Essay Summary of Workforce Diversity
The revolution in communication technology and transportation has created a global mindset (Guthrie & Reed, 1991).New world powers such as China and India also make it necessary to have a global mindset that includes the necessary skills for successful communication across cultural and linguistic barriers.Thomas Friedman (2005) delineates the impact of globalization on intercultural communication.
Friedman argues that as intercultural complexity increases in the world, American society is also becoming more diverse.
Along with demographic changes internal to nations, health, environment, and world population trends create pressures for increased interdependency of economic, cultural, political, and intellectual institutions (Morey, 2000). Also related to the advancement of a global society, a dramatic change in demographic composition is occurring in the United States population. Although the data reveal that the U. S. opulation is more educated as a whole, disparities continue between racial and ethnic groups. The population grows rapidly; from 1990 to 2000, the population increased by 33 million people, and now exceeds 300 million people. While there is significant regional variation in the ethnic diversity of the population, the country is rapidly moving toward a pluralistic society, rather than one in which a single ethnic group makes up a significant majority of the population (Stockdale & Crosby, 2004).
One of the most popular, sensitive, and controversial topics in organizations today is the issue of managing a diverse workforce. Spurred on by the publication of Workforce 2000 (Johnston & Packer, 1987), a study that projected that the demographic composition of the American workforce in the year 2000 would be radically different, organizations have been dedicating substantial time, money, and energy to address the issue of individual and group differences and their subsequent effects in the workplace.
Workforce 2000, which was one of the earliest workforce diversity-related studies to be conducted, stated that by the year 2000, the number of minorities and women in the American workforce would rise dramatically and the percentage of white males in the workplace would decrease significantly. Based on United States Census data for 2000, 27% of the workforce are people of color, 47% are women, and 12% are people with disabilities, so it is clear that their projection would become correct. By 2020 it is projected that the workforce will be 68% White, 11% Black non-Hispanic, 14 % Hispanic and 6 % Asian non-Hispanic (United States Census, 2000).
Although the numbers and percentages caused much controversy and were heavily disputed, an important message was made clear: the face of the American workforce was changing. Organizations needed to address these changing demographics and to proactively identify methods for managing, valuing, and utilizing this workforce in order to maximize future organizational success. Fine (1996) noted that Workforce 2000 legitimated the study of cultural diversity in organizations by quantifying the degree to which the U. S. orkforce would increasingly comprise minorities and women. This study led many companies to review their own workforces and to assess their readiness to deal with the impending demographic changes. Prior to publication of Workforce 2000, equal employment opportunity had been debated since the 1960s. Through the research efforts of scholars in many different disciplines, including psychology, sociology, economics, management, and others, concepts were articulated to better understand and manage dynamics of workforce diversity (Stockdale & Crosby, 2004).
Cox and Blake (1991) noted that managing diversity would be on the agendas of organizational leaders throughout the 1990’s. Managing a diverse workforce versus managing a more homogeneous workforce represented a true paradigm shift for many organizations. Multicultural Organization In an increasingly diverse society, multicultural competencies become an essential foundation for working successfully with all segments. Many programs available for working with diversity are targeted to working with specific groups, and do not always address the multiple dimensions within a diverse society.
In order to effectively address these multiple dimensions, one must look at culture. Culture is “an integrated pattern of human behavior that includes thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values, and institutions of racial, ethnic, religious, or social group” (Sue et al. ,1998, p. 7). Cultures are not synonymous with particular races or ethnicities. Every group of people that comes together develops their unique culture (Sue et al. , 1998). The competencies described by Sue et al. (1998) include three different dimensions: 1) awareness of one’s own assumptions, values and biases; 2) understanding the worldview of the culturally different; and 3) developing appropriate intervention strategies and techniques (pp. 38-40). Sue et al. notes that all people are byproducts of their cultural conditioning, and institutionalized values that are reflective of larger society biases. Often there are different forms of racism and discrimination that exist, yet are difficult to detect because these forms are not as obvious as overt discrimination.
It may be even more difficult to get populations who unintentionally discriminate to be aware of this behavior and the harmful consequences because they do not wish to intentionally harm. The dimensions set by Sue et al. include beliefs and attitudes, knowledge, and skills providing a working framework by which people can overcome unintentional racism and offer more equitable services to populations different from the mainstream. Identity development may give some insight as to the different outcomes regarding increasing diversity and creating a multicultural environment.
