July 29, 2008

Report on Diversity Management

1.0 Introduction

The demography of the workplace is changing and will continue to do so over the years. This condition is known as the workplace diversity. Encarta Dictionary defined diversity as ethnic variety as well as socioeconomic and gender variety in a group, institution or society. Diversity could also mean differences in physical abilities, learning and communication styles. By its very nature, conflict is inherent to diversity. Put simply, diversity is the uniqueness of all individuals. When applied to workplace, these differences can affect and worsen organizational performance.
Diversity then is a challenge to many business leaders and managers though it is necessary to note that diversity knows no organizational boundary and limitations and is not positional. As such, diversity can be a problem but also a solution, a detriment but also a benefit and destructive but also constructive. The challenge then is to extract the very essence of diversity and strategically manage it for the advancement of the people and the organization.
2.0 Diversity in the Workplace
2.1 The importance of diversity
According to Sonneschein (1999), diversity means differences and these differences could create challenges for the organization. But nevertheless, these differences could also open avenues for immense opportunities. Diversity at the very least could help the organizations in creating new and more innovative products and services. As well, diversity could mean better ways to meet the demands and needs of customers and clients and thus better serve the community where they belong and serves for (p. 3).
In particular, diversity enables a wider range of views to exist in an organization, including those views that could challenge the status quo from all sides; focuses and strengthens an organization’s core values; simulates social, economic, intellectual and emotional growth and helps an organization understand its place in the global community. Manifestly, diversity is instrumental in organizational change and is effective for delivering conformity to the customer base. Diversity is an effective tool in minimizing turnover costs and maximizing return on investment (pp. 3-4).
Another importance of diversity is the achievement of the sp-called competitive edge. A common knowledge is that the skills, expertise and competencies of the workforce are the most important resource to any organization. These are translated then into creative strategies that will deliver the organization an utmost position. Diversity is the key whereby the combination of the employees’ know-how, proficiency and experience will be the key elements.
Because the changes in demographics create tension, an effective diversity management is critical. These tensions challenge the conditioning and perceptions of people about the nature of things and tension creates both dangers and opportunities. To counter, diversity management must be integrated into the overall strategic plan and must be applied at every levels of the organization.
2.2 The importance of diversity management
The principles of diversity management (Diversity Management) are as follows: establishment of business strategies for effective management of a diverse workforce; creation of positive work environment; promotion of personal and professional development; empowerment of people to reach their full potential; attraction of talent; and removal of barriers that hinder progress. As such, there are six strands that diversity management must overcome: race, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability and religion or belief.
Diversity management is not about reducing standards, removing prejudices but rather recognizing that they exist, a distraction from more important issues such as quality, language and political correctness and obtaining a ‘quota of diverse individuals. Diversity management as defined by Kandola and Fullerton (1998) is the acceptance that the workforce is consists of a diverse population of people with visible and non-visible differences and that harnessing these differences will create a productive environment wherein everyone feels valued, talents are being fully utilised and organizational goals are met.
There are four essential phases for managing a diverse workforce. First is communicating commitment to diversity so that every employee would be aware of the diversity strategy, making it a part of the workplace culture. Second is the diversity management assessment that is accomplished by answering the ten questions to test your diversity management (refer to Table 1) ranging from documentations to community reflections. Third is the evaluation of effectiveness and impact or the assessment of how healthy and sound your diversity management. Next is the development of action plan that supports the policies with clear measurable objectives and targets (Diversity Management Assessment, 2007).
There are business and ethical case that could be considered as the strategies for diversity management. Recruitment and retention of staff; improved moral and job satisfaction; positive public image and access to untapped markets are for business case. For ethical case, this encompasses the changing social values and public expectations especially about ethical investment, fair trade, individual human rights and environmental impact as well as promotion of inclusion, respect, equity and openness (Chartered Management Institute, 2007).
Effective diversity management will enable the organizations towards improving organizational performance, helping prevent unlawful discrimination or harassment incidents, improving workplace relations, building more effective work teams, improving organizational problem-solving, improving customer service and enhancing recruitment efforts. All told, diversity management functions as remover of barriers and as catalyst for achieving workplace balance (Diversity Management).
2.3 The barriers towards a more balanced workforce
Diversity inflicts challenges prior to reaping its benefits. Examples of this are racism, sexism and ageism. Homophobia, in addition, results in disrupts the workplace; prevents the team in accomplishing goals and keeps the organization from achieving its missions. Conflicts at individual, collegiate and organizational levels would be then possible. Diversity therefore has an impact on leadership and management (Sonneschein, p. 4).
Aside from these, there are also organizational challenges brought by diversity. These are: management complexity, fairness, individual differences versus unanimity and identity and loyalty (p. 5). First, diversity is central to the premise that it is easier to manager similar-minded people. Without diversity, the homogenous organization could likely to experience lesser conflicts since there is no need to adjust managerial and leadership styles, to listen in different ways to organizational members, or to find new approaches in doing tasks.
