Increase in workforce diversity is a contemporary challenge for organizations
Globalization has led to companies hiring employees from different countries, leading to more differences than similarities among members of the organisation (Asia-Pacific Business and Technology Report 2009). Champoux (2011: pp 28) describes workforce diversity is as ‘variations in workforce composition based on personal and background factors of employees’. Types of diversity among organization employees include age, gender, race, culture, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, education level, personality type, aptitude, and other demographic, socioeconomic and psychological characteristics. The above-mentioned type of diversities can be categorized into two main categories, which are surface level diversity and deep level diversity.
Levels of Diversity
Surface level diversity is essentially the ‘observable demographic and physiological difference in people’. (McShane et al. 2010:21). This would cover age, ethnicity, gender, race and physical disabilities, all of which are visible traits that differentiate each employee from the other. On the other hand deep level diversity would touch on the differences in people’s psychological characteristics. These would include individuals’ personality, beliefs, value, and attitude. Such traits would influence how an employee approaches a certain task or reacts conflict arises. Deep level traits are displayed most prominently in an employee’s decisions, statements, and actions.
Due to the innate differences in people, each individual employee presents different perspectives to an organization. The reason for this is because of the various unique characteristics mentioned above, every individual sees the world through different perceptual lenses. Organisations have to harness these differences as opportunities to pursue the organization’s mission. (Champoux 2011)
There mainly 3 aspects that concerns managers when they look at workforce diversity. Managing diversity, valuing diversity and managing for diversity.
The following is an example of a company incorporating these 3 aspects.
Managing and Managing for diversity
In 2006, due to labour shortages and various operational challenges, Han’s F&B Pte Ltd began valuing diversity and actively hired a wide variety of different workers. Oversea employees from various countries, people with disabilities, criminal ex-offenders and older workers. With an influx of such a diverse range of employees, Han’s took steps to ensure that their new workforce was well managed. The effort paid off and over a span of 3 years Han’s overall workforce productivity increased by 40%, along with a double net earnings per wage dollar. (Ministry of Manpower 2011)
So what was Han’s business success?
Han’s made constant effort to ensures its teams were well diversified by allocating employees of different generations and nationalities to each team. Employees of different backgrounds would have different strengths and characteristics that enable them to learn from each other. It also took further steps to provide for the needs of different employees. For example, to cater for older workers, Han’s modified their job by introducing the use of technology in day to day operations to reduce the physical requirements needed when performing certain job roles. Thus by tapping into the distinct perspectives of each employee, the teams were able to utilise different approaches towards tasks. In addition, to prevent any oversight of policies or measures for its diverse workforce, Han’s also practises an open-door policy where the company encourages employees to raise concerns or challenges faced at work. These steps taken by Han’s shows care taken to provide an inclusive working environment for its employees, it did not ask its workers to give up their individuality but to accept the core values of the company. This step to...
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