Multicultural Organizational Development (MOD) originally utilized in business developed a theory to advance the potential of a diverse workforce. The principles of MOD seek to integrate the needs of a diverse workforce by instituting new policies and procedures, and structures that are multicultural. The objective of these new policies is to move the organization from a monocultural to a multicultural entity Cox (1994). Cox (1994) also outlined the desired end states of diverse organizations, referred to as the multicultural organization. The multicultural organization has the following six characteristics:
- Culture that fosters and values difference; 2. Pluralism as an acculturation process; 3. Full structural integration; 4. Full integration of the informal networks; 5. Absence of institutionalized cultural bias in human resource systems and practices; 6. A minimum of intergroup conflict due to the proactive management of diversity. Cox (1994) noted that these characteristics could be used as a vision for organizations to effectively manage diverse workforces. Diversity Diversity can be defined as, “a mix of people of different socially relevant group identities working or living together in a defined social system” (Cox & Beale, 1997, p. 3). The arguments for creating healthy diverse workplaces have their origins in both pragmatic and ethical frameworks. For much of corporate America, the motivation towards diversity is the “bottom line” production and sales (Cox, 1994). Ethically, there is also an obligation recognized by the U. S. Government to provide compensation for injustices inflicted upon minority groups due to years of discriminatory policies, which cultivated an environment that has been hostile for non-majority group members (i. e. anyone who is not white, heterosexual, and male).
Thus, it has not been uncommon to see government preference for contracted services to companies that actively seek to hire and promote minority groups. The concept of workforce diversity in organizations is relatively recent. Konrad (2003) said that workforce diversity became a management subfield only when members of underrepresented groups became contenders to power positions in organizations. Ragins (1995) said that theory on diversity in organizations can best be described as being in an early stage of theory construction.
Cox (2004) noted that while there is a need for more information about the effects of diversity in organizations, there has been little research performed and few publications in major management journals. Most diversity experts agree that workforce diversity was recognized as a critical human resources issue after the Workforce 2000 study in 1987. DeMeuse and Hostager (2001) mentioned that workforce diversity probably received more attention in the business world than any other topic in the 1990’s, but that the majority of the information was in the form of books, magazine articles, seminar materials, and training documents.
Cox and Blake (1991) developed one of the seminal works in the field by relating the need to manage cultural diversity to organizational competitiveness. They went beyond the notion of workforce diversity as an issue only purposeful for issues of social responsibility and tied it to competitive advantage for organizations in the areas of cost, resource acquisition, marketing, creativity, problem-solving, and organizational flexibility. Important in their paper was the notion that the failure to integrate a diverse workforce would translate into escalating cost for an organization.
Also, one of the key propositions in their research was the notion that if having a diverse workforce translated into having employees with different attitudes and perspectives, then increased team creativity and innovation should be a result. Cox and Blake (1991) also introduced five key components that would be necessary to transform traditional organizations into those that manage and value diversity: leadership, training, research, analysis and change of culture and human resource management systems, and follow-up.
They posited that by being able to capitalize on having a diverse workforce, organizations may gain competitive advantages in cost structures and maintaining the highest quality workforce. Cox (1991) helped introduce the notion of a multicultural organization, stating that the potential benefits of a diverse workforce would include better decision making, increased creativity and innovation, greater success in marketing toward certain communities, and a better distribution of economic opportunity.
He also noted that a diverse workforce could also increase costs through higher turnover, greater interpersonal conflict, and the potential for breakdowns in communication. Cox (1994) later introduced the notion of an organization’s diversity climate. This consists of (1) receptivity to diversity – employee perception of the salience of diversity and direction (+ or -) of their sentiments towards it; (2) receptivity to diversity management – level of support (active, neutral, or resistant); and (3) organizational action in terms of diversity management policy and planning.
Benefits of Workplace Diversity. Healthy workplace diversity can provide an organization with the tools to improve problem solving, enhance marketing, be more creative and flexible, and ultimately improve productivity and “the bottom line” (Bond & Pyle, 1998). While a company may recruit in order to create a climate of diversity, it can simultaneously open the door to truly hiring the best available talent in the global market instead of another “company man. ” Diversity promotes a multiplicity of viewpoints, thus creating the potential to generate more creative ideas and stimulate consideration of non-obvious alternatives (Cox, 1994).
