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- 28-04-2010 -
Diversity in enterprise and its importance to managers
As a result of globalization (Ollapaly & Bhatnagar, 2009) and other social and
demographic changes (Konrad, 2006) the workforce is more diverse than ever and
there is indication that this diversity will grow in the future (O’Leary & Weathington,
2006). Interest in diversity and diversity management is growing in the academic
communities and in business (O’Leary & Weathington, 2006).
Diversity is defined as “any attribute that people use to tell themselves that another
person is different” (O’Leary & Weathington, 2006: p.2)
The Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants and Society of Management
Accounts of Canada defines the diverse workforce (1996:307) as “a workforce
made…distinct by the presence of many religions, cultures or skin colours, both
sexes (in non-stereo-typical roles), differing sexual orientation varying styles of
behaviour, differing capabilities, and usually, unlike backgrounds.” (Ollapaly &
Managers and other organizational members experience and have to manage each
day a variety of interpersonal differences (Konrad, 2006). Existing research point
out that diversity can have both positive and negative effect on how workers and
other organizational members interact and perform (O’Leary & Weathington, 2006).
A diverse workforce enables organizations to meet the needs of a large and diverse
customer base, multiplied perspectives, leads to better decisions, more innovative
ideas, quality improvement, increased productivity, a better performance and
business growth (Ollapaly & Bhatnagar, 2009). But, at the same time, studies also
suggest that diversity can negatively effects groups and organizations through
increased interpersonal conflict, reduced workgroup and team cohesiveness, lower
levels of commitment and less interpersonal communication (O’Leary &
“In a world where diverse peoples are coming into increasing contact both at home
and in the workplace” (O’Leary & Weathington, 2006), organizations cannot
eliminate diversity because of its negative impact on the ledger balance.
Due to changes in business, demographic changes (Ollapaly & Bhatnagar, 2009) of
workforce and legal pressure to combat different forms of inequality (Öbziling &
Tatli, 2008), more and more organizations adopt diversity management
Diversity management can be defined as a management philosophy that seeks to
recognize and value heterogeneity in organizations (Öbziling & Tatli, 2008: p.2).
“Diversity management is a voluntary corporate approach to dealing with increasing
demographic diversity in the workplace. (Ng &Burke 2005:.1196)” (Ollapaly &
Bhatnagar, 2009: p.455).
Diversity is a hard issue for managers and they should expect that diversity frontier
would move forward (Konrad, 2006). Managing diversity successfully requires a
long term commitment (Konrad, 2006) and the allocation of resources. Diversity
managers occupy an important place in the process of managing diversity due to
their professed role in the design and implementation of diversity management
policies and programmes (Öbziling & Tatli, 2008).
As mentioned before changes in business are one of the reasons for which
organizations adopt a diversity management approach. Nowadays, business trends
toward globalization, meaning that business activities span countries and
continents. Due to the development of international cross enterprise relationships
such as, acquisitions, joint ventures, strategic business alliances and partnerships,
workers interact closely with global partners (Crossan & Olivera, 2006). The
present business environment demands that many employees interact frequently
across diversity. (Konrad, 2006)
But organizations deal with both global and national demographic changes. Key
demographic trends led to the necessity for companies to adopt some best
practices in order to manage diverse workforce effectively (Konrad, 2006). The
main key demographic trends are:
• In the industrialized world women are participating in the paid labour force at
historically high rates (Eurostat, 2004; Statistic Canada, 2003; U.S. Census
Bureau, 2004). Also, more and more women continue working after having
children. (Konrad, 2006: p.1). Providing with flexible work schedule, the
possibility to work at home and providing an onsite child care centre is
positively related with job satisfaction for both, families or single women with
children (Konrad, 2006).
• As a result of immigration, racial and minority ethnic population in
industrialized countries is growing. According to Eurostat (2006), in 2004
about 25 millions of immigrants lived in Europe, about 5,5% of the entire
population of Europe. Immigration also affects countries, like Canada, which
very opened to immigration. Some organizations’ best practices regarding
immigrants are: offer them language courses, recognizing foreign
credentials and work experience, providing workshops and cultural training.
• Religion is increasingly affecting the work place (Konrad, 2006). In 2000
North American Courts were increasingly recognizing the rights of minorities
in the work place (Cash, Gray, &Rood, 2000). In the industrialized countries
the problem increases due to immigration and the relation that in many
cases is given between religion and terrorism. The most common religious
accommodation requests are: schedule changes, dress, desire to
evangelize, post religious pictures or pray on the job. Employers must
provide these accommodations unless doing so could damage the business
(HR Focus, 2004, October). (Konrad, 2006).
• Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) ask for equal opportunities
in the work place (Konrad, 2006). In addition of its protection against
discrimination, IBM focuses on five rules (Turner 2004, December 20):
create a climate that allows LGBT to express their sexual orientation, deal
directly with inappropriate comments and behaviour, use inclusive language
(e.g. “partner” when uncertain, don’t assume everyone is straight-will be
wrong six percent of eight and help others to learn (Konrad, 2006: p.174).
• Similarly people with disabilities request for work opportunities.
