The workforce diversity of U.S. organizations has been increasing rapidly, challenging the employee relations and human resource management practices in general. The paper discusses the effectiveness of workplace diversity initiatives and analyzes the impact of diversity on the overall organization performance. The authors develop specific analysis on age diversity and best diversity management practices (private and public sector) with particular focus on diversity training programs and also examine the advantages and drawbacks of workplace diversity. The paper examines recent workforce demographic trends and their impact on recruitment, hiring and retention, employee relations, communication, productivity and at the end of the day, profitability.
DIVERSITY TRAINING: STRATEGIC TOOL OR PASSING TREND
In the last three decades, the work force demographics have gone through fundamental changes. The current workplace looks more like a United Nations conference hall than a place where everybody looks, dresses and behaves alike. A fusion of cultures, behaviors, religious backgrounds, attitudes, sexual orientations and nationalities has replaced a once homogeneous workforce. Diversity has taken over and turned into a reality for most current organizations. Time Quality Management and cost reduction strategies that once took priority have been replaced with diversity management initiatives that facilitate the transition from manufacturing to service industry. Globalization is one of the core reasons that propelled organizations to embrace and utilize diversity as a strategic survival tool. Organizations that have initiated and implemented diversity management practices are reported to have better relationships with their employees, domestic and foreign counterparts, better connection with their clients, and more well-organized utilization of the workforce (Layne, 2002). Indeed successful organizations such as Royal Dutch/Shell, IBM, Marriot, Starbucks Coffee, Dell Computer, Google, Bank of America and many others have found that diversity initiatives have a direct impact on the overall organizational performance and help an organization keep a competitive edge. Workforce diversity has turned into a major component for business success because it helps attract, develop and retain talented employees. However, in spite of the positive outcomes of workforce diversity, organizational perceptions toward diversity vary considerably. Like any other strategic tool, diversity management holds both advantages and disadvantages. Before analyzing the pros and cons associated with diversity, management needs to be familiar with its definition. Diversity not only refers to sex, gender and national origin, but also culture, age, education, profession, seniority, religious background, ability and disability. Today’s organizations need to realize that accepting and managing diversity means accepting and utilizing people’s uniqueness and embedding it into the organizational culture. The most important advantage of workforce diversity pertains to the variety of people and skills an organization can access to meet its business needs. As a rule of thumb, the greater the variety of people in an organization the higher the chances of finding the right talent for the right job/task. Based on the data collected through the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau the U.S. workforce is becoming more heterogeneous. The number of ethnic groups joining the workforce in the last three decades has increased significantly. However, this fact alone makes for one of the disadvantages of diversity. In today’s workplace, many people feel threatened by or uncomfortable with working with people from different age groups, sexual orientation and cultures. A second problem that comes with workforce diversity is the challenge of managing it. Effective management of diversity can have long-reaching effects on employee...
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