Further, diverse groups bring a broader and richer base of experience. This dynamic tends to create a higher level of critical analysis and a lower probability of “group think” (Cox, 1994). For example, studies show that women tend to be more tolerant of ambiguity than men. As a result, they tend to excel in completing tasks that are cognitively complex and/or ambiguous. Individuals with bilingual capabilities are another group that demonstrates a great capacity for flexibility. Thus, workgroups that incorporate individuals with these characteristics are likely to demonstrate greater group cognitive flexibility (Cox, 1994).
With the minority population growing, organizations are finding the need to adapt products, advertising and services to appeal to diverse interests. Studies show that members of minority cultural groups are more likely to give patronage to representatives of their own cultural group (Cox, 1994). Thus, organizations find the need to have their workforce mirror, at least in part, their clientele. In the for-profit sector, it has been seen that the evolving demographics in the United States have had a significant impact on the manner in which products currently need to be marketed in order to maintain or increase market shares.
For example, Cox (1994) notes two examples of cosmetic companies, Avon and Maybelline, changing either their product or transferring the management of an otherwise unprofitable market of minorities, to people of color. Under different management these companies have adapted their products using shades that are more palatable to people of color and have reflected these changes in their advertisement. The results have been very positive and profitable for these companies in a previously unprofitable sector (Cox, 1994).
Cultural competency is seen to be key in surviving these changes in the face of the United States. Provided that a company or agency seeks to create a welcoming climate, the ultimate result of diversity in the workplace should be an increase in productivity and job satisfaction. Productivity is an integral outcome of job performance, while job performance appears to be affected by issues of social identity (Northcraft, et al. , 1995). In a healthy diverse setting, the social identity of diverse individuals is affirmed and valued.
When environmental conditions exist where individuals are affirmed and valued there is greater job satisfaction, higher morale and increased job performance. Further, the final outcome appears to be an increase in overall effectiveness of the organization (Jehn, Northcraft, Gregory, & Neale, 1999). Morrison (1992) illustrated the practical side of the workforce diversity movement to organizations. She outlined the benefits of diversity, such as keeping and gaining market share, cost savings, increased productivity, and better quality of management.
The need for cultural and linguistic competency is becoming increasingly crucial to the effective delivery of services especially in urban settings. Such competency is deemed essential in the assessment of needs, fostering of communication, and cultural framing of events or other environmental factors (Gardenswartz and Rowe, 1998). Challenges of Diversity Alongside the advantages, diversity can bring with it many challenges. Among them are conflicts, lack of cohesion, turnover and absenteeism, resistance to change, potential lowering of morale, and, as a result, lower productivity (Cox, 1994; Allison, 1999).
According to Cox (1994) there are two main contributors to conflict in the workplace due to diversity issues: 1) group boundaries and group differences are involved and 2) the conflict is directly related to cultural group identities. Examples of these conflicts can range from power issues to subtle misunderstandings. Cox identifies a number of studies that indicate when minority populations reach a certain percentage of the entire workforce within an agency, the white male majority perceives the rise in a threat to the existing power structure.
As a result, interpersonal dynamics in the work environment can become hostile and antagonistic (Cox, 1994). Intertwined with the issue of conflict is the concept of self-identity. Self-identity is arrived at by assessing what group or groups one associates with. Thus, in a work environment there are likely to be categorizations of the “in groups” and “out groups” (Northcraft et al. , 1995). An example of “in group” vs. “out group” memberships can be seen in the contrast between a white, male member of the Masons and a Latino, female member of the Ecuadorian Club.
The first belongs to three groups that are associated with potential positions of power and influence while the later is associated with three groups perceived as having little to no influence. The degree of difference between these two is seen as creating a potential for a tense dynamic in the work environment. Further, when “in group” status is valued over diversity and/or achieving the organization’s identified goal or mission, such tensions become elevated (Northcraft et al, 1995). Related to the issue of identity is the concept of cohesion.
Some theories on this issue conclude that individuals are attracted to other individuals like themselves (Allison, 1999; Cox, 1994). Such attraction has the potential to foster more cohesion in homogenous work groups. One theory on social comparison proposes that individuals tend to seek homogeneity either through creating it by choice or through social pressures to conform. When diversity threatens homogeneity in language and perspective, the result can be a weakening in the cohesiveness of the group, and subsequently in the performance of the group (Cox, 1994).
