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Workforce Diversity: Changing the Way You Do Business By: Rob McInnes, Diversity World As we enter the 21st century

, workforce diversity has become an essential business concern. In the so-called information age, the greatest assets of most companies are now on two feet (or a set of wheels). Undeniably, there is a talent war raging. No company can afford to unnecessarily restrict its ability to attract and retain the very best employees available. Generally speaking, the term “Workforce Diversity” refers to policies and practices that seek to include people within a workforce who are considered to be, in some way, different from those in the prevailing constituency. In this context, here is a quick overview of seven predominant factors that motivate companies, large and small, to diversify their workforces: As a Social Responsibility Because many of the beneficiaries of good diversity practices are from groups of people that are “disadvantaged” in our communities, there is certainly good reason to consider workforce diversity as an exercise in good corporate responsibility. By diversifying our workforces, we can give individuals the “break” they need to earn a living and achieve their dreams. As an Economic Payback Many groups of people who have been excluded from workplaces are consequently reliant on tax-supported social service programs. Diversifying the workforce, particularly through initiatives like welfareto-work, can effectively turn tax users into tax payers.

Non-compliance with Equal Employment Opportunity or Affirmative Action legislation can result in fines and/or loss of contracts with government agencies.As a Resource Imperative The changing demographics in the workforce. etc.their vendors. are hiring people. abilities. available talent is now overwhelmingly represented by people from a vast array of backgrounds and life experiences. are now upon us. companies who interact directly with the public are finding increasingly important to have the makeup of their workforces reflect the makeup of their customer base. particularly in today‟s global economy. partners and customers. genders. that were heralded a decade ago. Today‟s labor pool is dramatically different than in the past. ages.for their specialized insights and knowledge. Companies that choose to .) To ensure that their products and services are designed to appeal to this diverse customer base. Similarly. races. As a Business Communications Strategy All companies are seeing a growing diversity in the workforces around them . “smart” companies. sexual orientations. As a Legal Requirement Many companies are under legislative mandates to be nondiscriminatory in their employment practices. No longer dominated by a homogenous group of white males. from those walks of life . As a Marketing Strategy Buying power. is represented by people from all walks of life (ethnicities. Competitive companies cannot allow discriminatory preferences and practices to impede them from attracting the best available talent within that pool. it makes good business sense to utilize a diverse workforce. In the context of such legislation.

. Santiago Rodriguez.” For whichever of these reasons that motivates them. This capacity can be measured by the range of talent. readily identify new opportunities and quickly capitalize on them. knowledge. not by the companies that that have learned to employ people in spite of their differences. true diversity is exemplified by companies that “hire people who are different – knowing and valuing that they will change the way you do business. employees are increasingly valued for the unique qualities and perspectives that they can also bring to the table. Further. According to Dr. Companies that prosper have the capacity to effectively solve problems. rapidly adapt to new situations. but by the companies that have learned to employ people because of them. In addition to their job-specific abilities. successful companies recognize conformity to the status quo as a distinct disadvantage. insight. In recruiting employees. experience. it is clear that the greatest benefits of workforce diversity will be experienced. As a Capacity-building Strategy Tumultuous change is the norm in the business climate of the 21 st century. it is clear that companies that diversify their workforces will have a distinct competitive advantage over those that don‟t. Director of Diversity for Microsoft.retain homogenous workforces will likely find themselves increasingly ineffective in their external interactions and communications. and imagination available in their workforces.

people from ethnically and racially diverse backgrounds etc. a company that employs a diverse workforce (both men and women. productivity. and sex. when there is a “manifest imbalance” in a “traditionally segregated job category. ethnicity. the US Supreme Court has upheld the use of limited preferences based on race. relates to how an organization utilizes its various relevant diversities.The "business case for diversity" theorizes that.) 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. US employers are prohibited by federal and state laws from giving race or ethnicity any consideration in hiring or assigning employee.” . This portion of the business case. In most cases. in a global marketplace. often referred to as inclusion. people of many generations. then it cannot monetize whatever benefits background diversity might offer. However. but the employer takes little or no advantage of that breadth of that experience. If a workforce is diverse. and retention. An additional corollary suggests that a company that supports the diversity of its workforce can also improve employee satisfaction.

and the multicultural organization. An organization‟s culture tends to determine the extent to which it is culturally diverse. Jr. greater creativity and . which includes gender. The three organization types are: the monolithic organization. sexual orientation. "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". Walck defines managing diversity in the workplace as "Negotiating interaction across culturally diverse groups. Diversity brings substantial potential benefits such as better decision making and improved problem solving. In the monolithic organization. this organization usually represents white male majorities in the overall employee population with few women and minority men in management jobs". The multicultural organization not only contains many different cultural groups. In a journal article entitled The multicultural organization by Taylor Cox. it can also lead to many challenges. "In the United States. While diversity in the workplace brings about many benefits to an organization. but it values this diversity. It is the responsibility of managers within organizations to use diversity as an influential resource in order to enhance organizational effectiveness. ethnicity and age. gender identity. the plural organization. Benefits Diversity is beneficial to both the organization and the members. the amount of structural integration (the presence of persons from different cultural groups in a single organization) is very minimal.Workplace diversity Cultural diversity includes the range of ways in which people experience a unique group identity.. In the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science. C. and contriving to get along in an environment characterized by cultural diversity".L. race. Cox talks about three organization types which focus on the development on cultural diversity.

