As we move towards the 21st century, a fundamental shift is taking place in the global economy. With increased globalization, technological advancements and an interdependent economy, interaction and collaboration among people from diverse backgrounds (Green et al. 2002) are essential to remain competitive, innovative and increase organizational effectiveness (Thomas and Ely 1996).
Figure 1: Diversity
Diversity can be defined as the differences among a group of people with respect to age, race, ethnicity, gender, class, disabilities, religion and cultural background (Green et al. 2002). The ability to understand, accept and value these differences are the most vital factors in acknowledging diversity (Green et al.2002). Capitalizing on workforce diversity is a vital issue for the management of an organization to yield greater work productivity and competitive advantages (Green et al.2002). However, managing diversity is a significant organizational challenge hence leaders are ought to have managerial skills which can accommodate a multicultural work environment.
Challenges in Managing a Diverse Workforce
Although an organization which embraces workforce diversity can broaden its skill base and be more productive, there are a number of issues and challenges that come along and has to be dealt in an efficient manner (Dhuppar 2015). Discrimination occurs when an individual is denied opportunities based on a personal attribute which has no relevance to job performance (Dhuppar 2015). Discrimination can happen due to various reasons which include a particular race, gender, age, disabilities and employee retaliation towards the employers (Law 2014). Communication barriers are also a contributing factor to managing workforce diversity due to cultural differences. For example, a British company hires employees of other cultures whose first language is not English, there would be difficulties communicating with each other and may lead to misunderstandings and a decline in productivity (Dhuppar 2015). Besides that, there are employees who oppose workforce diversity and reject new ideas which make the work environment tougher. These are the kind of employees who do not encourage change in their workforce and may not react positively to changes made (Dhuppar 2015). Conflicts among employees from various backgrounds are also a concern to having a diverse workforce. Preconceptions without actual experience, racism, discrimination and lack of respect in the work environment lead to conflicts and these conflicts can turn explosive if not controlled (Dhuppar 2015).
Advantages of a diverse workforce
“Any time you bring together diverse perspective, it just creates a bunch of potential that you weren’t really expecting”. –Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter (Showers 2016)
Figure 2: Benefits of Workplace diversity
A diverse workforce can provide a greater variety of solutions to problems which leads to better decision making (Lee n.d.). Employees from different backgrounds could bring individual talents and experiences in suggesting idea’s that are more creative, innovative as well as flexible in adapting to customer demands and evolving markets (Greenberg n.d.). With new ideas, new processes can be developed and implemented. There also could be a variety of skills displayed in terms of languages and cultural understanding which could better serve clients on a global basis (Greenberg n.d.). Besides that, the productivity of an organization increases when employees of various cultural backgrounds work together towards organizational goals (Lee n.d.). For example, employees from India benefit U.S companies with their outstanding quantitative skills especially in the Information Technology field (Lee n.d.). As a result of higher productivity, an organization could increase their profitability and return on investment (Showers 2016).
Theoretical model applied in workforce diversity
Tuckman’s model of team development is an established method to transform a group of diverse individuals into a high-performance team. The model consists of four stages:-
Figure 3: Tuckman’s model (Brooks 2012)
1) Forming – A brand new team of a diverse workforce is formed and objectives of the team are clearly defined with the guidance from a manager. Team members have not fully understood their roles; therefore they would have a relatively high degree of dependence on the team leader.
2) Storming- Team members from various cultures and backgrounds start suggesting different ideas or may work with different styles which may lead to conflicts. Additionally, team members start getting more comfortable with their respective roles and may challenge others for a higher position. It’s imperative to identify issues and evaluate perspectives to enhance team spirit and avoid major conflicts.
3) Norming- Team members have somewhat established a good relationship with their peers in terms of socializing, helping each other solve issues and provide constructive feedbacks. The commitment and unity is strong within team members.
4) Performing – Team members are independent with minimal interference from a leader unless involving personal issues and are very focus on achieving the goals with their highest abilities. They are able to make decisions collectively as a team, attend to process issues efficiently and disagreements are resolved positively.
Example of organization managing workforce diversity
Figure 4: P&G
Procter and Gamble (P&G) is an example of a successful organization which has given utmost importance to managing diversity. P&G focuses on their employees from various departments by providing them the opportunity to equally have a say in decision-making processes (Rodgers 2017). Additionally, the company has implemented a reverse mentoring program to allow employees from all levels and departments to serve as mentors to the leaders of the company (Rodgers 2017). This provides them the chance to communicate effectively with leaders instead of only hanging out with each other. Moreover, P&G rotates senior executives to undertake the Chief Diversity Officer role to keep fresh ideas flowing through diversity efforts (Rodgers 2017). In an effort to create a razor for the Indian market, P&G sent a team of researchers to India to live alongside with men over there which lead to them gaining an insight of what Indian men expected from a razor (Rodgers 2017). As a result, P&G created the highly successful Gillette Guard razor (Rodgers 2017).
Example of diversity management in relations with Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Theory
|Power Distance Index (PDI)||31||64|
Figure 5: Scores of the Sweden and Thailand in Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions
Source: (Pongpayaklert and Atikomtrirat 2011)
Countries such as Sweden with low power distance often portrays stronger effects of participations on workplace diversity due to a higher level of equality as compared to Thailand with high power distance whereby a majority of the workers do not act on the same level as their superiors (Pongpayaklert and Atikomtrirat 2011). In addition, Sweden portrays a lower level of differentiation and discrimination between genders due to their lower level of masculinity (Pongpayaklert and Atikomtrirat 2011).
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Dhuppar, S. (2015) “Managing Workplace Diversity: Challenges And Strategies”. International Journal of Research [online] 2 (3). available from https://edupediapublications.org/journals/index.php/IJR/article/view/1631/1530
Green, K., López, M., Wysocki, A., Kepner, K., Farnsworth, D. and Clark, J. (2002) Diversity In The Workplace: Benefits, Challenges, And The Required Managerial Tools [online] 1st edn. University of Florida. available from <https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/HR/HR02200.pdf> [17 February 2017]
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Pongpayaklert, T. and Atikomtrirat, W. (2011) “Managing Diversity In Multinational Organizations”. Linnaeus University, School of Business and Economics [online] available from https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:423082/FULLTEXT01.pdf
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Showers, R. (2016) 4 Business Benefits Of Diversity In The Workplace – Real-Time Chat For Online Hiring & Networking [online] available from <http://www.brazen.com/blog/recruiting-hr/benefits-of-diversity-in-the-workplace/> [17 February 2017]
Thomas, D. and Ely, R. (1996) Making Differences Matter: A New Paradigm For Managing Diversity [online] available from <https://hbr.org/1996/09/making-differences-matter-a-new-paradigm-for-managing-diversity> [17 February 2017]