This breakdown in the cohesion can then lead to lower morale, which in turn can lead to high absenteeism and high turnover. Ultimately, these trends could lead to lower productivity and financial loss to a company (Cox, 1994). Finally, there is the issue of resistance to change. Resistance can be rooted in issues of prejudice, discrimination, inflexibility, insensitivity or a resistance to personal growth in addressing issues that typically would be considered taboo (Allison, 1999). Often it has been found, especially in settings with an established “old boys” network that there is an attitude of institutional inertia (Allison, 1999).
There is little recognition or commitment to change how an organization may operate. Given that the workforce demographics are changing and will continue to change, companies and agencies will be forced to adjust while creating a climate with the potential for divisions. One study suggests that “value diversity,” not “social diversity,” is the cause of such divisions (Jehn et al. , 1999). For example, a white male and African American female may have more similar values on issues of family-life and politics than the same white male with another white male.
This study indicates that it is the respect for another’s core values that allows individuals to work together while they share values that are key to the achievement of organizational goals. Morrison (1992), based on her research of 196 managers from 16 organizations, outlined the most critical barriers to advancement. The largest barrier was prejudice, with more than 12% of her sample citing it as the number one barrier to advancement opportunities for women and minorities.
She cited the need for setting goals for leadership development, making diversity a procedure, establishing accountability for diversity, and creating meaningful developmental opportunities as ways for organizations to embrace their workforce diversity. It should be anticipated that conflict will arise in diverse workforces, but the challenge is not in the avoidance of conflict but the management of it. Research indicates that it is through such management that creativity arises and members of an organization are challenged to consider other views and possible solutions to the same problems (Jehn et al. 1999). Current Practices in Workplace Diversity The organization’s philosophy, and practices are functions that guide an organization’s ability to achieve effective diversity. Often, organizations will have a specific mission statement regarding their commitment to diversity. This statement would be demonstrative of the organization’s philosophy on diversity. However, in order to be effective, this mission statement or philosophy must be practically reflected in the organization’s policies and practices regarding diversity, and sufficiently implemented by the organization.
In turn, the results of these practices may be seen in the organization’s employment of a more diverse staff. Further, studies indicate that if employees view these practices as being “fair,” other positive workplace behavioral attitudes such as trust in leadership, organizational commitment, cooperation, and acceptance of change are also likely to be present (Mollica, 2003). The paper will continue to focus more specifically on the relationship between workplace diversity and the organizational aspects of 1) philosophy, 2) practices, and 3) legislation. Diversity Philosophies
Currently there are three common models that guide efforts to promote workplace diversity; Affirmative Action, Valuing the Differences, and Managing Diversity (Gardenswartz & Rowe, 1994). These models differ in their underlying philosophy and how “effective diversity” is defined. “Affirmative Action” driven organizations emphasize achieving diversity through altering demographics. “Valuing the Differences” approaches achieving diversity through creating structures that favor expressing a multiplicity of views, while “Managing Diversity” approaches diversity by stressing issues related to the bottom line in sales or programming.
In general, organizations with diversity policies or philosophies will reflect at least one of these models in part or whole. Affirmative Action oriented approaches generally offer opportunities to historically disadvantaged groups in order to remedy past oppressions. This model has been viewed by some to be legally or contractually driven. Some companies may choose this model in order to avoid discrimination lawsuits or to obtain government contracts that may favor minority contractors (Gardenswartz & Rowe, 1994). Others use this model with the goal of shifting demographics within the organization.
This model has been highly effective in increasing the population of women and ethnic minority groups in the lower management and entry-level professional jobs (Cox, 1994). However, a side effect of such programs can also be to stereotype and devalue the expertise of women and people of color who are seen as being hired merely to fill a quota versus being the best or equally qualified for the job. This view has been rooted in an unsubstantiated assumption that reverse discrimination is the result of affirmative action.
According to Gardenswartz and Rowe (1998), the practices and philosophies that are reflective of an effective affirmative action program are: 1) There is a good faith effort to recruit, hire, train and promote qualified employees from under-represented groups; 2) There is diverse staff at all levels; 3) The composition of management staff reflects the composition of the work force in general; 4) Internal networking surfaces qualified candidates who are from diverse groups; 5) Mechanisms exist to identify and mentor diverse employees who show promotional potential; 6) Managers recognize it as their responsibility to make progress in building teams that reflect the composition of the work force; 7) There are few gripes about preferential treatment and reverse discrimination; 8) Diverse individuals who are promoted are accepted in their new positions by the rest of staff; 9) Managers’ pay raises are tied to achieving affirmative action goals. The Valuing Differences model strives to create an organizational climate where each individual’s perspective is valued. It is this diversity in perspective that defines the organization rather than the organization pressuring the individual to conform to an idealized membership personality. This model is ethically and morally driven. Its strengths are that it emphasizes the opening of minds and changes attitudes in order to change the culture of the organization and society through diversity.
