?WORKPLACE DIVERSITY Introduction In modern times, diversity management has been brought to the forefront of organisational issues due to factors such as globalisation and the emerging cultural and individual differences that emerge as a result of this diverse world. The purpose of this paper will be to explore the topic of diversity as it relates to the workplace by discussing perspectives from union groups and HRM practitioners and to investigate the barriers to workplace diversity.
Through the discussion, the advantages of diversity will be discussed with an emphasis on the implications for the HR function of the organisation.
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Overview Workplace diversity relates to the presence of differences among members of the workforce (D’Netto & Sohal, 1999). By creating a diverse workforce organisations are able to tap the ideas, creativity, and potential contributions inherent in a diverse workforce (Aghazadeh, 2004). Diversity in the workplace includes culture, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, physical abilities, social class, age, socio-economic status, and religion (Sadri & Tran, 2002).
These individual characteristics shape an individual’s perception about their environment and how they communicate (Kramar, 1998). Organisations can approach diversity is three differing ways: affirmative action, valuing diversity and managing diversity. Affirmative action attempts to monitor and control diversity in an organisation and in doing so senior management can affect the hiring and promotion of individuals (Sadri & Tran, 2002. ) An organisation assumes new individuals or groups will adapt to the norms of the organisation, and will not resist due to fears of reverse discrimination (Sadri and Tran, 2002).
Valuing diversity can allow an organisation can focus of the benefits of the differences, therefore developing an environment where all individuals are valued and accepted (Sadri & Tran, 2002). Those members who feel valued to their organisation tend to be harder working, more involved and innovative (Agahazadeh, 2004). Valuing Diversity can affect employees’ attitudes positively, however resistance can be experienced due to a fear of change and individuals discomfort with differences (Sadri & Tran, 2002. ) Finally, managing diversity is when organisations build pecific skills and create policies which obtain the best values of each employee, which will create new ways of working together (Sadri & Tran, 2002). It will provide an opportunity for organisations to manage a workforce which emphasises both organisational and individual performance, whilst still acknowledging individual needs (Kramar, 1998). Although diversity has always existed in organisations, individuals tend to repress their diversity in order to conform to the norms of the organisation and fit into the stereotype of the typical employee (Kramar, 1998).
Mismanagement of diversity as a result of unfavourable treatment can inhibit employees working abilities and motivation, which can lead to a lowered job performance (Aghazadeh, 2004). If an environment works well for employees, diversity will work against the organisation, hence the lack of an enabling environment (Kramar, 1998). These fundamental components of workplace diversity can be further viewed through the varying perspectives of union groups, HRM professionals and organisations.
PERSPECTIVES AND RATIONALES ON WORKPLACE DIVERSITY From a union perspective Historically the role of unions concentrated mainly on the fight for higher wages, shorter hours and better working conditions. However in recent years a shift has occurred to fighting rights for a diverse workforce (Barrile & Cameron, 2004). Management aims to maximise the contribution of all staff to work towards organisational objectives through forming guiding teams for diversity, training to improve languages and celebrating success.
Unions however, implement diversity differently (Barrile & Cameron, 2004). A feminine approach to leadership has been undertaken to broaden a diverse representation. For instance, under the management of CEO Brian Schwartz, Ernst & Young Australia has doubled the number of female partners to ten per cent, made changes to a ‘blokey’ culture and introduced a women’s leadership forum, among other initiatives (Robbins, Bergmann, Coulter & Stagg, 2006). Women union leaders tie diversity in leadership to long-term union survival, articularly in light of the impact that diversity has on organising successes and increased visibility of unions to potential female members. Most of these leaders expressed a “sense of urgency” about the need to advance women and saw continuing barriers that prevented women from entering and remaining in top positions (Mellor et al. , 2003). To overcome such barriers implementations such as commitment to advancing women in the workforce and supporting internal structures to activate women have been undertaken by union’s worldwide (Melcher, Eichstedt, Eriksen, Clawson, 1992).
