Being successful at managing workforce diversity involves attracting and retaining the highest quality individuals in the talent pool. For managers it means learning how to manage human potential sensitively. It requires an ever-increasing awareness of how people from different backgrounds deal with authority, communication, overall business etiquette, and relate to their communities of affiliation. Successful management of workforce diversity is a process that takes place in many stages and on many levels. It requires managers to first recruit a competent and qualified staff, then to accommodate individual needs within the context of the work team and the organization. However, the key to successfully building a diverse, high-quality workforce for tomorrow begins with a strong leadership commitment and knowledge of where the organization is today. Moreover, experience has demonstrated that successful diversity initiatives depend on positioning the organization first. (Department of Personnel Management, 2002) Diversity Initiatives: What They Are.
A "diversity initiative" is a company's strategic response to diversity. The initiative looks at the company's needs in the area of diversity and responds with a strategically aligned approach. The initiative should have a long-term focus, as well as very specific goals and objectives. It should also be easily measurable and tied to the organization's overall business strategy. In terms of implementing the initiative, the entire organization - from the top down - should be held accountable. (U.S. Office of Personnel Management, 2004) Once the vision has been developed, the organization should then develop a diversity plan. The plan outlines the goals and objectives for diversity. Many companies see fit to appoint a diversity committee, comprised of a wide variety of people and perspectives, to help implement the plan. The plan may call for training on diversity, enhancing recruiting efforts to attract and retain women and people of color, or looking at succession planning, among other issues. Leading a Diverse Workforce
Today we are more likely to encounter, interact with, work with, report to, or manage numerous individuals of different backgrounds, races, ethnicities, religions, belief systems, and cultures. While we all may have the same values, the levels, degrees, and mixtures may differ and change over time. Thus, diversity remains a prominent topic in government agencies, corporations, schools, and communities. Diversity is not an initiative, trend, or program. It is not tolerance, but acceptance. Diversity is a new reality, and failure to understand, value, and accept diversity can adversely affect an organization. Erroneous Assumptions
Diversity is emerging as a major issue in the workplace today, yet most employers are not prepared to deal with it. Nor are their managers. Many managers grew up having little contact with other cultures. They are actually "culturally deprived," and their academic training did not cover the kinds of situations that arise in today's multicultural settings. (Copeland, 2004.) Most traditional models of human behavior and management methods - as well as many of the recommendations in bestsellers such as The One-Minute Manager and In Search of Excellence are based on implicit assumptions of a standardized white male workforce. The most widely taught theories of motivation mirror the white male's own experience and attitudes. Some of those methods can be startlingly counterproductive when applied to women or to blacks, Asians, Hispanics, or American Indians. HR specialist, Lennie Copeland (2004) cited the following examples (p143): A manager, thrilled with a new technique developed by one of his American Indian employees, rewarded her with great fanfare and congratulations in front of her peers - just as the management books suggest. Humiliated, she didn't return to work for three...