The challenges to this model tend to be rooted in achieving or maintaining cohesion (Gardenswartz & Rowe, 1994). According to Gardenswartz and Rowe (1998, p. 493), the practices and philosophies that are reflective of an effective Valuing Differences program are: 1) Turnover among all groups is relatively proportionate; 2) Employees form friendships across racial, cultural, life-style, and gender lines; 3) Employees talk openly about differences in backgrounds, values, and needs; 4) No group in the organization is the target of ridicule, jokes, or slurs; 5) Individuals feel comfortable being themselves at work; 6) It would not be surprising to employees if the next CEO is not a Euro-American, able-bodied man.
In the past decade, an increasingly popular model in the for-profit sector has been Managing Diversity. The objective of this model is to increase productivity by getting the most out of employees, taking into account the changing global market and workforce. This model is pragmatically driven. The strengths of this model are that problem-solving techniques evolve and become more creative while maintaining a cohesive organizational climate through synergy. In effect, this model seeks to achieve diversity in problem solving techniques while maintaining core organizational values (Gardenswartz & Rowe, 1994). According to Gardenswartz and Rowe (1998, p. 93), the practices and philosophies that are reflective of an effective managing diversity program are: 1) Leave, absentee, and holiday policies are flexible enough to suit everyone; 2) Cultural conflicts are resolved and not allowed to fester/escalate; 3) Employees of all backgrounds feel free to give input and make requests to management;
4) Diverse employees take advantage of career enhancement opportunities; 5) Diverse teams work cooperatively and harmoniously; 6) Productivity of diverse teams is high; 7) Managers get commitment and cooperation from their diverse staffs; 8) Organizational procedures such as performance review and career development have been restructured to suit the diverse needs of employees; 9) There is diverse staff at all levels. When an organization defines its policy on diversity, it is generally careful to choose policies that may best integrate or support the overlying mission or goal of the organization. An organization is not likely to adopt or implement philosophies that would undermine whatever goals it has identified for itself, as being an indicator of the organization’s success.
It is important to view the above mentioned practices and philosophies from the three diversity models not as mutually exclusive or all encompassing, but perhaps as overlapping and broad, depending upon what may be supportive to an organization’s identified purpose and role for diversity as it meets its intended service goal. Thus, philosophies provide merely a frame for the organization’s actual practices and policies. Policies and Practices Policies are assumed to be demonstrative of the formal structures within an organization. Policies that specifically address issues of diversity as well as the policies covering general aspects of organizational life can have a profound impact upon how diversity is realized within the company or agency.
It is important to understand how such issues as recruitment, hiring, skill building, employee evaluation, promotions, accommodations, and diversity training are both structured and effectively implemented (Cox, 1994). Policies that address issues of diversity may specify how the agency or company will attract diverse staff perhaps through the use of work fairs, advertising or internal networking. Once diverse staff have been integrated within an agency or company, there may be programs that will continue to support the values consistent with diversity. There may be a formal training program for continued career development or involvement within a community to promote diversity issues. Diversity training is often used as an indicator of whether or not a company is committed to diversity.
However, there is a discrepancy on views as to whether or not such training should be mandatory or voluntary. Some would argue that forced participation is not authentic and thereby ineffectual, others would argue that though it is not ideal to mandate training, there is a need and benefit from such training in that it may sensitize a workforce that is perceived as “out of touch” with alternate viewpoints (Solomon, 2002). Another approach that fosters education of the workforce is the use of affinity groups. Such groups can vary from being task-oriented to being a means of formally arranging a dialoguing forum to percolate diversity issues (Bunton et al. , 2000).
Other formal policies that are equally important to supporting diversity are some of the general policies that address issues of day-to-day logistics to accommodate the needs of all employees such as flexible work schedules, childcare, or elder care (Solomon, 2002). Equally important are the internal methods for promoting or recognizing staff. While these policies do not address diversity directly, they reflect the company’s sense of fairness in treating employees equally (Kirby & Richard, 2000). According to Cox and Beale (1997), achieving diversity competency for organizations requires that an organization adopt organizational practices that promote; 1) awareness, 2) understanding and 3) action steps, in regards to specific organizational practices.