Unions have officially recognised caucuses or other groups that permit people of different colour, including women, to discuss issues of concern within their union as well as in the larger workplace and community (Mellor et al. , 2003). Unions have provided mentoring and leadership training programs. Efforts undertaken by unions to foster diversity have resulted visible changes at all levels of leadership. The remaining task is to make those changes bigger and more permanent.
The fact that there is more to do does not mean there is failure; it simply means reinforcing longstanding labour movement commitments to dignity, justice and equal opportunity for all working people (Melcher, Eichstedt, Eriksen, Clawson, 1992). Building on the rationale provided by different union groups, HR practitioners also recognise the importance of promoting a diverse workplace and recognise the impact on business goals. From an HRM perspective There are many HRM perspectives that relate to diversity management in organisations.
Most of these HRM perspectives lead towards the contention that a successful diversity management policy can lead to a more competitive, functional organisation. In light of the perspectives and rationales discussed in the HRM literature, there a range of implications for HR managers concerning diversity in the workplace. Management of diversity relates to equal employment opportunity, but effective diversity management goes beyond the basic requirements of an equal opportunity workplace (Barrile & Cameron, 2004). It is important for HR to determine an effective diversity management policy to be able to encourage a more iverse workplace. The most important job for senior HR managers is to consider how diversity will benefit the organisation and how to define its role in the context of the organisation (Kreitz, 2008). An organisation’s diversity policy should aim to establish an heterogeneous workforce that is able to work to its full capacity in an environment where no member, or for that matter group of members, have an advantage or disadvantage based on their individual differences (Torres & Bruxelles, 1992, as cited in D’Netto & Sohal, 1999).
In exercising their role, HR managers must constantly apply the principles of diversity in order to maximise and sustain the benefits of a diverse workforce. This means HR managers need to be able to link recruitment, selection, development and retention policies to the overall diversity policy of the organisation (Yakura, 1996). Furthermore, the aforementioned should be carried out with a direct link to the overall business goals, the various shifts in the labour market as well as the more contemporary effects of globalisation (Cunningham & Green, 2007).
There are three initiatives that an organisation should utilise to increase the efficiency of its diversity policy. Firstly, there is a need for HR, when recruiting, to increase the representation in the workplace of historically excluded groups (Conrad & Linnehan, 1995). Secondly, the diverse workforce needs to have the necessary empowerment to influence, or at least have input to organisational decision making (Cunningham & Green, 2007). More strategic implications for diversity management exist that recognise the emergence of Strategic Human Resource Management (SHRM).
Such implications include building diversity strategies into an overall future success plan, integrating diversity practices with senior management practices and encouraging career development opportunities for all employees (Cunningham & Green, 2007). Ultimately, managing diversity should promote competitive edge in the organisation by recruiting the most appropriate people for the job regardless of their perceived differences (D’Netto & Sohal, 1999). From an organisational perspective: ANZ and Westpac
ANZ Bank has responded to the common trends of the Australian workforce with programs to attract and retain a diverse environment that reflects their customer base (ANZ, 2008). An organisation is focused on creating an inclusive culture where all employees are able to contribute, as they believe that diversity and inclusion are essential for high business performance (ANZ, 2008). By managing diversity within the organisation, ANZ is provided with the best talent and a wide variety of experience to achieve success within a global workforce.
Similarly, Westpac is determined to enable a diverse workforce that reflects their customers (Westpac, 2008). Westpac has created a culture that understands values and utilises the differences within people, where people can achieve success without encountering bias or being harassed because of gender, race or disability (Westpac, 2008). Both organisations have made efforts to create a diverse working environment through varying HRM practices. For example, HRM within ANZ created the “My Difference” survey which surveyed more than 13, 500 employees (ANZ, 2008).
Within this survey, HR is able to develop a demographic snapshot of the workforce and gather feedback on how their employees perceive diversity and inclusion within the organisation. ANZ also founded the Diversity Council, which introduces policies and sponsors events to create a more inclusive culture (ANZ, 2008). The council attempts to increase awareness by supporting events like International Women’s’ Day and Disability Awareness Week (ANZ, 2008). HR in both organisations has implemented a range of human resource strategies.
