Managing in an Inclusive Environment – Diversity
Managing in an inclusive environment
Diversity – “the otherness or those human qualities that are different from our own and outside the groups to which we belong, yet present in other individuals and groups” (http://hrweb.berkeley.edu/guide/diversity.htm) has become a trend especially within large corporations. Still, despite being in fashion, an inclusive environment has both advantages and disadvantages.
One of the main benefits refers to the positive image that an organization gets through promoting a diverse workforce. Thus, by encouraging people of different race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and so forth to find a job within a corporation on the basis of their professional competency, the respective firm appears to be open to alternatives, and, implicitly, will be desired by potential employees. This way, the corporation will have the privilege of choosing its personnel from a valuable labor pool comprising elitist individuals who are eager to make their talent, skills, and intelligence work for a company which respects their values and particularities. Consequently, the organization will attract and retain promising employees while reducing time and money allotted to recruitment and turnover costs, at the same time (Price, Gozu, Kern, Powe, Wand, Golden, Cooper, 2005).
Another major advantage of diversity is the capability of timely adapting to the organizational environment which is becoming increasingly complex and dynamic, nowadays. Therefore, flexibility is an essential feature to a company wishing to survive in the , a feature that can be also induced through a diverse workforce. Thus, if a company has heterogeneous personnel, this may help in terms of identifying new customers and markets as each employee knows the particularities of the environment he/she belongs to (http://www.workplacelaw.net/display.php?resource_id=8292&keywords).Let’s take for example, the case of a corporation operating in the food industry which provides products that contain beef. If the company decides to sell its merchandise on the Indian market without knowing that, in this country, the cow is considered a sacred animal, its initiative will be a huge debacle. Undoubtedly, any company carries a market research before launching its product but this means spending time and money. Therefore, if the respective corporation includes employees belonging to the Indian culture, it can easily consult them in order to find out if a certain product or service will be successfully embraced by his/her compatriots. Moreover, due to knowing the characteristics of their cultural background, the respective employees may suggest other types of goods that would fit the Indian market (e.g. food based on rice, vegetables etc.).
On the other hand, surveys have emphasized that diverse personnel has an increased ability to provide solutions due to a higher creativity, but also a higher ability to be critical when analyzing a certain issue (http://hrweb.berkeley.edu/guide/diversity.htm).This means that when employees feel at ease with each other and are interested in the specific contribution of other colleagues having a different background, they are stimulated to overcome stereotypes, mentalities, and other barriers hindering open communication. Consequently, they find it easier to come up with innovative ideas.
In addition to all these, by employing a diverse workforce, a company may enhance its interaction with suppliers or customers belonging to the same groups as employees. For instance, if we consider the case of a private clinic, we may find that patients of a certain race or ethnic origin feel more comfortable when being attended by nurses or doctors having similar features (Price, Gozu, Kern, Powe, Wand, Golden, Cooper, 2005).
Yet, several drawbacks may be found when managing inclusive environments.
On one hand, if diversity is not appropriately backed up by management, this could result in serious tension at the workplace. Furthermore, such a tense climate will determine a decrease in productivity, major losses and high turnover costs. The company also risks losing some of its best specialists and this will heavily impact the quality of products and services, and, implicitly, the corporation’s competitiveness on the market.
On the other hand, even if tension doesn’t arise at the workplace, there are some backstage aspects which make different individuals feel undesirable. In other words, employees strive to act in an inclusive manner when they are at work, but when living this place, they go back to their mentalities and stereotypes. This case may refer to physicians claiming that they become invisible to their colleagues when taking off white coats or to foreign students who, despite being invited to attend courses in a foreign university, are denied access to informal groups (Price, Gozu, Kern, Powe, Wand, Golden, Cooper, 2005).
2) in order to successfully promote diversity, a company should consider four major areas.
First of all, it should increase the employees and managers’ awareness of their behavior by where participants are encouraged to talk and learn about behaving and communicating in a diverse work environment (Price, Gozu, Kern, Powe, Wand, Golden, Cooper, 2005).
Secondly, leadership should make a permanent commitment to diversity. This means that building an inclusive environment doesn’t stop after recruiting workforce (Price, Gozu, Kern, Powe, Wand, Golden, Cooper, 2005). On the contrary, managers should ensure a cohesive climate among heterogeneous employees by supporting different activities suggested by workers (e.g. , participation in career fairs, volunteering etc.) and by celebrating the identity of each individual (for example, the HR manager could take part in gay parades, Black History Month events, or workshops addressing to disabled people in order to convince employees that his interest is real and sincere – Piturro, 2007).
