Diversity in the Workplace

“It’s hard to define what diversity is because everyone has an opinion” (Working Woman magazine, October 2000) Workplace diversity is a personal issue, and it focusses on the characteristics that are brought into the firm. Whether it is attributes or differences that separate these people, these cultural dimensions that are introduced to any workforce can provide businesses with different options for further business growth or it can hold a business back. Carr-Ruffino suggests that “workplace diversity can be a major source of innovation, global savvy and profitability – or a source of conflict and chaos.

” (Carr-Ruffino, 1999) Diversity can become a crucial component of a business’s success or can turn out to be major downfall in the future and I plan to discuss the factors that ensure that successful management diversity is implemented to its full potential, meanwhile highlighting the possible future benefits/drawbacks depending on how well it’s applied. Therefore there is a major emphasis on management to ensure that it provides the firm with future advantages. But what is diversity management? Some suggest there isn’t enough research done on the matter.

Thomas 1991 defines it as “a comprehensive managerial process for developing an environment that works for all employees. ” This implies that everyone must buy into diversity management; it’s not just the management. Another view is that “it requires one to look at the culture and mind set of an organisation and different perspectives that people being to an organisation. ” (United Nations, 2000) I will demonstrate what is crucial towards the success of successful diversity management, including examples of how firms have dealt with this worldwide issue. The Rise of Diversity Worldwide So how much of an issue is diversity in the workplace?

Well considering the higher numbers of diverse people entering the workplace, it was always going to be an issue. In the US, African-Americans comprise 10. 1% of the US 112. 4million employed civilians and forecast that 85% of entrants into the workforce would be minorities, woman or immigrants. (Clements and Jones, 2006) In the UK, 2006 showed there were more 55-64 year olds than 16-24 year olds for the first time. (Source: Employers Forum on Age) These figures further emphasise how diversity is more prominent in current society than ever before and must be tackled by businesses.

Dissecting Diversity

So what are the components of diversity that must be focussed on? Diversity can be dissected into different areas, with the obvious differences between people being any visual attributes they may have that differ. These differences include the obvious features such as gender, race or age. These can be analysed using your vision but this is ignoring most of the types of diversity that exist in the workplace. A report by Deloitte, 2011 states that “diversity is really about diversity of ‘thought’ – where different perspectives and capabilities are the point of difference, rather than our visible characteristics.

” It is a concept that must be grasped by businesses as it opens up many ways that diversity can be mismanaged. These different capabilities can help firms evaluate whether they are gaining the full value from their employee and help them gain valuable knowledge that can be used for future diversity reference. It helps find the common ground to understanding an individual and has therefore developed thought towards the opinion that demographics are a starting point but the full knowledge bank can be gathered through understanding the personalities that exists within the different cultures.

This diagram below provides a visual representation of looking within an individual rather than using vision as a basis of judgement. Diagram 1 (Deloitte, 2011) Skills and attributes of Successful Diversity Management In order to be successful in diversity management, businesses must ensure that management have the right skills to help train and deal with the different cultures. ”It requires Research was conducted (Clements, 2000) to try to find the attributes required to teach about diversity and the requirements in order to manager all diverse matters.

Skills included the ability to deal with conflict management, which is crucial considering the different opinions shared by different cultures. Managers require the ability to intervene in decision making when appropriate and manage the dynamic of the group as the dynamic of a working group varies depending on the personalities involved. In order for these skills to be prominent for managing diversity, Clements found that attributes were required to do this correctly.

Managers must be sensitive to the needs of people as being diverse in a workforce group can be mentally tough but in order to extract their knowledge, sensitivity is necessary. Research must be conducted by management to ensure that they understand all the issues involved within the diverse workforce and remain positive throughout. Therefore management must find the subject as motivational to ensure maximum results and highlights the mental agility required to allow management to remain resilient while dealing directly with different cultures.

Barclays plc In order to measure the importance of management diversity in the workplace, case studies have been gathered demonstrating how different firms have tried to engineer a successful approach to diversity in the workplace. According to Ozbilgin 2007, the UK financial group Barclays created an equality and diversity programme with the ambition of approaching all diversity issues and welcoming them towards the company. Barclays appointed members of staff to be responsible for the different types of diversity and promoted the statement “Managing Diversity is everyone’s job.

” By involving everyone in this process it warns off any resistance to change and helps to foster an attitude of openness within the firm which provides a more natural working environment. Communication is another tool that Barclays deem crucial in helping progress diversity within the firm. By using communication methods such as the employee intra-net news site, in-house magazines and taskforce meetings, they were able to inform employee on updated diversity statistics within the firm and reward employees internally.

This helped them build the brand image they had hoped which helped them gain partnerships with trade unions. (Ozbilgin et al, 2007) For Barclays this has “helped broaden knowledge about age, gender, ethnicity and disability in ways that improved staff morale” and “helped challenged stereotypical thinking and overcome barriers. (Nicola Swan, Barclays plc, 2007) This further emphasises how by managing diversity effectively businesses can gain numerous benefits that will helped prolong the success of their company.

Ford of Britain I thought it would be applicable to provide another example of how diversity can be managed. This example differs due to the difference in service that they provide compared to Barclays. “Ford Motor Company has declared an unyielding commitment to its diversity objectives. ” (Ford Motor Company, 2007) This highlights the emphasis some businesses will place on ensuring everyone knows about their diversity objectives, which I believe is a necessary step to successful diversity management.