Disability awareness, plans in both companies outline strategies to increase support and inclusion for customers and staff of the organisation, which include premises being wheelchair accessible (Westpac, 2008; ANZ, 2008). Westpac is also partnered with Disability Works Australia to recruit people with disability to remain a balanced environment (Westpac, 2008). Secondly, to promote age balance, mature age employees are offered flexible working conditions to suit their changing lifestyle (ANZ, 2008). Culturally both banks have planned to help indigenous Australians improve their wellbeing and money management skills.
ANZ celebrates cultural diversity by holding “Annual Cultural Week” (ANZ, 2008). Westpac reflects different cultures by employing members who are able to speak different languages to better understand the customers (Westpac, 2008). To promote flexibility, Westpac has different job designs for individuals’ circumstances, including versatile working hours, job sharing abilities, the ability to work from home, to have career breaks and paid parental leave and affordable childcare at work (Westpac, 2008). On a wider rganisational level, ANZ and Westpac both face a number of popular trends that continue to change the Australian workforce. These include the Australian population becoming increasingly more ethically diverse with 23% of the population born overseas (ANZ, 2008). The population is also ageing and is predicted that in 43 years around 25% of Australia’s population will be aged 65 year or older and the number of women in the workforce has increased from 40% in 1979 to 53% in 2004 (ANZ, 2008). Based upon the actions taken by ANZ and Westpac in this regard, organisations are recognising the benefits of a diverse workplace.
The strategies by both companies to increase the representation of women in the workforce, as well as increasing the representation of diverse others, corresponds with the views of both union and non-governmental organisations as well as the perspectives provided through the HRM literature. BARRIERS TO WORKPLACE DIVERSITY Diversity within an organisation can be difficult and expensive to accomplish. Substantial barriers exist in both overcoming laws related to workplace diversity, the actual process of implementing it within an organisation and also the internal characteristics of the individual.
The current legislation related to workplace diversity essentially creates an environment in which employers cannot recruit purely on the basis of a desired attribute. The main acts concerned are the Racial Discrimination Act (1975), the Sex Discrimination Act (1984), the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act (1984), the Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment) Act (1991), the Disability Discrimination Act (1991) and the Workplace Relations Act (1996) (Williams, 2001. These laws essentially shape a scenario for employees where if a desired attribute is sought after, the job must be made appealing to that particular group of people without impairing the opportunity for any other group to obtain the position under the requirements of the legislation. An example of this is Westpac’s initiative to entice more women into their workforce by implementing training programs relating to gender differences in communication and career progression (Westpac, 2008. ) However, once a company like Westpac overcomes these hurdles, there are still many practical ssues that need to be addressed on an organisational level. If a diversity program is unlikely to be profitable it will not be implemented (Bilimoria, Joy, & Liang, 2008). The monetary benefits (such as new customers, better culture and strategic advantage) involved in implementing such diversity need to outweigh the costs (gaining diversity at the expense of skill) involved in pursuing it. The HR department within the organisation has a difficult task in convincing senior management that a diversity program can be beneficial to the organisation (D’Netto & Sohal, 1999).
The argument often provided by senior management against workplace diversity is that it is disruptive to productivity and causes imbalance in the workplace (D’Netto & Sohal, 1999). As a result, the HR function need to be able to present the many advantages of diversity, and provide strong strategic reasoning to ensure that an effective diversity management is implemented. An organisation may also have barriers imbedded in their practices, culture and policies (Bilimoria, Joy, & Liang, 2008). Resolving these issues has benefits for both the legality of the operating of the organisation and the multiplicity of their workforce.
If senior management participated in only male orientated social events, such as attending the football, it may alienate women who generally may not participate in such events. Policy can also break both legality and potential for diversity by enforcing requirements such as 10 years continual service to an organisation in order to receive promotion into senior management. This continual service factor discriminates against women who are likely to have children, as it will exclude many from the opportunity to obtain the job.
However, it is the individual differences within each person that provide the biggest challenge to achieving diversity. Individual differences amongst people are a major hurdle to workplace diversity, as most people feel comfortable when working in homogeneous groups (Kreitz, 2008). The presence of diverse others places employees outside of their comfort zone and makes people resist embracing the presence of others. Furthermore, research by Kreitz (2008) shows that humans, and organisations as well, are in nature highly resistant to change, further complicating the successful implementation of diversity.