Second, diversity also raises questions regarding fairness. This is because of the fact that no one can be fair when different cultures define fairness in different ways. Moreover, the organization must design mechanisms that ensure equal access to the workplace, protect individuals and groups against discrimination and equitably treat every individual.
Third, people have presupposition that it is easier to work with people with similar background with ours. Oppositely, it is rather difficult to learn to work with people of different styles, to understand new perspectives and to adjust contrasting attitudes.
Finally, with no diversity people do not need to redefine themselves constantly and there is also no need to reassess and realign own values with their values and therefore wonder if these people are could be trusted or not and if they will stay with the organization or not.
Apart, there are also possible barriers in the form of: limiting area of consideration, lack of diverse applicant pool in key positions, lack of diversity in the senior ranks, categorizing people in certain position, always recruiting from same source, grooming/developing a single individual, pre-selection and “golf course” meetings (Diversity Management).
These activities center the human resource management (HRM) functions especially on recruiting, selecting and hiring people. As Gottfredson puts it, putting restrictions prior to accepting would-be workers to organizations is therefore irrelevant. Aside from being unjust, treating people differently would only create additional barriers between groups within the organization and disintegrate the morale that is necessary for high levels of performance unless these organizations works on removing barriers (in Jackson et al, 1992, p. 289).
2.4 Diversity management in UK
Europeans in specifically knows the fundamental nature of diversity management more than rising above these workplace barriers. They are well aware that diversity could be an asset for organizations since diversity is said to be the mindset of the organization, the climate of an organization and the different perspectives people bring to an organization (Reichenberg, 2001, p. 1). However, not all European countries or even European Union (EU) members easily accept the concept of diversity management.
In the United Kingdom (UK) alone, there are concerns about the efficacy and legitimacy of diversity management as an approach in the pursuit of equality and ending discrimination within organizations. Diversity management is a ‘soft option’ for those who would choose not to embrace political and social justice and discrimination and fairness issues that are championed by traditional equal opportunity schemas. Diversity management is also viewed as normative, utilitarian and individualistic (cited in Cornelius, 2002, p. 32).
A report by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) reflects the current status or level of acceptance of diversity management in UK. FRA found out that workplace discrimination prevails in UK as evidenced by statistics of inequality, complaints and court cases and research evidence. For instance, there are 3, 173 court and tribunal cases against employment discrimination. When asked if there should be headscarf ban, UK agreed (29%) though it is much lower than France (78%) and Germany (54%).
To combat this, FRA initializes the six types of organizational policy that could help the organizations in improving public image and in reducing the risk of unlawful practices. These are training the immigrants/minorities, making cultural allowances, challenging racists attitudes, combating discrimination, equal opportunities policies with positive action and diversity management (Wrench, 2007). The difficulty would lie in here whereby the organizations may not be able to implement all this altogether especially if it will obstruct organizational productivity and performance.
EU by and large outlined the legal status of workers to avoid employment discrimination: citizens living and working within their own country of citizenship, citizens of an UE members state who work in another country within the Union, third country nationals who have full rights to residency and work in a members state, third country nationals who have leave to stay on the basis of a revocable work permit for a fixed period of time and undocumented or ‘illegal’ workers (Wrench, 2007). In lieu with this, the organizations could not comply with this because of the fact that still in each country there could be multiculturalism and guestworkers.
In ensuring that UK organizations are adhering to ‘a level playing field’ or Equality of Opportunity, the government implements a range of laws and guidance. Aside from the business case and ethical case discussed in 2.2, there are legal cases that shall govern the employers and employees. Since there are no ‘diversity acts’, a series of acts is the most plausible step that includes: Race Relations Act of 1976, Employment Equability Regulations 2006, Sex Discrimination Act 1975, Gender Equality Duty 2007, Gender Recognition Act 2004, Employment Equality Regulations 2003, Disability Discrimination Act 1995, Employment Equality regulations 2003 and Equality Act 2006.
Today, the Positive Action Model (Diagram 1) is just one of the advanced tools for the application of diversity management. This tool takes direct action against under representation in the workplace. Positive Action Model is consists of range of measures from which employers and other persons can lawfully take actions to help minority or disadvantaged groups to compete on equal terms for jobs, career development and training in the labour force where they are underrepresented.
3.0 Conclusion and Recommendation
In sum, this paper presents diversity as the core of organizational development that takes into account not just the people but also their actions; the principles and the business, ethical and legal case for organizations as fundamental to diversity management; and the steps should be taken into consideration. Further, the paper demonstrates the gradual acceptance of UK organizations regarding the concept of diversity management and what might be the probable violations to which the Positive Action Model is primarily designed to combat the discriminating acts. Nonetheless, there are two areas that is tended to be overlooked in general. These are the lack of universally accepted definition of the term diversity and the lack of comprehensive law or act that will govern organizations. This paper recommends that there shall be a convention that will give solution to both challenges.
4.0 Appendix