Page points out that diversity in teamwork is not so simple. Diverse organizations will be successful as long as there is a sufficient amount of communication within them. The act of recognizing diversity also allows for those employees with these talents to feel needed and have a sense of belonging. but also about valuing differences and inclusion. Managing diversity is more than simply acknowledging differences in people. Diversity is not only about preventing unfair discrimination and improving equality. age. communication is vital to the performance of an organization. Miscommunication within a diverse workplace will lead to a great deal of challenges. Even when . race. Simply recognizing diversity in a corporation helps link the variety of talents within the organization. and a major challenge is miscommunication within an organization. Scott Page‟s (2007) mathematical modeling research of team work reflects this view. Challenges There are challenges to managing a diverse work population. and more successful marketing to different types of customers. physical disability. Many organizational theorists have suggested reasons that work-teams highly diverse in work-relevant characteristics can be difficult to motivate and manage. His models demonstrated that heterogeneous teams consistently out-performed homogeneous teams on a variety of tasks. Because people from different cultures perceive messages in different ways. Diversity also provides organizations with the ability to compete in global markets. which leads to enhanced product development. culture. which in turn increases their commitment to the company and allows each of them to contribute in a unique way. There are many challenges which face culturally diverse workplaces. In her article entitled Developing Receiver-Centered Communication in Diverse Organizations. spanning such areas as ethnicity.innovation. Judi Brownell explains that meanings of messages can never be completely shared because no two individuals experience events in exactly the same way. sexual orientation. and religious belief.

Cultural bias is an additional factor which challenges culturally diverse work environments. Assimilation does not just create a situation in which people who are different are likely to fail. on the other hand. According to the journal articleCultural Diversity in the Workplace: The State of the Field. and discrimination refers to observable adverse behavior for the same reason". "Prejudice refers to negative attitudes toward an organization member based on his/her culture group identity." Fine 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. Low context cultures. 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. it also decreases the productivity of organizations". provide little information on which to base common understandings and so communicators must be explicit". Those who assimilate are denied the ability to express their genuine selves in the workplace.[7] Creating the multicultural organization Main articles: Racial quota and Equality of outcome . they may interpret the information differently. "In high context cultures. it is better to view all diverse organizational environments as low-context cultures. communicators share an experiential base that can be used to assign meanings to messages. 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. Marlene G. Cultural bias includes both prejudice and discrimination. Another challenge faced by culturally diverse organizational environments is assimilation. 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.[10] Because of this fact.native and non-native speakers are exposed to the same messages.

gender. diverse workforce. sexual orientation. Managers must be willing to work towards changing the organization in order to create a culture of . These skills include self-monitoring. Empathy enables the receiver to go beyond the literal meaning of a message and consider the communicator's feelings. are mindfully selected. In her article. Technology. The organization is unique because gives students. empathy. Managing diversity tools Managing diversity goes far beyond the limits of equal employment opportunity and affirmative action. and strategic decision-making. Engineering and Mathematics) fields. An example of a company involved with creating diversity in the workplace is MentorNet. Self-monitoring refers to a communicator's awareness of how his or her behavior affects another person. especially women and underrepresented minorities. assumptions. High performing diversity managers recognize that specialized skills are necessary for creating a productive. There are several ways to go about creating the multicultural organization that performs extremely well. MentorNet has used an algorithm to match over 30. Strategic decision-making implies that the communication sources and channels used to reach organization members. They seek out continuous learning opportunities and some go as far as acquiring certification.000 mentor relationships since 1997. as well as the substance of the messages conveyed. a non-profit online mentoring organization that focuses on women and underrepresented minorities in the STEM (Science. the chance to seek mentors to discuss how to overcome diversity obstacles in their fields and eventually their workplace. social class."The key to managing a diverse workforce is increasing individual awareness of and sensitivity to differences of race. Judi Brownell identifies three skills which help to develop effective communication in diverse organizational environments. and needs. physical ability. and age". and his or her willingness to modify this behavior based on knowledge of its impact. values.