Another individual, and highly problematic, barrier to diversity is the language barrier that exists to culturally diverse others. This prevents, and in some cases discourages, the full integration of cultural differences within organisations (Kreitz, 2008). Diversity is clearly beneficial to the organisation. Managing diversity should involve utilising the cultural differences in people’s skills and embracing the diverse range of ideas and skills that exist in a diverse workplace in order to ultimately give the organisation a competitive edge.
Benefits to diversity clearly outweigh the costs and evident advantages to workplace diversity are supported by various union groups and HRM practitioners. In order to be successful, diversity must be implemented within a strict legal framework and overcome hurdles relating to the practices and policies of organisations, as well as internal, individual barriers. REFERENCES Aghazadeh, SM 2004, ‘Managing workforce diversity as an essential resource for improving organizational performance’, International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, vol. 3, no. 6, pp. 1-6 ANZ 2008, viewed 10 September , 2008, http://www. anz. com Australian Bureau of Statistics 2008, viewed 10 September, 2008, http://www. abs. gov. au Barrile, S & Cameron, T 2004, Business Management: Corporate management, people and change. Macmillan Education, Melbourne, VIC. Bilimoria, D, Joy, S, & Liang, X 2008, ‘Breaking barriers and creating inclusiveness: Lessons of organizational transformation to advance women faculty in academic science and engineering’, Human Resource Management, vol. 47, no. 3, pp. 423-441 Cox Jr. T & Blake, S 1991, ‘Managing cultural diversity: implications for organizational competitiveness’. Academy of Management Executive , vol. 5, no. 3,pp. 45-56. Cunningham, DD & Green, D 2007, ‘Diversity as a Competitive Strategy in the Workplace’ Journal of Practical Consulting, vol. 1, no. 2, pp 51-55. D’Netto, B & Sohal, A 1999, ‘Human resources practices and workforce diversity: an empirical assessment’, International Journal of Manpower, vol. 20, no. 8, pp. 530-547. Konrad, A & Linnehan, F 1995, ‘Formalized human resource management tructures: Coordinating equal opportunity or concealing organizational practices’, Academy of Management Journal, No. 38, pp 787 – 820. Kramar, R 1998, ‘Managing diversity: beyond affirmative action in Australia’, Women in Management Review, vol. 13, no. 4, pp. 1-11 Kreitz, PA 2008, ‘Best Practices for Managing Organisational Diversity’ The Journal of Academic Librarianship, vol. 34, no. 2, pp 101-120. Mellor, Steven, Kath, Lisa, Bulger, Carrie, 2003: Bilingualism: Relationships with Willingness to Participate in Union Activities, Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 25 (1): 95-109 Melcher, D. Eichstedt, J. , Eriksen, S. , Clawson, D. , (1992): Women’s Participation in Local Union Leadership: The Massachusetts Experience, Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 45, 267-280 Lepadatu, D &Thompson, T, 2008, viewed 15 September, 2008, http://www. allacademic. com//meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/0/2/2/8/6/pages22860/p22860-1. php Robbins, S, Bergman, R, Stagg, I and Coutler, M 2006, Management, 4th edn, Pearsons Education Australia, NSW. Sadri, G & Tran, H 2002, ‘Managing your diverse workforce through improved communication’, Journal of Management Development, vol. 21, no. , pp. 227-237 Westpac, 2008, viewed 10 September, 2008, http://www. westpac. com. au Westpac. (2008). Diversity and women in management. Viewed 21 September, 2008, http://www. westpac. com. au/Internet/Publish. nsf/content/WICREMCS+Diversity+and+women+in+management Williams, H. (2001). Guidelines on Workplace Diversity. Viewed September 20, 2008,http://www. apsc. gov. au/publications01/diversityguidelines. pdf Yakura, E 1996, ‘EEO law and managing diversity’, in E Kossek & S Lobel (ed. ), Managing Diversity: Human Resource Strategies for Transforming the Workplace, pp 25 – 30