Gender, Race, And Nationality: Diversity In A Domestic And Global Workplace Research Papers Example
With the tremendous advancements in communication and transportation, no place in the world can be termed as far. Barriers to trade and international business have been removed to a large extent. As a result we find people belonging to different cultures and ethnicities working in a majority of government and private establishments all over the world. Multinational corporations doing business in many countries have to necessarily employ people from various cultural and ethnical backgrounds. Managing diversity in the society, in educational institutions and in the work places has become both a challenge and an opportunity in developing as well as developed countries in the globalized environment.
Many in the corporate leadership do not realize that perceptions of employees vary with race, culture, gender, orientation, age, disability and many other factors that make us human. Business growth depends on how a company forges relationships with all kinds of people. In the globalized context no business can survive without expanding into diverse markets and catering to diverse tastes and requirements driven by differences in culture and ethnicities. The attitude of the management must essentially be free from all biases related to caste, creed, color or gender. In fact, most organizations have now realized that having a diversified workforce and an image as a multicultural organization constitutes a competitive advantage.
Issues in Workplace Diversity
Cultural biases and discrimination on account of ethnicity, religion, age, gender and sexual orientation are major issues in organizations where the workforce is from diverse backgrounds. Language barriers can cause misunderstandings among the employees. Lack of proper communication can also hinder work. Sexual harassment and ill-treatment of women are also of concern in organizations employing men and women. Also opportunities for career progression of women are perceived as limited in such organizations. Groups with different political ideologies may have conflicting responses to management policies. Stereotyping of employees belonging to certain race or color can also lead to prejudice and exclusion. Treatment of physically disabled persons and minorities by fellow workers should be on the basis of mutual respect and equality. Bridging the gap between different generations can be an issue in many organizations.
Apart from the gross differential treatment and discriminations, there can also be different types of micro aggressions which are seemingly minor verbal, nonverbal or environmental slights or insults perpetrated intentionally or unintentionally (American Psychological Association, 2012, p.19.). Sentences like, “you have unusual IQ for your race” or “for a woman you have exceptional courage,” though look like compliments, are actually discrediting a race with low IQ or a gender with cowardice. A white employee showing aversion to sitting near a black employee in the cafeteria, or the security personnel more thoroughly scrutinizing a black employee are all instances of micro aggression.
The top leadership and HR group should be firmly committed to act against any form of discrimination or aggression, if these problems are to be addressed effectively. Continuous education and training should be imparted, so that inhibitions and complexes are removed and a harmonious atmosphere and responsible behavior on the part of all employees can be ensured.
Benefits of Diversity
Organizations which provide inclusive and harmonious work environments attract best people for their jobs. A survey among 3 million employees worldwide on diversity, employee satisfaction and organizational performance revealed that inclusive and harmonious environment was an important factor for employee performance (“Managing Workplace Diversity: A toolkit for organizations”). Employee turnover is also reduced considerably in organizations which provide inclusion. The idea that diversity could lead to better solutions to problems occurred to Scott Page (2007) when he compared the problem solving capabilities of two groups, one random group made up of individuals from diverse backgrounds and other chosen on the basis of their ability. He found that the diversity group outperformed the ability group in almost all simulations. Page concluded that, with reference to cognitive ability, in the specific domain of problem solving in organizational settings, “progress depends as much on our collective differences as it does on our individual IQ scores” (as quoted in American Psychological association, 2012).
The case of Hans F&B Pte Ltd is a typical example of how a business can benefit from diversity in workplace. In 2006, Hans started diversifying its work force by recruiting employees from more than 10 countries. It also employed modern technology to redesign the jobs of older employees by reducing physical content. It further recruited people with disabilities by designing special programs. Hans included employees across generations and nationalities in each team, so that the employees with different profiles could learn from each other. The new recruits imbibed the company culture and ethics during their orientation program. Employees were encouraged to freely communicate their concerns and challenges with the top management. Within three years, the productivity of the employees increased by 40% and earnings per dollar of wage more than doubled (“Managing Workplace Diversity: A toolkit for organizations”).
