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Workplace Diversity

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Introduction
Every individual differs in many ways. Some example of differences exist between individuals are age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and capabilities. Nowadays, workplace diversity has started to receive wide attention and become an important issue in the business world as diversity in the workplace has increased. As differences are often been associated with discrimination, bias, unfair treatment and conflicts, managing diversity in workforce is an important task for managers today. Managing diversity in the workplace refers to the ways of managers used in ensuring employees in the organizations who come from different group do not suffer discrimination (UC Regents, 2007). Management can mobilize the differences and similarities in each and every one of the employees for the benefits of both the individuals and organizations (European Union, n.d.). By ensuring fairness and equality in a diverse workplace is more than just doing a good deed, it is imperative in today’s fast moving and sophisticated business world.

Where diversity occurs?
Generally, diversity can be seen everywhere. Diversity can be seen in a country, schools, colleges, politics, and multinational corporations or even in the shopping malls and on the streets. In a country, citizens are comprises of people with different genders, age and ethnicity. For example, United States of America is comprises of many ethnic groups such as Hispanic, Asians, African-Americans and other races (Kinicki and Williams, 2006). In schools and colleges, there are students from different countries holding different beliefs and cultures and speak different mother languages. In politics, there are leaders preaching different philosophies and delivering their messages in different mediums and channels. For example, Barack Obama is a democrat while John McCain is a republican (Gibbs, 2008). In multinational corporations, there are both male and female employees in different age range. As the educational level increased and people have become more open-minded, more and more people are now willing to accept, adapt and tolerate the differences in each individual.

Emergence of workplace diversity
The changing workforce demographic in terms of age, gender, ethnicity and educational level is one of the factors that caused the emergence of diversity in workplace. Today’s women are exposed and provided with more opportunities in pursuing education when compared to the past. Women now made up more than half of all college students and about half of all medical and law students (Luthans, 2008). This has increased the chances of women being employed in the workplace. Due to the increased in women’s educational level, women nowadays are able to get better job with higher pay and compete with men in the workplace. Many women have been able to break the so called “glass ceiling” and become the CEO or top management in large corporations. Angela Braly and and Patricia Woertz are the best example of successful President and CEO of Fortune 500 companies (Cable News Network, 2008)

In the near decades, many new laws and regulations were set by government in different countries to protect the rights of individuals in employment opportunities. Examples of the new laws are Age Discrimination Act of 1978, Civil Rights Act of 1991 and Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Luthans, 2008). These laws and regulations prohibit age and gender, physical disabilities discriminations as well as racism in employment. Many corporations started to take note of this issue and be less bias and more objective when selecting employees from candidates who apply for a particular job. As a result, more women, minorities and individuals who have physical disabilities have are benefited as more employment opportunities are provided to them.

Also, many organizations have realized the importance of diversity in workforce as it can help organizations to create competitive advantages. Many large corporations nowadays such as Coca Cola and Ford have diverse workforce. For example, Coca Cola’s former chairman, Roberto Goizeuta is from Cuba while other senior managers are from France, Brazil and Spain (Bartol, et. al., 2003). Organizations that practice an open policy in its employee recruitment regardless of age, gender and ethnicity are more likely to attract talented workers from different cultures, races and genders. The ability to leverage creativity and innovation increased as diverse workforce is able to give the organization more options and strategies to select in its business strategic planning. A diverse workforce can also help the organization to have better perspective of a differentiated market and do better in satisfying the consumers’ needs and wants because diverse employees are more attuned to the needs of diverse customer base. Nevertheless, it helps to create a more resilient and strong workforce that is able to face constant changes.

Furthermore, more and more businesses nowadays have started to enter the international business arena. Many companies have business transactions overseas. U.S. direct investment abroad during the 2000 to 2003 period has increased about 36 percent (Jackson, 2005). As these companies expand to other country markets, cultural diversity occurs. Therefore, many companies have started to promote diversity within the organization before entering the international markets as this will help employees in the organization to be more accustomed to work with people with different cultures, customs and social norms (European Union, n.d.).

With the calling of corporate social responsibilities increased, many corporations began to concern about their corporate image and reputation. Therefore, many employment opportunities are provided to women, minorities and individuals with certain physical disabilities in order to create and build healthy corporate image.

Challenges of workplace diversity
First of all, stereotypes and prejudices will exist as some people are ethnocentrism whereby they perceive they are superior to those people who are different from them in terms of country, culture, language, abilities or behavior (Green et. al., 2008). They often view the differences of other people as weaknesses. For example, some managers are bias in selecting applicants for a vacant position due to the skin colour, religion and cultural differences. They select employees based on subjective values instead of the competence and quality of the applicants.

Secondly, diversity in workplace may result in inharmonic and unsupportive social atmosphere whereby the minority diverse employees may be excluded from office camaraderie and social events. For example, the blacks who work in a company that is white-dominant, they are likely to be boycott.

In a diverse workplace, there will be a lot of people with different personality, values, attitudes and experience. When employees cannot reconcile and accept these individual differences, conflict occurs. A diverse workforce may also result in communication problems. People from different background can speak different languages, have different religion and culture and hold different value and beliefs. A word or a body language that is showing friendliness may be seen as impoliteness for other group of people. All these cause conflicts to happen.

