognize that everyone has the right to have their own set of values. Yet, no one has a right to impose their value system on others. However, so many people do; so they treat others badly which leads to discrimination and mistreatment of others within our organizations on a daily basis. Although discrimination has declined, it does still exist.
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In a survey sponsored by Bank of America called, “Taking America’s Pulse II,” it showed shocking statistics. The time frame of the survey was between January 20th and March 19, 2000: • • • 42% of African Americans experienced at least one episode of discrimination. 12% of those African Americans suffered such an experience two or more times. 8% of Asians surveyed believed their race experienced a great deal of discrimination. • 31% of those Asians reported suffering unfair treatment and discrimination individually. • 16% of Hispanics and 13% of whites also reported having experienced at least 1 occurrence of discrimination during the month. (Article: NCCJ Unveils First Comprehensive Nationwide Survey on Interracial and Intergroup Relations
Since, 1993- Daily Experiences of Discrimination Continue at an Alarming Rate, May 15, 2000).
How can one improve relationships when such discriminations are often deeply rooted in prejudices? When members begin to open up dialogue, views often expand creating tolerance and acceptance for others. The more one is exposed to other cultures the more one is able to see first hand, understand, appreciate and value others. Implementing diversity education in an organization is eliminating the separation among those of different races, religions, cultures, gender, age, sexual orientation, or ability status. Ideally, it will lead to a domino effect-impacting one’s relationship that we directly interact with such as family, friends and colleagues.
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“One is then able to build an in-depth understanding among individuals who are ready to explore their differences, accepting responsibility for their action and to seek change in the system. These programs build awareness among people who see the world through a homogenous lens NCCJ, 2000).”
Issues inevitably will arise, yet may not turn badly if people have been trained in an environment that encourages issues to be addressed. Often organizations fail when members of the organizations choose to do nothing about the issues and fail to discuss the issues at hand. Creating harmonious relationships come out of initiating an awareness of others increasing one’s awareness of their own value system. Whether an organization implements diversity training or managing diversity type of programs, organizations will be helping their employees to begin to examine how they feel, how they see the world, and whether it needs to be changed. Employees will be able to examine one’s perceptions and attitudes, challenging one to step out of their comfort zones. “We all need to understand that if we are uncomfortable with someone or a concept or idea, it probably has more to do with ourselves than it has to do with the person we are uncomfortable with (Brown, 2000).”
12 Diversity Education Examples of issues avoided until too late: • • February 5, 2001 shooting at Navistar Engine Plant in Melrose, Illinois. December 26, 2000, Wakefield, Massachusetts, Michael Mc Dermott entered Edgewater Technology Inc and opens fire at employees. He was upset because of the Internal Revenue Service seizing a portion of his income for back taxes. • November 2, 1999, Honolulu, Hawaii, Bryan Uyesugi opened fire at Xerox, Corp. He killed 7 people. • March 6, 1998, Matthew Beck shots 4 lottery senior executives and then kills himself. • November 14, 1991, Royal Oak, Michigan Thomas Mcllvane kills 4 postal supervisors, wounds 5 other workers and then killed himself. (CBS News, 2001, p.1-2) Could these events have been prevented? An important benefit of implementing said educational training is that employees will be trained also in conflict resolution skills. Although there is no perfect way to solve problems and approaches their problems in a different fashion; the key to success is to use the variety of approaches positively. By allowing employees to explore problem solving strategies that fit their needs, it allows new and unique ideas to generate. This enhances and environment promoting a harmonious workplace. Some corporations have implemented their own diversity initiatives and should be commended. Teaching tolerance and respect is what it is really about. It is about learning how to listen, how to value each other’s different cultures, opinions, and accepting those differences.