Apart from the point of view of justice and fairness, many companies look at diversity as a means of ensuring a large talent pool for the future. Studies indicate that many companies employ disabled people to work as machine operators and welders rather than opt for the easy way of employing the required statutory percentage in the administrative department. These companies enjoy a positive image as entities which value human lives (“Society for Human Resource Management”, 2009, p.9.). The study above indicates that diversity efforts are focused on women as they are the largest unutilized resource. People above 50 years of age and ethnic minorities are the next preferred groups. Companies are also trying to employee more women in top management positions. Many companies recruit employees from different backgrounds to utilize their first hand knowledge of tastes and preferences of different sections of consumers.
Supplier diversity is seen as beneficial in many ways. Expanding the supplier base to include minority and women-led firms not only improves the company’s image as a buyer but also ensures reliable and cost-effective supplies. For example, Cardinal Health is committed to reflecting the value placed on diversity by their customers- hospitals, doctors, governments. Moreover, this is in line with many of their customers’ diversity programs. They are also able to source from small innovative firms which help reduce costs without sacrificing quality (Society for Human Resource Management, 2009, p.18.).
Diversity itself can be of various types. It can be cognitive, relating to differences in perception, analysis, thinking and point of view. It can be one of identity due to differences in religion, race, ethnicity, age, sex or sexual orientation (American Psychological Association, 2012). All these diversity factors have a bearing on the motivations and priorities of today’s workforce. A 2005 study by Storke, et al. revealed that employees from diverse backgrounds valued continued education, training and learning new skills more than white employees (as cited in Bazelais and Page, n.d.). Companies have to understand the various factors contributing to differences between diverse groups, so that they can develop strategies to recruit and retain talented workmen from diverse cultures.
According to researchers, an inclusive organization should be committed to diversity, have a holistic view of the employees and accommodate different types of mental and physical abilities (Bazelais and Page). It should promote total communication and sharing of information, sharing of accountability and responsibility and participation of all in work organization and progress. Opportunities in the organization should be accessible to all and conflicts should be resolved through collaborative efforts. The organizational culture should evolve dynamically to accommodate all the diverse cultures.
The first step in managing diversity is acknowledging the fact that each human being is a unique individual with inherent qualities. Managers must be aware of discrimination and prejudice and their consequences. They must also be aware of their own cultural biases and preconceived notions about people and be willing to change organizational structure to promote an inclusive workplace and provide equal opportunity for all employees. The senior management should assess the needs of the various sections of the employees and address them effectively Commitment and accountability on the part of the management in implementing fair policies help in fostering a sense of belonging.
Strategies for managing diversity may basically follow four approaches; dissolving, valuing, accommodating or utilizing differences. Dissolving differences refers to individualized training to conform to standards. Valuing differences refers to giving special training to unrepresented groups for development and also to adopt policies to recognize different holidays and diets, aimed at making the employees more comfortable. Accommodating approach is to take initiative to recruit under-represented groups and to provide support for their career development. In the case of utilization approach, the social group-based differences are made use of by providing separate parallel career progression paths (Ewijk, 2010). Essentially company structure is evolving from monolithic, where diversity is minimal, to multicultural, where diversity is used as a competitive strategy.
A study conducted among 350 employees from 15 IT companies in India gives some interesting insights (Patrick & Kumar, 2012). It reveals that most important strategies adopted for enhancing workplace diversity are unleashing creativity and performance, increasing employee morale, productivity and retention and allotting new recruits to roles where they are expected to do their best. Discrimination was found to be the most prevalent obstacle for accepting diversity. Learning about the cultural differences and way of doing business in the countries where overseas operations are planned is judged to be the most important strategy for increasing inclusiveness.
Current and Future Trends
The world currently is now on an economic recovery path and companies all over the world are planning growth strategies. The work- force of the 21st century are tech-savvy, well connected and aware of their worth in a job market where critical new skills are scarce. Internet and mobile technology have enlarged the expectations and the general awareness about statutory rights of employees. Increased use of technology and automation, working, controlling and coordinating from remote locations and easy access to expert consultation have all altered the skill requirements for the modern work environment.
The 2014 Global Human Capital Trends report has identified three areas of strategic focus; Lead and develop, attract and engage and transform and reinvent (Deloitte Consulting LLP and Bersin by Deloitte. 2014, P.4.). There is a shortage of leaders globally who can effectively address the complex issues of today’s business. Companies should develop leadership at all levels in the organization and also from different generations and diverse backgrounds, to stay competitive. Ability to take quick decisions, being flexible and dealing with uncertainty are the qualities required from a leader in the 21st century. Attracting talent from all over the world and utilizing the unique talents and skills of diverse groups will ensure availability of sufficient leaders capable of addressing problems from a universal perspective. This has become a necessity for success in the modern business arena.
