We live in a world that has grown progressively smaller due to mass media, facility in world travel, and freely available information. Because of the easy connection, the workplace has developed increasingly diverse in age, gender, sex, religion, disability, cultural preference, and many other aspects. People no longer live and work within the limits of their geographical locations. At almost all position within any organization the specific employee is a part of a larger world economy that produces assets from the ends of the earth. Because of this, companies seek to take advantage on diversity to become more creative, original, and flexible in their business models.
Over the past years, organizations have realized a change in the demographic of their employee’s. Where once definite jobs were held by a definite type and group of people, today, at that same position, anyone from any ethnic background or gender could be probable to achieve the tasks assigned. This change has caused an important and beneficial change in the way leaders are expected to handle themselves and their charges within today’s working setting. Recognizing the ever evolving social norms while maintaining a balance of unbiased professionalism has become the primary challenge faced by today’s supervisor.
Where once we expected organization and task management to be top priorities, today’s workplace leaders must be held to an equally high expectation of social acceptance while maintaining an unbiased supposition of accountability. It is consider a difficult position between empathy (for the personal needs of the individual), and responsibility (for the business needs of the company). Finding individuals that can accomplish this is an integral part of the hiring process.
History – Civil Rights Act 1964
The 1964 Civil Rights Act made it illegal for organizations to engage in employment practices that discriminated against employees on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, and disability. According to the History Chanel article: “Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, segregation on the grounds of race, religion or national origin was banned at all places of public accommodation, including courthouses, parks, restaurants, theaters, sports arenas and hotels. No longer could blacks and other minorities be denied service simply based on the color of their skin.
The act also barred race, religious, national origin and gender discrimination by employers and labor unions, and created an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with the power to file lawsuits on behalf of aggrieved workers.
Additionally, the act forbade the use of federal funds for any discriminatory program, authorized the Office of Education (now the Department of Education) to assist with school desegregation, gave extra clout to the Commission on Civil Rights and prohibited the unequal application of voting requirements“.
Human Resource Perspective
As a human resource viewpoint, diversity in workplace is a recognizable source of creativity and innovation that can provide a basis for competitive advantages. Variety is the positive result of people in different racial, ethic, and cultural backgrounds working together. “The term DIVERSITY refers to the many factors that make people different. Diversity involves respecting people’s differences. When diversity is supported, everyone is allowed to maintain his/her individuality.
People are not forced to change how they live, speak, look, or think so as to be more like the majority. On the other hand, diversity is also a cause of misunderstanding, suspicion and conflict in the workplace that can result in absenteeism, poor quality, low morale and loss of competitiveness. Organizations looking for competitive advantage face a contradictory situation: If they embrace diversity, they risk workplace conflict, and if they avoid diversity, they risk loss of competitiveness.
The advantages and disadvantages associated with workforce diversity put organizations in a position of managing a paradoxical situation. Members of personnel with different backgrounds, skills and behaviors are dynamic for idea generation and for maintaining a creative work environment that would result in a high rate of successful innovations. From another point of view, diversity may also lead to conflicts and damage the consistency inside the teams.
Human Resource Goal
Managing innovation requires the ability to work with different people and implies encouraging personnel involvement and understanding the organization’s mission, vision and objectives. The human resource department has an important goal considering the recruitment and development of people coming from diverse setting in order to enable them to work together and to cooperate for a common objective. Creativity increases when people with different ways of solving difficult problems work together towards a common solution. Productivity increases exponentially when people of all cultures pull together towards a single inspiring goal. New attitudes are brought to the business table by people from diverse cultures.
Language skills are needed in today’s increasingly global economy and diverse workers often have this proficiency That helps understanding how the United States fits into the world picture. New processes can result when people with different ideas come together and collaborate strengthening long-term “value-drivers” which allow a company to be competitive generating short and medium-term opportunities to improve cash flows and competiveness. In addition, implementation of a workforce diversity policy is a form of investment in intangible assets, especially organizational and human capital and credible case for investment depends on four types of evidence of costs and benefits.