Further, it should be noted that the model presented by Cox and Beale assumes that competency does not cease at the point of taking action steps, but that there is a cyclical evolution towards competency. In other words, once action has been taken it should spur on further awareness and understanding to move toward further steps. The specific areas for these organizational diversity practices can be grouped into four categories including: 1) program development, 2) the organization’s written literature, 3) formal hiring and promotional practices that incorporate diversity competency, and 4) training or education for all staff to address diversity issues.
Federal Legislation The following list represents important federal legislation governing human resource management and Equal Employment Opportunity laws and movements (Sherman and Bohlander 1982). These laws began with the Civil Service Act in 1883 to mandate equal treatment and continue through 1991 with the Civil Rights Act in attempting to provide for the equal treatment of individuals. In 1883, the Civil Service Act established a merit system of employment in the federal government. This act was established to get rid of the spoils system where individuals were hired and promoted in the federal government based on merit rather than political affiliation.
In 1961, Executive Order 10925 establishing the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity was enveloped to ensure equal opportunity for all qualified persons without regard to race, creed, color, or national origin employed or seeking employment with the federal government. In 1963, the Equal Pay Act was passed. This act amended the Fair Labor Standards Act prohibiting wage differentials based on sex. This act prohibited employers from paying lower wages to women for the same work that was being performed by men. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, barred discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Executive Order 11246 was signed in 1965. This order required federal contractors to develop affirmative action programs for the employment of women and minorities regardless of the size of their contract or number of employees (Klingner and Nalbandian 1993).
In 1966 the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, barred discrimination against employment of persons forty to seventy years of age (later amended to forty years of age or older). In 1972, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act strengthened the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and provided for affirmative action programs for veterans. In 1978, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, prohibited discrimination against employment of pregnant women. In 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act, prohibited unlawful employment of aliens and unfair immigration-related employment practices. In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act, prohibited employers from discriminating against individuals with physical or mental handicaps or the chronically ill. In 1991, the Civil Rights Act amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
It allows for jury trials; compensatory damages; eases the burden of proof on the plaintiff; amends the Age Discrimination in Employment Act to require a right to sue letter; encourages alternative dispute resolutions; and it established a glass ceiling commission to study, prepare reports and make recommendations to eliminate artificial barriers to the advancement of women and minorities to management decision-making positions (Klingner and Nalbandian 1993). Workforce Diversity Initiatives One typical way by which American organizations are trying to better understand and manage their workforce diversity issues is by developing workforce diversity initiatives. Workforce diversity initiatives can be defined as specific activities, programs, policies, and any other formal processes or efforts designed for promoting organizational culture change related to diversity (Arredondo, 1996). The development of such initiatives demonstrates the organization’s recognition of individual and group differences and often symbolically acknowledges the importance of diversity to the organization.
A typical first step for organizations is to begin by providing diversity training for employees in order to provide awareness to the concepts and ideas of workforce diversity, as well as the organization’s views about and commitment for diversity (Flynn, 1998). According to Hanover and Cellar (1998), diversity training typically has three primary objectives: to increase awareness about diversity issues, to reduce biases and stereotypes that interfere with effective human resource management, and to change behaviors as required to more effectively manage a diverse workforce. Some major American organizations have also established internal diversity committees and have created high-level positions, such as a ‘Director for Workforce Diversity,’ to identify organizational issues and concerns around diversity and to subsequently develop plans of action.
According to a 1995 article in The Economist, 75 percent of the 50 largest companies in the United States already had diversity directors and managers. Workforce diversity initiatives are generally designed to capitalize on the benefits of having a diverse workforce, which includes the logic that a broad range of ideas and perspectives, backgrounds, and life experience leads to more synergy, efficiency, and effectiveness in meeting organizational objectives (Cox & Blake, 1991). They also note that diverse groups often have a broader and richer experience base from which to approach a problem than do more homogeneous groups. Therefore, the potential exists to improve problem solving and decision-making by utilizing a diverse group (Cox & Blake, 1991).
