Workforce diversity addresses differences among people within an organization. Workforce diversity means that organizations are becoming a more heterogeneous mix of people from different categories. Diversity refers to the co-existence of employees from various socio-cultural backgrounds within the company. Diversity includes cultural factors such as race, gender, age, colour, physical ability, ethnicity, education, language, lifestyle, beliefs, economic status, etc. Diversity requires a type of organizational culture in which each employee can pursue his or her career aspirations without being inhibited by gender, race, nationality, religion, or other factors that are irrelevant to performance. Managing diversity means enabling the diverse workforce to perform its full potential in an equitable work environment where no one group has an advantage or disadvantage. Thus workforce diversity is a complex phenomenon to manage in an organisation. It is argued that organizations that value diversity will definitely cultivate success and have a future in this dynamic global labour market. Workforce diversity management has become an important issue for both governments and private organizations. The workforce diversity emerged mainly to further the availability equal opportunities in the workplace. This equal opportunity philosophy is aimed at ensuring that organizations make the most out of the difference from a diverse workforce. The increased mobility and interaction of people from diverse backgrounds as a result of improved economic and political systems and the recognition of human rights by all nations has put most organizations under pressure to embrace diversity at the work place. Diversity brings with it the heterogeneity that needs to be nurtured, cultivated and appreciated as means of increasing organizational effectiveness in this competitive world.
BENEFITS OF WORKFORCE DIVERSITY
While many organizations have embraced diversity, others still consider it merely an issue of compliance with legal requirements. In more recent years, the view of diversity has dramatically changed to a more proactive concept. Many business leaders are now beginning to believe that diversity has important bottom-line benefits. Diversity in the workforce can be a competitive advantage because different viewpoints can facilitate unique and creative approaches to problem-solving, thereby increasing creativity and innovation, which in turn leads to better organizational performance. Potential benefits of this diversity include better decision making, higher creativity and innovation, greater success in marketing to foreign and domestic ethnic minority communities, and a better distribution of economic opportunity. According to one study, culturally diverse groups relative to homogeneous groups are more effective both in the interaction process and job performance; these benefits occur after a diverse group has been together for a period of time. Maintaining diversity in organisations may be important for creativity but also for improving representation and access to power in view of the demographic changes in the workforce and equal opportunity, employment equity and human rights legislation.
Organizations with a diverse workforce can provide superior services because they can better understand customers’ needs. Hiring women, minorities, disabled, etc. will help organizations to tap these niche markets and diversified market segments. As all the segments of society have a stake in the development and prosperity of society as a whole, creating and managing a diverse workforce should be seen as a social and moral imperative. As the economies are shifting from manufacturing to service economies, diversity issues will gain importance because in a service economy effective interactions and communications between people are essential to business success. Another advantage is that it addresses legal concerns. For instance,...
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