Human Resource Concerns
Considering the fast moving market and the strong challenge of the competition, the ability to react fast and to adapt to changes are very important for the organization’s success. Difficulty in changing the existing culture of the organization; and lack of internal expertise or experience is a big concern for HRM. Lack of understanding of the business benefits of a diverse workforce and difficulty in quantifying the benefit to sustain investment are serious obstacles. In addition there are legal restrictions on holding sensitive data and historic gaps in anti-discrimination legislation in cultural values.
Likewise, it is a concern for Human Resource to keep standards of ethical conduct or ethical codes along with the challenge process emphasizing fairness and openness in information to ensure people’s rights and integrity.
Human Resource Management Process
The way Human Resource Management can maintain an efficient atmosphere in the diverse workplace in order to stimulate creativity and achieve goals is through inclusion. Inclusion is the process and practice that involves working with diversity as a resource. In inclusive organizations, people of all identities and many styles can be fully themselves while also contributing to the larger collective, as valued and full members.
Overcome Cultural Barriers and be culturally competent
Cultural Competence is the ability to interact effectively with people from different cultures beyond the boundaries of their own cultural interpretations and biases. Culture – The shared values, traditions, norms, customs, art, history, folklore, and institutions of a group of people that are unified by race ethnicity, language, nationality, or religion. Competence – The ability to do something well or to a required standard.
- Determine whether a specific behavior or attribute is a requirement of the job.
- Identify whether or not you can reasonably accommodate the cultural difference.
- Determine how best to accommodate the cultural difference.
- Learn about other cultures.
- Ask employees for insights
Managing Multicultural Teams
A multi-cultural team has the potential to address various business issues. “Culturally, it’s a good thing because neighborhoods become multicultural and we get to understand each other a little better. “ – Clarence Boykin’s
Tips to remember and apply as a HR manager:
- One size does not fit all.
- Seek to understand and listen for the opportunity to build bridges.
- Embrace diversity as an asset, and get curious.
- Stop focusing on treating everyone the same.
- Connect, don’t correct.
- Resist gravitating toward members of similar backgrounds.
- Be open to discussing diversity.
- Choose people who demonstrate a capacity to adapt their behavior to people different from them.
- Stop focusing on diversity and start focusing on inclusion.
Promoting Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace
It is important to remember that hiring for diverse backgrounds or promoting diversity initiatives is just a first step. Diversity and inclusion go hand-in-hand, and for diversity practices to be successful, you must facilitate an inclusive work culture and take action at your work place such as:
- Examine your assumptions, prejudices and stereotypes.
- Explore different cultures.
- Show patience in communicating and understanding.
- Admit unfamiliarity of diverse customs along with a willingness to learn more about them.
- Show respect for ideas different from your own.
- Avoid stereotypical jokes/humor.
- See the humanity in every person.
A diverse workforce is a reflection of a changing world and marketplace. Diverse work groups bring high value to organizations. Respecting individual differences will benefit the workplace by creating a competitive edge and increasing work productivity. Workforce diversity represents both a challenge and an opportunity for business. A growing number of advanced organizations are realizing the need for valuing diversity in the workforce , so as to ensure strategic utilization of human resources for the accomplishment of strategic goals. The extent to which managers recognize diversity and its potential advantages and disadvantages defines an organization approach to managing the diversity.
No organization in this world of globalization would survive without workforce diversity. It is believed that organizations should put in place strategies to enhance workforce diversity. In terms of organizational learning, organizations are still stuck on the problem of getting people to value diversity and have not yet determine the ways to utilize and exploit it. It is the approach to diversity, not the diversity itself which determines the actual positive and negative outcomes. Finally, creating a diverse workforce takes time and even longer to reap the benefits. The management and leaders must not lose focus and interest in creating a diverse workforce due to the lack or no returns.