Thirty years ago discrimination was a part of normal business activity. Work place diversity meant hire outside of your family not outside of your race. As a result, the federal government felt impelled to create employment laws. These new laws were implemented to eliminate discrimination and provide the means for advancement. As a consequence of this implementation, these laws have created possible barriers to maximizing the potential of every employee (Chan, 2000).
Recently, the concept of diversity has completely changed from before. It is predicted that by the year 2005, women, minorities, and the disabled will dominate the workforce (“Managing Diversity”, 1999). Organizations that are viewed as biased against these groups will not attract the competent workforce. Today, it is vital that organizations prove its impartiality in order to be successful in a constantly changing business environment.
The previous process of handling diversity entailed expecting people to assimilate to the new cultures. They were forced to adapt to fit the mold of company’s dominant culture. The new process treats diversity as an asset. Actually, good diversity management does not require employees to assimilate. It encourages them to develop their strengths and present innovative ideas (“Managing Diversity”, 1999).
What is managing diversity?
“Workforce diversity management has become one of the pressing issues that managers must address” (“Managing Diversity, 1999). In my opinion, the most general definition of managing diversity is: Diversity management is a long-term process. It means extensively analyzing a company’s current culture and changing those parts that limit cultural diversity. Also, it means recruiting new employees for the skills they can bring to the company rather than their cultural homogeneity. Lastly, it means working with a management team to help them understand that cultural diversity is a business issue, and their own careers will benefit from enabling their employees to reach their full potential (“Managing Diversity, 1999).
According to Dr. R. Roosevelt Thomas Jr., author of Beyond Race and Gender (1997), the problem of diversity is not limited to questions of race, gender, ethnicity, disabilities and sexual orientation. Differences that replenish energy and undermine productivity and performance in an organization extend to issues like personality styles (Gordon, 2000).
Diversity management contains three (3) components:
1. Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action programs direct attention to laws that guide recruitment and promotion.
2. Valuing differences centers on interpersonal qualities that shape managements relationships with their employees.
3. Managing diversity focuses on the diverse quality of employees’ work-life needs such as childcare, family leave, and flexible holiday schedules. It requires setting policies and procedures that empowers managers to meet employees’ needs (Galagan, 1999; Jenner, 1994; Wilkinson, 1999).
Organizations intending to survive will need to implement all of the components listed above. Managing diversity will eventually make Affirmative Action and valuing differences unnecessary (Thomas Jr., 2000). –
Why manage diversity?
Diversity needs to be managed as a result of the demographic changes in the workforce. Surveys have revealed that demographic changes will reshape the workforce and the marketplace. They include:
? An increase in the number of minorities and immigrants in the labor pool
? An increase in the number of women in the workforce
? A shift in values with more workers putting loyalty to career above of loyalty to the company and seeking more balance between work and home life
? Illiteracy is on the rise, and simultaneously many jobs require a more skilled work force
? An aging population overall
If a business is to succeed, these individual and cultural threads must be woven into corporate fabric (Overman, 1997). The disadvantage of not having a diversity strategy can be high turnover costs, dissatisfied workers who sabotage quality, or costly settlements in discrimination cases.
“Managing diversity is managing human resource needs, says Ben Harrison. (Jenner, 1994). Human resource personnel alone cant do the work of managing diversity. All levels of managers should implement programs designed to heighten awareness of cultural differences, foster appreciation for these differences, and identify the commonalties among the various ethnic groups. Managing diversity is an effort that will involve all members of the company In order to reap the fruits of diversity. The process should start by including managing diversity into the overall strategy, this will promote cultural synergy and effectively integrating the better elements associated with multiple cultures. This tactic will help in aiding of identifying and implementing of new practices in companies with diverse units. –
Differences in Affirmative Action and managing diversity
Most people do not understand the meaning of workplace diversity.They believe one is talking about Equa1 Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action programs (Jenner, 1994). Managing diversity differs from these programs in five (5) ways:
1.It is a mutual adjustment process for the manager, organization, and the employee.
2.It centers on maximizing employees potential.
3.It places priority on naturally changing undesirable practices.
4It views the manager as the principal benefactor of the actions taken.
5 The motive behind managing diversity is a business issue.
Dr. R. Thomas Jr. states that Affirmative Action was never intended to be a permanent tool. Some minorities and women want Affirmative Action to be eliminated because they feel stigmatized by it. In addition, most white males feel they are at a disadvantage because of it (“Managing Diversity”, 1999). Affirmative Action has increased diversity through a government-imposed program. On one side, there are charges of reverse discrimination. On the other, there are feelings of forced assimilation and stigmatization. “Basically, it teaches the dominant group how to manage the minority group” (Wilkinson, 1999).
Managing diversity also goes beyond the valuing differences approach. It recognizes that changes in organizational cultures and systems are required in order to create an environment that enables all employees to maximize their full potential (Roosevelt Jr., 2000). Programs that value differences still fall into the Band-Aid category, which means it only rectifies the situation. In contrast, it should ask why the system does not work (“Managing Diversity”, 1999). In order to know whether a program fits into managing diversity, valuing differences, or Affirmative Action programs, one should ask, “Does it include white males?” The goal of managing diversity is to enhance the performance of all employees not just the federally protected groups (Managing Diversity”, l993).
Steps to manage diversity
Steps to be taken to begin managing diversity are:
1. Assess your company’s needs by conducting an organizational audit to determine which diversity problems exist. The audit should consist of surveys, interviews, focus groups, or a combination of these.
2. One should learn all he/she can by exposing him/herself to different types of people, for this can reduce. Stereotyping
3. Strengthen top managements commitment level. White males control the resources and feel most of the fear; therefore, they should be informed of the importance of their involvement, for this can reduce if not eliminate their fear.
4. Develop new selection criteria that include personality characteristics. Promote cultural synergy by effectively integrating the better elements associated with multiple cultures.
5. Invest in communication training to reduce prejudice and develop
6. Choose solutions that balance strategy to achieve the companys goals.
7. Build diversity into your leadership team: You must plan for the development and promotion of your employees.
8. Look for ways to adjust your company to your workers. This means the company’s culture should be employee oriented. Instituting flexible management systems to accommodate diverse workers can do this. This includes job sharing, flextime, and separate reward and benefit systems. (“Managing Diversity”, 1999,Galagan, 1999;Nelton, 2000)
To test to know whether a program fits into managing diversity, valuing differences, or affirmative action programs, ask, ” Does it include white males?” The goal of managing diversity enhances the performance of all employees, not just the federally protected groups.(Managing Diversity”, l993)
Valuing diversity in people means recognizing, accepting, and supporting their differences. In addition, properly managing diversity means creating an environment that takes advantage of the different attributes of everyone, which is in the best interest of the company and the employee. The concept of managing diversity was developed as a result of the changing demographics of workforces, imperfections of Affirmative Action programs, and discrimination laws. Managing diversity involves consumption of all program and resources to building systems and a culture that unite different people in a common pursuit without undermining their diversity. It differs from solely using from Affirmative Action programs or other of its kind, because it creates an environment where all individuals can contribute to their maximum potential. Attaining support from top management is the most important implementing step in the process, which is necessary to ensure success. Additionally, it reduces the fears of the dominant group. Through the use of all valuing diversity, managing diversity and affirmative action companies create a qualified, diverse work force that appropriately reflects the demographics of its communities. Companies must remain committed because the programs are the means to our objective of creating a diverse work force.
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