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Can the results of diversity programs truly be measured for effectiveness? Organizations need to clearly define their goals and objectives of why they want to implement a diversity type of program. By conducting a thorough needs assessment, organizations can decide it they want their program to be more of an awareness type of program, thus the results would be difficult to measure because the reward would be intrinsic or within the individual? They can decide if they want to increase profit and productivity? Organizations need to examine if there is an actual problem needed to be addressed based on organizations Affirmative Action plans, their EEO complaints, grievances, employee turnover, or changes desired from surveying their employees. Regardless of the reason behind the organization wanting to implement a diversity program, measurement is a vital element of one’s diversity program. It will bring
credibility to the programs’ existence which is essential to measure targeted growth and future development. Numerous corporations have inadvertently changed themselves from bankruptcy into prosperity by changing their own cultural existence. Cultural change is not easy. Companies must begin with baby steps by changing small components of an organization then expand their efforts. “Dealing with diversity is an ongoing process that continues to help organizations adapt to and capitalize on today’s increasing complex world and global markets (SHRM, 2001 p3).” All too often, companies’ problems exist due to their social or organizational culture. British Air once had an inferior reputation but due to drastic changes in ways customers were satisfied, their quality of service improved and
14 Diversity Education thus reflected upon their profits (Toolpack, 2001; 1994). “Because people working in different cultures will act and perform differently, changing the culture can allow everyone to perform more effectively and constructively (Toolpack, 2001; 1994 p.1).” Chrysler Corporation in the nineties was not meeting their customer service expectations and their product was becoming outdated. Their president at the time, Bob Lutz, wanted to revitalizes the corporation. He became the leader in the automatic industry. Lutz visualized a cultural change; hence, Customer One was born. Within four years, Chryslers’ stock quadrupled and the company was no longer on the verge of bankruptcy. Chrysler within the four year timeframe began to involve all their employees into the corporation, as well as their customers and suppliers. Thus, change within this organization was successful because it required a firm commitment from the top, which in turn communicated and set precedence directly to each and every person in the organization. Proponents of change must carefully model the desired behavior if they want others to join in. If not, then one is sending a clear message that this change is just another organizational fad. Chrysler was able to make changes by examining their competition, Honda. They sent fourteen engineers to learn how Honda designed cars, thus changing the way Chrysler made cars. They reorganized their departments like Honda (Toolpack, 2001). Chrysler’s president stated, “Today, we feel we have a lot more facts, and more of the groundswell of information that comes from groups of various people (Toolpack, 2001 p2).” At AGSO Corporation, “Managers are trained to recognize value and nurture the different skills and competencies of all their employees through flexible employment
15 Diversity Education practices and use them to serve to enhance the performance of AGSO. They also use it to eliminate unjustified discrimination so all staff can compete equally for a promotion, transfer or an appointment and can pursue careers as effectively as their talents and desires allow”(www.agso.gov, 2000). Change dealing with cultural diversity takes time, money and commitment. One must expect change to be unsettling and modifications need to be made accordingly. The bottom line for any organization is to examine how diversity can improve productivity and achieve their organizational goals. Everyone benefits. Teams will be more effective, organizations will experience less conflict and more understanding of co-workers and customers’ needs. Implementing said programs will not change all organizations or some individuals alone; it can’t change systems or remove organizations barriers. But, the key points to remember is the primary purpose of diversity initiatives are to increase a higher awareness, increase knowledge and skills. Imagine, just imagine, the possibilities if everyone one of us accepted everyone for whom they really are and learned to celebrate the diversity of all cultures! If organizations and their members continue to close doors, and not mend their cultural barriers, they will be left behind in this era of globalization. The bottom-line is, where do you and your organization fit in? You decide.
16 Diversity Education References Brown, Geraldine.(2000). “Appreciating Differences, Creating Harmonious Workplace Relationships.” [On-Line]. Available: http://www.dominoconsultancy.co.uk/appreciatingdifference.htm BPW/USA, (2001). [On-Line]. Available: http://www.bpwusa.org/content/Workplace/diversitywork.htm. Coles, Margaret, (June, 1996). The Sunday Times, [On-Line]. Available: http://wwwglobal-intergration.com/online/articles/pages/1998081400htp Eaton, Dave. “Cross-Cultural Training for Bottom-Line Results.” [On-Line]. Available: http://www.eatonconsultinggroup.com/article. http://www.ervk.org/workplacediversity.htm Hall, Kevin and Potts, Tony. “Global Warming.” [On-Line]. Available: www.globalintergration.com/online/articles/pages/1998091600htp “How to Develop a Diversity Commitment,” American Association of Retired People, 601 East Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20049. http://www.leadersdirect.com/culture.html www.malkam.com/services/culturalawareness.html Maitland, Alison, Financial Times, April, 1998. [On-Line]. Available: http://wwwglobal-intergration.com/online/articles/pages/1998081400htp “NCCJ Unveils First Comprehensive Nationwide Survey on Interracial and Intergroup Relations Since 1993.” Washington D.C. May, 15, 2000.
17 Diversity Education [On-Line] Available: http;//www.wsu.edu [On-Line] Available: http://oak.cats.ohiou.edu/~kt367198/cao.htm [On-Line] Available: http://www.oeo.od.nih.gov/diversity/managingdiversity.asp Organisations & Consultancy @OnePine. (2000). Organisational Culture, Theories, Articles Links. [On-Line]. Available: http://www.onepine.com Peace Corps: Chapter One: Understanding Culture Introduction. [On-Line]. Available: http://www.peacecorps.gov. SHRM, Society for Human Resource Management .1800 Duke Street. Alexandria, Virginia 22314 USA (703) 548-3440 FAX: (703) 535-6490 Questions? [OnLine] Available: http://www.shrm.org Toolpack-Organizational Culture [On-Line] Available: http://www.toopack.com/culture.html Thomas, Roosevelt.(1995). Managing Diversity, Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action. NIH- Diversity Council Background, Mission and Vision Statement/ Workplace Diversity Initiative (WDI). [On-Line]. Available: http://www.standford.edu/dept/news/report/news/september20/diversity-920.html Wolf, Craig. (March 7, 2001). Poughkeepsie Journal.. Diversity on the workplaceERVK Community Programs. Available: http://adsectionsbusinessweek.com/diversity/diversehome.htm Wheeler, Michael L. (2000). Capitalizing on Diversity.-Navigating the Sea of the Multicultural Workforce at Workplace. Available: http://adsectionsbusinessweek.com/diversity/diversehome.htm
18 Velasquez, Mauricio. Successful and Failed Diversity Programs. Successful Diversity Initiatives Spotlight: Holy Cross Hospital. Available: http://www.diversitydtg.com/