Workplace diversity practices refer to efforts organizations engage in to provide an inclusive corporate culture that values differences and promotes opportunities for all employees.
Traditionally, diversity programs have focused mostly on race and gender and other physical dimensions. However, today¡¦s definition of diversity covers a broad spectrum of individual and group differences ranging from work styles and generational perspectives to political and religious preferences. The illustration below represents how diversity can be understood from a corporate/business point of view:
Under the umbrella of diversity practices, organizations are employing methods of understanding and relationship-building that encourage the voices of all employees to be heard and embraced. To gain a competitive advantage, organizations are learning that perspectives of diverse employee groups add value and creativity to organizations¡¦ strategic direction. The practice of embracing and leveraging differences for the benefit of the organization through the collaboration of cultures, ideas and experience is something most organizations strive to achieve in today¡¦s global marketplace.
The Importance of Diversity
Diversity is even more relevant due to the interconnectivity of global markets. The world no longer operates in silos, nor do businesses. To remain competitive, organizations must understand the preferences and needs of their diverse customer base, which may include ethnic and cultural groups that go beyond simply race and gender. The intricacies of knowledge necessary to serve a wider market share require that organizational leadership rely upon a conglomeration of ideas.
Successful management of today¡¦s increasingly diverse workforce is among the most important global challenges faced by corporate leaders, human resource managers, and management consultants. Workforce diversity is not a transient phenomenon; it is today¡¦s reality, and it is here to stay. Homogeneous societies have become heterogeneous, and this trend is irreversible. The problems of managing today¡¦s diverse workforce, however, do not stem from the heterogeneity of the workforce itself but from the unfortunate inability of corporate managers to fully comprehend its dynamics, divest themselves of their personal prejudicial attitudes, and creatively unleash the potential embedded in a multicultural workforce.
The global economy moves diversity to the top of the agenda. Immigration, worker migration (guest workers), and gender and ethnic differences continue to dramatically change the composition of the workforce. There is a growing demand for equal rights for these workers and for other groups like older workers, workers with disabilities, and gays and lesbians. Even without globalization, population projections suggest that the trend to a diverse workforce will be amplified in the coming decades. For example, due to consistently low birthrates and increased longevity, virtually all the industrial countries will need even larger waves of immigrants just to sustain their current ratio of workers to retirees. At the same time, developing countries are experiencing an unprecedented growth in the numbers of young people. This combination of push and pull factors is moving all countries toward the same outcome: a more diverse workforce.
Possible Tensions Emerging from a Diverse Workforce
Global demographic trends create unprecedented workforce tensions. Global legislative trends banning discrimination against women, immigrants, minorities, and other diverse groups in the labor force have required employers in most democratic, and quite a few non-democratic countries, to institute policies that ensure fair treatment of all employees. Some countries have introduced public policies stemming from the ideology of compensating population groups that have been discriminated against in the past. Employers are required to provide designated groups...