The performance of various countries in diversity and inclusion was studied in detail by Society for Human Resource Management (2009). The study indicates that Asian countries other than New Zealand, Singapore and Australia fare poorly on diversity and inclusion. Western and English speaking countries generally score high. However, countries scoring high on diversity do not necessarily have high inclusion. Work place inclusion is closely related to national wealth. It is also found that social inclusions and workplace inclusions do not always go together. Legal framework and inclusion in government are not strong in many developing countries.
Many successful multinationals have committed policies towards diversity and inclusion. For example, at Ford Motor Company, Ford Employee African-Ancestry Network (FAAN), Ford Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual Employees (GLOBE) and Ford Hispanic Network Group (F-HNG) are employee resource groups sponsored by the management. The company recognizes diversity as a strategic advantage and is committed to building an inclusive culture which will capitalize on the positives of diversity to realize enhanced business results (Bazelais and Page). Apple Inc. believes that “inclusion inspires innovation” (Apple Inc., US). Hewlett Packard actually uses its multicultural workforce to advantage in enriching its operations with innovative ideas across continents. The Nordstrom culture of customer service is understood and passionately practiced by its employees from various backgrounds and age groups.
Businesses had all along been trying to manage diversity as a problem which had to be resolved. But in the modern business environment, most national as well as multinational businesses are well aware of the advantages of a having a highly diversified work force for generation of innovative ideas and improved solutions from different perspectives. New product ideas and marketing strategies can be analyzed from the points of view of different age groups, races, ethnicities and religions. The product and process strategies so evolved are likely to get wide acceptance. The harmonious working of various groups within the business environment can also help to promote communal and regional harmony in the society where the business is situated. The employees can be instrumental in propagating the ideology of prosperous living by peaceful mingling of cultures and ethnicities. Ultimately a corporate culture of respecting and celebrating all types of differences as rich and desirable variations, is evolving in the modern civilized societies everywhere.
Though the world is witnessing a resurgence of fundamentalist tendencies in many parts of the world, the vast majority of the world’s population increasingly realizes the benefits of co-operation and collaboration in the schools, colleges, in the work place and in the society at large.
Apple Inc. (US) company website. https://www.apple.com/diversity/
American Psychological Association, Presidential Task Force on Preventing Discrimination and Promoting Diversity. (2012). Dual pathways to a better America: Preventing discrimination and promoting diversity. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pubs/info/reports/dual-pathways-report.pdf
Bazelais, K. N. and Page, K. V.(n.d). “Exploring Diversity: Race and Culture in the Inclusive Workplace.” Executive Briefing Series. Boston College Center for Work & Family. Retrieved from: https://www.bc.edu/content/dam/files/centers/cwf/pdf/EBS_Diversity.pdf
Deloitte Consulting LLP and Bersin by Deloitte. Global Human Capital Trends 2014: Engaging the 21st-century workforce. Retrieved from: http://d2mtr37y39tpbu.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/GlobalHumanCapitalTrends_2014.pdf
Ewijk, A.R.. (winter 2010). Introducing diversity in public organizations – diminishing theoretical ambiguity and controversy by empirical research. GRITIM Working Paper Series, Number 2 Retrieved from http://www.upf.edu/gritim/_pdf/GRITIM_UPF_WP_Series_2_van_Ewijk.pdf
“Managing Workplace Diversity: A toolkit for organizations” National Integration Working Group for Workplaces Retrieved from: http://www.mom.gov.sg/Documents/employment-practices/WDM/Workplace%20Diversity%20Management%20Tookit%20and%20Manager%27s%20Guide.pdf
Patrick, H.A. and Kumar, V. R., (25 April 2012).Managing Workplace Diversity: Issues and Challenges Sage Open. Retrieved from http://sgo.sagepub.com/content/2/2/2158244012444615
Society for Human Resource Management. (2009).Global Diversity and Inclusion: Perceptions, Practices and Attitudes. Retrieved from http://graphics.eiu.com/upload/eb/DiversityandInclusion.pdf