Directive 2000/78/EC establishes a framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation. The liberal concept is implemented by formal rules. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees and job applicants in the US from discrimination by employers. Directive . age. Liberal change The liberal concept. improving financial performance as well as realizing moral beliefs. In Europe. companies are concerned with corporate diversity management. The aim of the liberal change model is to have a fair labor market from which the best person is chosen for a job position just based on performance. the Treaties of Rome 1957 establish the right to equal pay for women and men. Positive action is used to guarantee maximum effectiveness. as there is always a non-formal side to work. Motivations for corporate diversity management are manifold and include legal pressures as well as increasing employer attractiveness. Assessment skills and diversity education are key elements of culture change. the importance of leadership‟s support for the change cannot be understated. Radical Change. disability. deduced from Liberalism. Corporate Diversity Management can aim at achieving equal opportunities regarding gender. The biggest weakness of the liberal view is that the formal rules cannot cover every aspect of work life. In this case. Increasingly. religion or belief. One way to achieve the liberal conception is by law. Policy makers are responsible for ensuring that nobody suffers discrimination by the rules and that these rules are enforced on all. or sexual orientation. companies have little scoop for configuration. sees equality of opportunity as given when all individuals are enabled freely and equally to compete for social rewards.diversity and inclusion. racial or ethnic origin. and Transformational Change. However. Three approaches towards corporate diversity management can be distinguished: Liberal Change. Recently. the European Parliament and the Council passed EU directives concerning equal opportunities at work.

age. Many women do not want to get employed just because they are women. disability. Arguments for and against gender quota systems in companies or public institutions are listed below: Cons      Quotas are against the principle of equal opportunity for all.[15] One major tool of radical change is quotas which are set by companies or national institutions with the aim to regulate diversity of workforce and equal opportunities. race or ethnic origin. or sexual orientation. Quotas imply that employees are elected because of their gender. Also.2006/54/EC deals with the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation. as well as a fair distribution of rewards among employees. in Germany. It ensures equal treatment for job applicants and employers independent of their gender. and that more qualified candidates are pushed aside. Radical changes In contrast to the liberal approach. since women are given preference over men. The radical approach is thus more outcome focused than focused on the forming the rules of the game. equal treatment and anti-discrimination directives were implemented in the general equal treatment bill. also called the anti-discrimination law. Quota systems are critically discussed concerning their effectiveness. religion or belief. Diversity initiatives in the university environment may have marginalized the potential gains in the business environment. For example. which partly deal with anti-discrimination issues at worksites. there are anti-discrimination acts. radical change seeks to intervene directly in the workplace practices in order to achieve balanced workforces (in regard to all diversity dimensions). Introducing quotas creates significant conflicts within organizations. in other countries. not because of their qualifications. .

Quotas imply that there are several women together in a work related meeting or committee. Pros      Quotas for women do not discriminate. thus minimizing the stress often experienced by the token women. The long-term is seen as a project of transformation for organizations. Women's experiences are needed in corporate life. Introducing quotas may cause conflicts. a number which stands out compared to the global average of 19%. 47.[18] A quota system was introduced at the Swedish parliament with the aim of ensuring that women constitute at least a „critical minority‟ of 30 or 40 percent of all parliament seats. Since the introduction of the system. On short-term it implements new measures to minimize bias in procedures such as recruitment or promotion. Today. Women have the right to equal representation in companies and management positions. women representation in parliament has risen dramatically even above the defined quota.[19] Therefore. it can be seen as a combination of the liberal and the radical approach.3 percent of parliamentary representatives are women. but compensate for actual barriers that prevent women from their fair share of the managerial positions. Transformational change Transformational change covers an equal opportunities agenda of shorter and greater length. This approach acknowledges the existence of power systems and tackles them. In short-term the power concept is handled . Sweden‟s quota system for parliamentary positions is a positive case for radical change through quota setting. Women are just as qualified as men. but women's qualifications are downgraded and minimized in a male-dominated economic system.

the perception of elderly employees and their working abilities can be improved. you can set up legislation to prevent discrimination regarding age (e. negative stereotypes should be abolished and the value of elderly people highlighted. In the long-term. the reproduction of the existing power is combated through implementing the equality values in the organization. An illustrative case for transformational change is ageing management. older employees are associated with higher costs. . and they help people work and understand each other. depending on local historical and dynamic conditions. In short-term. and adequate leadership. and businesses facing rapid demographic changes in their local labor pool.with the above mentioned measures. Implementation Diversity issues change over time. through early retirement or higher rates of absenteeism.g. government agencies. Through the implementation of an ageing management in an organization. In fact the working ability can increase with the age and a mixture of ages in workforce can increase a firm‟s profitability. Furthermore. Overt "diversity programs" are usually limited to large employers. life-long learning. In long-term. There are mainly two factors that should be considered to alter the working ability of elderly job holders: optimization of working conditions and the advancement of the employees on three levels (health. The latter is based on the idea that workers of different ages are complementary to some degree. The implementation of diversity is often limited to the Human resources department when there is also a good economic case for UK companies to use it as a tool to reach new market shares.g. e. Therefore companies prefer young to elderly people. Age Discrimination in Employment Act). Youngsters are seen as more innovative and more flexible.