Organizations are now, in many countries, required by law to give work
opportunities, to provide reasonable accommodation and remove barriers,
allowing people with disabilities to work. Managers must ensure that job
description doesn’t limit the method of doing the job. It is indicated to
provide health benefits and assistive technology. (Konrad, 2006)
• In the industrialized countries, the population is aging faster that the total
population growth. That means that workers remain active in the labour
force for a longer period of time. As a result two and three generations are
working together and must interact across generational differences in
believes, attitudes, values and behaviour (Kyles, 2005; Loughlin &Bargling,
2001; Yang & Guy, 2006). It is important for managers to know how to
address age bias at the workplace, allow them to ease out through phased
retirement, portable jobs and part-time jobs. (Konrad, 2006)
In the workplace people differ in their demographics, such as gender, age, race,
disability status and appearance. But people also bring in the organization different set
of abilities, skills, qualifications, achievements, their social and educational background
(Konrad, 2006). Usually, in organizations individuals are identified by precise aspects
of diversity, although within a group each person is unique (Osborne & Cramer, 2005,
Managers must be trained and plan in order to can deal with this demographic changes
in the workforce and customers.
Managing diversity implies the creation of a just workplace and some legislation
requires it, such as; Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Employment
equality directive of the European Union, the United Kingdom’s Sex Discrimination Act
of 1975 and similar legislation (O’Leary & Weathington, 2006). There is a need to
“conform to the basis rules of the society, both those embodied in law and those
embodied in ethical custom” (O’Leary & Weathington, 2006, p.2).
To create a just workplace means that managers must ensure that organizational
decisions are made through a rational and transparent process, that abilities and
achievements are rewarded, employees in organization are treated with respect and
dignity and are provided with reasonable explanations for the though decisions that are
made (Konrad, 2006).
Achieving a multicultural organization is a long term goal for organizations.
Organizations worldwide, in their attempt to introduce a diversity management have
faced problem, as stereotypes are deeply rooted in one’s culture and there are
resistance to change (Ollapaly & Bhatnagar, 2009).To achieve this goal, managers will
deal with psychological and organizational barriers that must be overcome. They also
have to put in practice processes that provide employees with facilities and flexibility to
bring their entire set of identities to work (Konrad, 2006).
Managers have to manage properly the recruitment, the selection and training of
minority employees (O’Leary & Weathington, 2006). Diversity management involves
systems for recruitment, selection, training and development, career progression and
retention. And to properly manage diversity, managers must change the traditional
human resource management system. The human resource managers must identify
the positions where the internal work force is less diverse, investigate how the staffing
process is implemented for those positions and identify the stages of selection (Konrad,
At the core of diversity management in organization are issues regarding fairness and
equal opportunities. To achieve performance, an environment of justice must be
created in organizations. (O’Leary & Weathington, 2006) And to create this
environment the organizational culture must change, which is a long process and
values cannot be change either quickly or directly. The factors that managers can
manipulate directly are: leadership, strategy and human resource systems. (Konrad,
Managers must care about diversity and communicate that they care articulately,
sincerely and often. Also, managers at all level must be aligned with top managers’
commitment with diversity and the creation of an environment of justice. Mangers must
be provided with tools, knowledge and resources to manage diversity. (Konrad, 2006)
Human resources practices and systems must be change in order to facilitate the flow
of diverse candidates through the all organization’s career system in an environment of
justice. (Konrad, 2006)
Diversity must be aligned with the strategy of organization. Leaders must determine
how workforce diversity increases the organization’s ability to achieve its strategy and
the goals must be communicated often to all employees. Managers need to develop
skills to motivate a diverse set of workers in order to achieve the best performance and
must learn to value new ideas. They also need group process facilitation skills to
ensure that divergent views and ideas are heard and processed. (Konrad, 2006)
Nowadays diversity is reality and it creates new challenges to creating an inclusive and
diverse work environment. In an increasingly complex and dynamic business
environment it is critical to success to increase diversity and diversity training in
organizations (O’Leary & Weathington, 2006). By giving an important role to diversity
management in the organization’s strategy, diversity can become an important source
of competitive advantage (Ollapaly & Bhatnagar, 2009).
Öbzilgin, M.F & Tatli, A., (2008), Global Diversity Management. An Evidence-Based
Approach. New York: Palgrave Macmillan
O’Leary, B.J. & Wheathinhton, B.L., (2006), ‘Beyond the Business Case for
Diversity in Organizations’, Springer Science & Business Media B.V.
Ollapaly, A. & Bhatnagar, J., (2009, Jan.), ‘The Holistic Approach to Diversity
Management: HR Implications’, The Indian Journal of Industrial Relations, Vol. 44,
No. 3. p. 454-472.
Konrad, A.M., (2006), ‘Leveraging Workplace Diversity in Organizations’,
Organization Management Journal. 2006 Vol. 3, No. 3, 164-189 Linking Theory &
Practice: EAM White Papers Series.
Osborne, C.H. & Cramer, V. M, (2005, Nov.), ‘Fueling High Performance Through
Diversity’, Chief Learning Officer. MediaTec Publishing, Inc. p.22.