Vasilisa Sayapina and Katya Christensen
Workforce diversity is a complex phenomenon and a major challenge for HR managers in MNCs. The case presents a Danish MNC, Danvita (not its real name)that has committed to pursuing a diversity strategy. The essence of a diversity strategy is a commitment to providing equal opportunities for employees regardless of their gender, age, nationality, disability and political and sexual orientation. In this case our focus is on cultural diversity. Drawing on individual perceptions of Danvita employees this case explores how Danvita’s diversity strategy in relation to national culture is experienced by Danvita’s employees. Diversity as a strategic resource
It has been argued that MNCs that are able to draw on a diverse mix of employees can develop a strategic advantage (Richard, 2000). This is because workforce diversity establishes the potential for diverse perspectives that in turn facilitate creative thinking and effective problem solving (Cox, 1991; Cox & Blake, 1991). Understanding and valuing diversity can enable constructive conflict resolution, reduce miscommunication and lead to lower employee turnover and result in cost savings (Robinson & Dechant, 1997). A diverse workforce that can draw on a variety of cultural insights can also have a positive impact on international marketing and sales (Blake-Beard, Finley-Hervey & Harquail, 2008; Robinson & Dechant, 1997; Cox & Blake, 1991; Cox, 1991). However, workforce diversity can also have negative effects. Some researchers have observed that groups characterized by high degrees of cultural diversity have lower levels of employee satisfaction, lower levels or performance, high levels of miscommunication, conflicts and turnover than more homogenous groups (O’Reilly, Caldwell & Barnett, 1989; Watson et al., 1993; Richard, McMillan, Chadwick & Dwyer, 2003). Diversity as perceived by organizational members
The focus of this case is in on the issue of how Danvita employees experience the company’s strategy of achieving cultural diversity. ‘As with many things in life, perception is reality’claims Allen et al. (2008: 22). Individual perceptions influence the way individuals interact with their colleagues and participate in the life of organization. Based on their perceptions, organizational members participate actively or passively in the implementation of the company’s strategies as well as support or oppose organizational change. Knowledge of how organizational members perceive diversity opens a possibility for improvement if necessary. The case data were obtained by means of seventeen qualitative interviews with seven Danish and ten international employees. Their narratives, however, should not be understood separately from the environment where the stories and events take place. Thus the narratives were supplemented with direct observations of diversity trainingsessions and with documents containing the new diversity strategy, managerial speeches and company annual reports. In this way information about the social context in which the employees’ perceptions of cultural diversity are constructed and re-constructed on an everyday basis was obtained. Denmark and Danish
The context in which the diversity case is unfolding contains elements of both national and organizational culture. Although there is a considerable overlap, it is important to distinguish them. Despite its commitment to diversity and inclusion of international employees the head office of Danvita is still operating in a broader context of Denmark. In Denmark historical and religious development of the society led to formation of a very particular institutional environment in which the state plays a significant role. Denmark has a well-developed welfare state that redistributes wealth and that ensures inequalities are relatively limited (Andersen and Svarer, 2007).The role of the Danish...