Organisational culture change occurred within Ford whereby they created a 4 stage change programme consisting of (Ozbilgin, 2007): * Mainstreamed Diversity * Ownership of diversity by all levels of employees and management * Communicating * Evaluating progress in Diversity These 4 stages provided Ford with a structure in which they could base their diversity management with the hope that it would provide future advantages for the firm. By mainstreaming diversity it meant that Ford has incorporated it into normal business matters such as pay and normal team/line management objectives.

(Ozbilgin et al, 2007) Therefore senior management reinforced the mainstreaming process all incorporating it into weekly meetings. By involving diversity continuously I believe this is why they have succeeded in diversity management. “We have received more than 200 awards in recent years from publications and organisations recognising the value the company places on building a diverse and inclusive culture. ” (Ford Corporate Website) Along with this they are leading the industry with total percentage of minority dealers.

These 2 elements of success that I have highlighted help me demonstrate about how the successful implementation of diversity can be related to orchestrating objectives around the issue and has reaped rewards for Ford. Benefits of a Diverse Workforce During this I have described opinions of diversity management but it’s crucial to examine how diversity management is used to try to create advantages for firms moving forward. Firstly I will highlight how businesses will use diversity as a way of promoting their corporate image.

This is therefore used as a tool of attracting people from a wide range of cultures. This means that the firm can recruit staff from different areas and can lead to the company benefiting from a larger pool of ideas and experience. Experience can help a business deal with market fluctuations and provide comparative analysis of market conditions. This therefore can improve decision making within the firm and could add levels of creativity that might not have been present before. A business can use the diversity of its workforce to provide a broader range of services to provide its customers.

Creativity and innovation generally will improve due to the modern ideas that different cultures can provide. The innovation can help decision making or could help the firm grow further by helping develop links with different countries. The diversity of your workforce can help build relationships with firms around the world and understand the needs of those companies. It all comes back to the fact that the ideas generated by a diverse workforce can contribute to the overall growth of a firm in the future. Lastly, the attitudes of staff can improve within a diverse workforce, with the aid of successful management.

By managing their staff efficiently and building a team dynamic, employee flexibility within the firm can accelerate. This will lead to a motivated workforce which provides businesses with the stepping stone to further growth. Motivated staff provides advantages such as lower labour turnover and a decrease in absenteeism costs. This will help a firm implement its strategy easier due to higher levels of productivity that occur from having a motivated workforce. If a business can get all its employees pulling the same direction it is a major advantage in trying to achieve further growth.

Challenges of a Diverse Workforce Although I have provided examples of 2 successful diversity management strategies, if a system is implemented without the adequate care this can delay any progress a firm can make. Before implementing any new strategies, a company must create a team dynamic of learning. Resistance to change can be common in the workplace and you can draw up any well drafted plan to deal with diversity but unless you can change the beliefs of resistant staff then it will be a failure.

This resistance to change could originate from mandatory training that businesses can place on its employees or it could occur due to the changes that can arise when welcoming diversity into your workforce e. g. translating materials and having interpreters. Another challenge is for firms not to be pressured into hiring diversity into the workforce just because of who they are. This can have many drawbacks as you could be overlooking candidates that are a better fit for the firm or current employees may feel inadequate/feel like the diverse staff has a higher chance of promotion .

This means it is important to communicate well with staff to ensure they are all comfortable with their position within the workforce. Diversity can also demotivate current staff with factors such as religions and absences from work as they may feel that people are getting allocated days off just for religious purposes. Meanwhile the argument could be that they work just as hard as those members of staff and deserve the same treatment. It is a touchy subject that must be negotiated with great care in order to be avoided.

Conclusion Diversity in the workplace can be a strength or weakness for a firm but it is their ability to deal with diversity that determines the overall success it can provide for a business. BBC see it as a positive challenge, “the more diverse our workforce, the better able we are to respond to and reflect our audiences in all their diversity. ” (BBC Website) It must be tackled but it is important to realise that all types of diversity should be treated in a different manner. “You just can’t take a program off the shelf, because every culture is unique” (Rice & Sookdeo, 1994).

This quote from Burger king officials symbolises that all cultures must be tolerated because the value of the employee, no matter how diverse, can never be exaggerated when striving to fulfil a business’s potential. We have found that the benefits are there to be gained from the attributes a diverse workforce can bring but if the planning and management don’t coordinate effectively, it is a waste of company resources and employee knowledge. References Norma Carr-Ruffino (1999) Diversity Success Strategies, Butterworth-Heinemann, Woburn, Massachusetts Michael R.

Carrell, Norbert F. Elbert, Robert D. Hatfield (2000) Human resource management : strategies for managing a diverse and global workforce Phil Clements & John Jones (2006) 2nd edition, The Diversity Training Handbook, a practical guide to understanding and changing attitudes, Cambrian Printers Ltd, Aberystwyth, Wales Lisa Hope (1996) Demographic Diversity, Conflict, and Work Group Outcomes: An Intervening Process Theory Mustafa F. Ozbilgin (2007) Managing Diversity in Practice, supporting business goals, CIPD, Great Britain by Short run press limited, Exeter

Peter J. Smith (2003) Workplace learning and Flexible Delivery Margaret Stockdale and Faye Crosby (2004) The psychology and management of workplace diversity, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Carlton, Australia http://www. deloitte. com/assets/Dcom-Australia/Local%20Assets/Documents/Services/Consulting/Human%20Capital/Diversity/Deloitte_Only_skin_deep_12_September_2011. pdf4 http://www. idm-diversity. org/files/keil-diversity_management_challenge. pdf http://www. bbc. co. uk/diversity/workforce. html http://www. corporate. ford. com/careers/diversity/ford-diversity