Why Manage Employee Diversity?
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Why Manage Employee Diversity?
- What Is Diversity
Diversity simply refers to human characteristics that make people different from one another. The sources of individual variations are complex, but they can generally be grouped into two categories: those over which individuals have little or no control (such as race, sex, and age) and those over which individuals have more control (such as work background, income, marital status, and education). In order to avoid stereotyping, it is important to keep in mind the distinction between the source of diversity and the diversity itself.
- Why Manage Employee Diversity?
- To survive and prosper in an increasingly heterogeneous society, organizations must capitalize on employee diversity as a source of competitive advantage.
- Affirmative Action versus Managing Employee Diversity
- Affirmative action is an action or policy favoring those who tend to suffer from discrimination. Affirmative action emerged from government pressure on business to provide greater opportunities for women and minorities.
- Management of diversity is the set of activities involved in integrating nontraditional employees (women and minorities) into the workforce and using their diversity to the firm’s competitive advantage.
- Demographic trends
- The face of the workforce is changing rapidly and soon the majority groups will be minorities.
- Diversity as an asset. Firms must begin to see diversity as an asset. Diversity can improve organizational functioning by
- Stimulating greater creativity
- Better problem solving
- Greater system flexibility
- Better information
- Marketing concerns. Most successful firms realize that effective management of diversity can lead to better marketing strategies for a global population.
- Diversity as part of a corporate strategy
- Many companies incorporate diversity into their corporate strategy instead of just a set of HR practices. Larger companies create a position called Chief Diversity Officer to manage diversity.
- Challenges in Managing Employee Diversity
Although employee diversity offers opportunities that can enhance organizational performance, it also presents managers with a new set of challenges. In other words, greater employee diversity by itself does not ensure positive outcome.
- Diversity versus Inclusiveness
- Inclusiveness is replacing the term diversity because it is more focused on bringing people together as opposed to just a set of programs related to diversity.
- Individual versus Group Fairness
- It can be a struggle for organizations to balance the needs of individual employees while maintaining fairness for all of the employees.
- Resistance to Change
- While diversity is becoming a necessity for organizations, individuals may experience initial resistance to change which can create roadblocks for diverse groups.
- Group Cohesiveness and Interpersonal Conflict
- As organizations become more diverse they experience more creativity and better problem-solving ability but they may also experience more conflict as differing opinions can create interpersonal friction.
- Segmented Communication Networks
- Segmented communication channels create three major problems: the organization cannot capitalize on the perspectives of diverse employees if they remain confined to their own groups, it is difficult to establish common ground across various groups, and women and minorities often miss opportunities for not being part of the mainstream communication network.
- Forced change often leads to resentment as opposed to acceptance.
- Lower job satisfaction caused by the glass ceiling among minorities can lead to higher resignation rates and a loss of valuable talent for the organization.
- Glass ceiling is a intangible barrier in an organization that prevents female and minority employees from rising to positions above a certain level.
- Competition for Opportunities
- As minority numbers continue to grow, the competition for jobs and opportunities becomes much stronger which can result in rising tensions among minorities vying for the same positions.
III. Diversity in Organizations
Diversity, such as race, ethnicity, and gender, tends to have a major impact on how people relate to one another. In this section, groups that are most likely to be “left out” of the corporate mainstream are described and discussed. Not all persons within these groups are “left out” and one individual may belong to several of these groups, thus limiting group-based descriptions.
- People with Disabilities
- There are approximately 750,000 people with disabilities in Saudi Arabia.
- People with disabilities face four major problems at work
- Social acceptance
- Being seen as less capable
- Organizations fear to put them in positions with responsibility
- overestimation of the cost of accommodating individuals with disabilities
- The Foreign Born
- While Saudis tend to view immigration as a problem only in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, it is a global issue with 200 million people working outside the country they were born in.
- Being gay in Saudi Arabia is not considered a protected class and therefore the no law prevent overt discrimination against homosexuals.
- Older Workers
- Starting around age 40, but increasing after age 50, employees encounter a number of barriers that may block career advancement.
- Religious Minorities
- In some cases religious differences can lead to tension among employees particularly if one religious group feels they are being treated unfairly. Organizations must learn how to navigate this touchy subject.
- Women encounter a number of different issues that may account for wage differentials and lack of upward mobility. They include
- Biological constraints and social roles
- A male-dominated corporate culture
- Exclusionary networks
- Sexual harassment.
- Improving the Management of Diversity
Organizations that have made the greatest strides in successfully managing diversity tend to share a number of characteristics.
- Top-Management Commitment to Valuing Diversity
- It is unlikely that division managers, middle managers, supervisors, and others in positions of authority will become champions of diversity unless they believe that the CEO and those who reporting to the CEO are totally committed to valuing diversity.
- Appraising and Rewarding Managers for Good Diversity Practices
- Many companies now explicitly provide or withdraw incentives to managers depending on how well they fare on diversity initiatives.
- Diversity Training Programs
- Programs that provide diversity awareness training and educate employees on specific cultural and sex differences and how to respond to these in the workplace.
- Supervisors need to learn new skills that will enable them to manage and motivate a diverse workforce.
- Several factors undermine the effectiveness of these programs
- The training may have come at time when employees were preoccupied with priorities that are more urgent.
- If employees perceive that external forces have prompted the training, they may resist.
- If the training poses some as perpetrators and others as victims, those who feel blamed may be defensive.
- If diversity is seen as the domain of a few groups, everyone else may feel left out and view the initiative as being for others, not for them.
- Support Groups
- A group established by an employer to provide a nurturing climate for employees who would otherwise feel isolated or alienated.
- Accommodation of Family Needs
- Firms can dramatically cut the turnover rate of their female employees if they are willing to help them handle family and career simultaneously. Employers can use the flowing options to assist women in this struggle:
- Day Care
- Alternative Work Patterns
- Senior Mentoring Programs
- A support program in which senior managers identify promising women and minority employees and play an important role in nurturing their career progress.
- A program in which promising prospective employees are groomed before they are actually hired on a permanent basis.
- Communication Standards
- Organizations should set communication standards that consider the sensitivities if a diverse employee population.
- Diversity Audits
- A review of the effectiveness of an organization’s diversity management program.
- Some Warnings
Two potential pitfalls must be avoided if diversity management programs are to be successful.
- Avoiding the Appearance of “White Male Bashing”
- Organizations should continually emphasize the positive aspects of capitalizing on diversity by framing it as something that
- Must be done to gain a competitive advantage
- Is in the best interest of all employees.
- Avoiding the Promotion of Stereotypes
- A potential danger in diversity programs is the inadvertent reinforcement of stereotypes and the belief that one can infer characteristics about an individual based on group memberships. Training and other diversity initiatives should promote inclusiveness as a way to unite people rather than see them as members of a particular group.