TEN QUESTIONS THAT WILL TEST ORGANIZATIONAL DIVERSITY MANAGEMENT
Do you have a clear business case for working on diversity linked to your business objectives?
Do you have a clear action plan on diversity linked to your business objectives?
Do you tell all existing and prospective employees about your commitment to diversity management?
Do you have any Key Performance Indicators or other objectives on diversity management for senior managers?
Do you use any demographic information to compare your workforce with the local communities in which you operate?
Have your marketing teams or policy makers evaluated the potential value of diverse customers to your organisation?
Do you have a supplier diversity policy?
Do you consult your various employees on their experience of working in your organisation?
Does your organisation monitor the diversity of your job applicants, for example by using the Census 2001 race/ ethnicity classifications?
Does your organisation monitor the position, grade and level of all employees?

Table 1 Ten Questions for Organizational Diversity Management


Diagram 1 Positive Action Model

5.0 References

Cornelius, N 2002, Building Workplace Equality: Ethics, Diversity and Inclusion, Cengage Learning EMEA.

Diversity Management, retrieved on 28 April 2008 from http://www.nesdis.noaa.gov/About/Diversity/documents/DiversityManagementrevisedsept2004nocasestudy.ppt#300,19,Possible Barriers.

Diversity Management Assessment, 2007, University of Bath, retrieved on 28 April 2008 from http://www.bath.ac.uk/managediversity/diversitymanage/where.shtml.

Embracing Diversity – Guidance for Managers, 2007, Chartered Management Institute, London.

Gottfredson, L S 1992, Dilemmas in Developing Diversity Programs in S E Jackson, Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology & E Ginzberg, Diversity in the Workplace: Human Resources Initiatives, Guilford Press.

Kandola, R S & Fullerton, J 1998, Diversity in Action: Managing the Mosaic, (2nd rev ed.), Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development.

Positive Action Model, 2007, University of Bath, retrieved on 28 April 2008 from http://www.bath.ac.uk/managediversity/positiveaction/.

Reichenberg, N E 2001, Best Practices in Diversity Management, United Nations Expert Group Meeting on Managing Diversity in the Civil Service, New York.

Sonnenschien, W 1999, The Diversity Toolkit: How You Can Build and Benefit from a Diverse Workforce, McGraw-Hill Professional.

Wrench, J 2007, The Anti-Discrimination Directives and Diversity Management, European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), European Parliament Public Hearing, Brussels.

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