Diversity also creates, among other things, a need to improve individual as well as group effectiveness (McClelland, et al. , 1993), which forces organizations to examine their practices, policies, and procedures for overall efficiency. Cox and Blake (1991) mention that issues of cost, resource acquisition, marketing, creativity, problem solving, and organizational flexibility are all related to diversity management, as is social responsibility. Jayne and Dipboye (2004) noted that organizations devote resources for workforce diversity initiatives as it is good for the bottom line and a good business imperative. Wentling and Palma-Rivas (1998) conducted research on the status of diversity initiatives in selected multinational corporations.
They used Arredondo’s (1996) definition of workforce diversity initiatives, which, again, is specific activities, programs, policies, and any other formal processes or efforts designed for promoting organizational culture change related to diversity. They found that 88% of the 116 companies that they surveyed had at least 41 diversity-related initiatives, primarily in the areas of leadership and management, training and education, community relations, communication, performance and accountability, work-life balance, and career development. The Society of Human Resources Management (1998) conducted a similar study of Fortune 500 companies and found that 75% of the companies who responded had workforce diversity programs. Workforce diversity initiatives are typically linked together to form a workforce diversity management program.
According to Soni (2000), theoretically, a diversity management program is developed by an organization to (1) better integrate women and minorities in the workforce and ensure their fair and equitable treatment; (2) make organization members sensitive to cultural differences; (3) improve interpersonal relationships among various race and gender groups; and (4) develop attitudes, skills, and competencies in employees and managers to effectively work in a diverse workforce. Kormanik (1994) has a similar definition of diversity management program objectives, saying that they generally focus on three areas. Increasing workforce representation of underrepresented groups is the first area. Increasing employee awareness and sensitivity about workforce diversity is the second area. Developing an organization culture that supports change in general is the third area. Each of these foci has implications for planning specific diversity program initiatives.
And unlike affirmative action plans and programs, Richard and Kirby (1997) note that workforce diversity programs are voluntarily implemented by organizations to recognize that members of both majority and minority groups all contribute to the behavior norms, values, and policies of an organization. They also note that many of these programs have been implemented without adequate assessment of their impact on beliefs and opinions of beneficiaries. Morrison (1992) stated that while organizations can be well-intentioned in their diversity efforts, they can cost a great deal of time and money yet not create any significant or lasting change.
Jackson, Stone, and Alvarez (1993) say that the organizational literature offers almost no guidance for designing and evaluating workforce diversity initiatives. Kochan et al. 2003) looked at 20 large American companies and found that none had systematically evaluated the effects of their workforce diversity program. Reasons why included the failure to identify meaningful metrics and return on investment, the lack of data collection required for meaningful evaluation, fear that data may reveal discrimination or bias, and the lack of demand for definitive evidence for the effects of workforce diversity initiatives. Thus, while significant amounts of time, energy, and resources are being put toward workforce diversity initiatives in private and public sector organizations throughout the United States, there has been limited documentation on these programs by the organizations that are conducting these initiatives.
However, organizations continue to plan and implement these initiatives without fully understanding whether or not they have achieved their desired effects, or have achieved any effects at all. Conclusion Yet, it has only been recently that more attention has been given to al diversity in organizations. Since the landscape in the workplace has changed dramatically with more racially diverse employees and women joining the workforce, this causes more conflict that can become a catalyst for creativity. The traditional patriarchal and hierarchical structures that have been around for a long time will be challenged with a need for a more flexible organizational structure to meet the needs of a growing and non-traditional workforce.
Globalization and Organizational Structure and Culture Pressures of globalization continue to illuminate factors including competition, the impact of technology, increased customer expectations, and unparalleled dynamics in the workforce that mandate rethinking and redesign in organizational and structural patterns. Because of the dramatic demographic changes within the American population, there has been a shift in the public market as well as in the workforce (Cox, 1994). It is becoming increasingly crucial for organizations to adjust practices and policies in order to ensure that employee staffing remains stable and that the services offered meet the needs of the public. As more work is done across national boundaries the needs of whole communities have become more complicated, thus calling for cultural competency within the organizations that provide services to the community in order to understand and meet the needs of a diverse population.
The Workforce 2000 study galvanized the thinking for a new perspective on diversity in organizations. Although increased attention has been given to the issue of workforce diversity, the extent of the results of organizational efforts to manage their diverse workforces remains largely unanswered today. However, this study indicates that while there have been many publications on the practical aspects of workforce diversity, there has been very little empirical research conducted. This may be due to the high demand for consultants on workforce diversity, leaving few ‘experts’ available to focus on the research component. Access to organizations may be another issue.