The work-family issue is another challenge faced by organization. Working women may have difficulties in managing their time for work and family. This, in the end, resulted in high absenteeism and high turnover rate. All these resulted in low cohesiveness of the workforce, and thus, affected the organization’s productivity and performance.

Ways to introduce and encourage workplace diversity
In the process of cultivating diversity in the workplace, the management of the company can start by incorporating the organization’s attitude towards diversity into the corporate mission statement, strategic plans and objectives. This can help the organization to build and create its image as an organization that is encouraging and promoting workplace diversity. This can help to attract the diverse groups to apply for jobs in the organization.

In the employee recruitment, Tests that are non-bias in the selection and evaluation of the diverse job applicants can be used to avoid bias (Luthans, 2008). The organization can choose to use job-specific tests instead of general aptitude or knowledge tests. For example, an applicant who is applying a vacant position of a data entry clerk can be tested on his or her speed and accuracy in keying in the data without knowing the applicant’s gender, age and ethnic background. This test has enabled the management to identify whether the applicant has the necessary skills in order to fit the job well without undergoing any culturally bias test.

Organizations can also provide diversity trainings or programs for its diverse employees such as awareness building and skills building trainings (Luthans, 2008). A recent survey showed that more than 70 percent of major organizations in America have diversity management programs in place while another 16 percent are developing programs or have various initiatives at division levels (Bartol, et. al., 2003). A widely used approach is diversity board games, which require the participants to answer questions related to areas such as gender, race, cultural differences, age issues, sexual orientation and disabilities.

Organizations that are introducing and promoting workplace diversity can also use mentoring as a mean to promote workplace diversity (Luthans, 2008). The mentor programs can help the organization to identify the skills, interests and aspirations the mentees have and offer emotional support to the mentees. It also provides instruction in specific skills and knowledge critical to successful job performance. Besides, it helps the mentees to understand the unwritten rules of the organization and how to avoid saying or doing the wrong things. Lastly, it creates an environment in which mistakes can be made without losing self confidence.

Today, work-families issues have received considerable attention in research and practice as both the mother and father have jobs. Traditionally, the needs of the dual-career family were met through alternative work schedules, which allow the parents flexibility in balancing their home and work demands. The most common alternatives work schedule arrangements are flextime, the compressed workweek, job sharing and telecommuting (Luthans, 2008).

Organizations should also pay attention and recognize the cultural and religious holidays, the differing modes of dress, dietary restrictions and the needs of individuals with disabilities to ensure the diversity management is being run effectively.

Conclusion
Workplace diversity has indeed become an important issue for businesses today. In order for an organization to compete in today ever demanding business world, building competitive advantage is an element that organizations cannot afford to overlook. By encouraging workplace diversity, organizations stand on a better position to compete in the business market that has intense competition as diverse workforce is able to provide better solutions and business strategies to the organizations. A diverse workforce is also able to serve and satisfy the diverse consumers’ needs and wants, which in turn will be profitable to the organization. Today business trend has changed; organizations that are unable to reach to changes and operating with traditional ways will be unable to compete and be eliminated. Therefore, introducing and encouraging workplace diversity play a crucial role in determining an organization’s future. Hence, it is important for organizations to manage the diverse workforce well in order to ensure the productivity, performance and profitability of the organ

Reference List

Bartol, K., Margaret, T., Graham, M. and Martin. D. (2003). Management: A Pacific Rim Focus Enhanced Edition. Australia: McGraw-Hill Australia.

Cable News Network (2008) Fortune 500 Women CEO: Braly Angela (1). [Online]. Retrieved on 25 October 2008 from: http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2008/fortune/0804/gallery.500_women_ceos.fortune/index.html

Cable News Network (2008) Fortune 500 Women CEO: Patricia Woertz (2). [Online]. Retrieved on 25 October 2008 from: http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2008/fortune/0804/gallery.500_women_ceos.fortune/2.html

European Union. (n.d.) Managing Diversity – What’s in it for business? [Online]. Retrieved on 23 October 2008 from: http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/fundamental_rights/pdf/pubst/broch/fact4_en.pdf Gibbs, N. (2008). This is our time. Time Commemorative Issue. 17 November, p.22-27.

Green, K.A., Lopez, M., Wysocki, A. and Kepner, K. (2008) Diversity in the Workplace: Benefits, Challenges and the Required Managerial Tools. [Online]. Retrieved on 25 October 2008 from: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/HR022

Jackson, J.K. (2005) U.S. Direct Investment Abroad: Trends and Current Issues. [Online]. Retrieved on 23 October 2008 from: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RS21118.pdf.

Kinicki, A and Williams, B.K. (2006). Management: A practical introduction Second Edition. United States of America: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

Luthans, F. (2008). Organizational Behavior Eleventh Edition. Singapore: McGraw Hill.

UC Regents (2007) Guide to Managing Human Resources – Chapter 12: Managing Diversity in the workplace. [Online]. Retrieved on 25 October 2008 from: http://hrweb.berkeley.edu/GUIDE/diversity.htm

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