In these terms, Cendant Corporation (the New York-based company employing almost 90,000 people and providing travel and real-estate services) is an example. The firm has decided to resort to WorkplaceDiversity.com for recruiting a valuable diverse workforce and has developed partnerships with the National Black MBA Association, National Association of Hispanic MBAs, and National Association of Black Accountants. Thus, as Samuel Ojofeitimi, the manager of strategic staffing, states the company has transformed diversity into one of the main features that the organizational culture boasts: “We know our competitive strength is in the value we create through people, so building awareness of the to corporate success is imperative in everything we do. Right now, our goal is to see and feel positive growth in the way we embrace differences across our entire company” (Human Resource Management International Digest, 2003).
Thirdly, not only employees should be diverse. Managers should have a heterogeneous structure, too. Thus, they will teach subordinates how to handle diversity through their own example which will reiterate the organization’s commitment to maintaining an inclusive environment (Price, Gozu, Kern, Powe, Wand, Golden, Cooper, 2005).
Fourthly, the organization should increase the number of staff identifying with customers, suppliers or people whose interests are defended by the respective company or institution (Price, Gozu, Kern, Powe, Wand, Golden, Cooper, 2005).
For example, Julie Dolan (2004) reminds of the Civil Service Reform Act in 1978 which compelled the federal government to create equal employment opportunities, aiming at establishing a “federal service reflective of the nation’s diversity.” As a result, the Senior Executive Service (SES) encompasses both males and females having similar responsibilities. Moreover, women consider themselves more influential than men emphasizing that they have been given the opportunity to prove their professionalism.
3) Despite being in vogue, diversity continues to represent a delicate issue as many organizations ignore it or perceive it as a major threat to a harmonious environment. Those which take the chance and implement it often cease to be interested in this problem after recruiting the diverse personnel needed. Thus, they subscribe to a trend without knowing why. Obviously, the major difficulty they encounter is managing the heterogeneous employees. Therefore, managers should take part in specialized trainings teaching them what the advantages of such policy are and what should be done in order to successfully promote it.
Secondly, being given this tendency towards diversity and the law which often endorse it (e.g. In U.K.), organizations are tempted to use positive discrimination for corresponding to contemporary requirements. This implies hiring disadvantaged applicants regardless of their professional competency. For instance, last year, UK’s Gloucestershire Police and Avon and Somerset police confessed to have rejected white men for hiring women and ethnic minorities in order to meet Government requirements (http://www.workplacelaw.net/display.php?resource_id=8292&keywords).This is an extremely negative phenomenon as it succeeds in increasing the gap among different groups. Therefore, when encouraging such a strategy, authorities should pinpoint the rationale behind it and should organize conferences and workshops debating this issue.
Piturro, Marlene. 2007. Recruiting and Managing a Diverse Workforce. http://www.vault.com/nr/newsmain.jsp?nr_page=3&ch_id=402&article_id=19018&listelement=3&cat_id=1102 (Accessed March 8, 2007).
Price Eboni, Gozu Aysegul, Kern David, Powe Neil, Wand Gary, Golden Sherita, and Cooper Lisa. 2005. The Role of Cultural Diversity Climate in Recruitment, Promotion, and Retention of Faculty in Academic Medicine. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1490155#N0x914e898.0x9306d20 (Accessed March 8, 2007).
Businesses doubt the benefits of an ethnically diverse workforce. 2007. http://www.workplacelaw.net/display.php?resource_id=8292&keywords (Accessed March 8, 2007).
Cendant embraces diversity as a corporate way of life: Company aims to achieve a workforce that reflects its customers and markets. 2003. Human Resource Management International Digest 11: 12-15.
Chapter 12: Managing diversity in the Workplace. 2006. http://hrweb.berkeley.edu/guide/diversity.htm (Accessed March 8, 2007).
Dolan, Julie. 2004. Gender Equity: Illusion or Reality for Women in the Federal Executive Service? Public Administration Review 64, 299-310.
Sadri, Golnaz, Tran, Hoa. 2002. Managing your diverse workforce through improved communication.The Journal of Management Development 21: 227-238.
Sudhoff Newsome, Mollie. 2004. American Bankers Association. ABA Banking Journal 96: 59-62.