Posted in Human Resources Articles, Total Reads: 1756
, Published on 15 December 2013
Diversity: the art of thinking independently together - Malcolm Forbes
We literally live and breathe in a world where there are different set of people with diverse culture and background. At times we are not bothered about people from different backgrounds and only focus on people from cultures similar to that as of ours, people similar to our taste and likings or even from our side of the country, but if there is a situation where we need to interact with this diverse crowd on a regular basis and our future depends on that interaction then would it cause any difference to us or towards our actions? To highlight on this point we can consider the case of diversity prevalent at workplace. The kind of impact it has on employees and also on organizations. Going forward we can also look at why diversity has become an important part of the organizations and if this diversity present at work place is really a hindrance to organizations or a value addition? Can organizations create an environment where people from diverse backgrounds can work efficiently for a longer period of time?
What actually is this Diversity and why all of a sudden it has become such an important of Organizations?
A group can be termed as a diverse group when it consists of people from different ethnic backgrounds, cultures, age groups, educational backgrounds, nationalities, religions etc. If we look a bit deeper it is not just about different cultures but may also represent people who stand for different ideologies, different perspectives or for that matter different approaches as well. While working in a diverse group it is essential for group members to understand that each individual is different and thus must try to respect their point of view and must work accordingly rather than just criticizing them and forcing them to change their mind set, because it is this different thinking and ideology that brings uniqueness and different ideas to the group.
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Some reasons why diversity has become such an important part of organizations –
Diversity is much more than just a multicultural issue. It has moved away from a “nice-to-have”, to a “must-have” for companies as a strategic business imperative.
Expansion of businesses and rise of education levels have made people come out of their comfort zones especially in terms of geographic regions for work purpose.
Diversity enables organizations with diverse viewpoints that can lead to higher levels of creativity and innovation. Also markets have become diverse these days and thus organizations with a diverse workforce may enable them to better serve needs of their consumers.
It is also a sign of respect and recognition for organizations that they manage and operate with a diverse work force.
Rules and regulations have also come up which prevent discrimination at workplace, although not many are there in India but some other nations like USA and UK have comprehensive and stringent laws for discrimination at work place.
Also with respect to the entrepreneurs starting their businesses in different regions, they employ the local work force, thus bringing the point of diversity into the picture.
We live in a society and a society can prosper only when every section of the society grows and thus diversity can also be seen as bringing different sections of the society together in order to achieve the common goal of growth.
Allot of organizations these days focus on Corporate Social Responsibility, where in organizations extend an helping hand forward to weaker sections of society, this can also be seen as part of diversity, Since here not only the weaker sections of society are being benefited by getting to know the corporate style of working but even the corporates get an idea of how does weaker sections think and gives an opportunity to identify hidden talents among them.
Globalization has also contributed allot in terms of diversity, allot of organizations have started outsourcing businesses to other countries, many organizations acquire businesses in other countries etc., all these lead to a diverse crowd in organizations.
Need for Diversity Management in Organizations
Now as seen so far, diversity has become an integral part of organizations and it is almost impossible for organizations to build their future strategies without looking at pros and cons of this. Change can only be brought by the top management as they are the ones who decide upon what kind of culture organization will follow and how organizations are being perceived by people both inside and outside the organization, hence top management must look at the whole thing of diversity with allot of importance.
Implications of diversity management at work place
If mangers can manage the people from diverse backgrounds at work place properly then it can help the organizations improve their efficiency, since there would be better coordination amongst people, wastage of time would be less and also would create a cost advantage for them, because if the organizations do not manage the diverse workforce well then it may increase the cost from turnover, higher absenteeism and lack of productivity.
McLeod and Lobel (1992) stated that bicultural individuals are more flexible in their thinking, hence an organization with bicultural management is more likely to survive competition and tough times and thus have long term sustainability.
Poor management can also highlight the concept of organizational injustice, managers who are more biased towards people from their cultures especially in terms of rewards and recognition may lead to dissatisfaction amongst other employees and may also increase the attrition rate within the organizations. If we look in the IT sector one of the biggest reason of high attrition rate is that employees are not satisfied with their managers, since the manager was unable to understand the needs of its team members and could not motivate them efficiently.
If top management is unable to handle the diverse crowd in their workplace in an efficient manner then needless to say that it will lead to conflicts within the organization but another major issue which can happen due to this is of stereotyping error. People who have had a bad experience with a particular set of group may generalize it to be a problem with the entire ethnic group and can act as very big hindrance in the progress of the society in the long run.
An organization which has a diverse employee crowd and it can provide a satisfactory and enjoyable experience to them then that organization can be like an attractive spot for employees around the globe, people from various cultures may be attracted towards that organization and would want to work with them, thus it provides that organization with more options of having top class employees. It can also lead to creation of good image of the organization in the eyes of its clients.
How to create and environment conducive for diversity
Special training must be provided to managers regarding cultural sensitivity and all the managers must be fully aware about the cultural values of the regions in which they are operating and also about the cultures of all the employees working in their teams and also in the organization. Strict actions to be taken against managers who do not adhere to this, because top management can set the rules but actually it is in the hands of managers to implement the rules and make sure it is being followed by all in their teams.
Organizations must celebrate the cultural festivals or significant days, this would not only motivate the employees but give them a feel that management actually gives importance to them and to their culture. For this management can create cultural societies or groups that would actually organize these events and should make sure that every employee of organization participates in them as it is a feel good factor for people when they see their subordinates who are from different cultures participating in their cultural events.
Management should take strict action against anyone who participates in cultural discrimination.
Despite existence of varied different cultures, management must make sure that there exists a common culture in the organization, so that it can at as a uniting factor for people from diverse backgrounds.
Organizations can organize events, where in employees would be required to form teams which would vary in terms of age, culture, sex, work profile, projects. A team consisting of such members will give a new exposure to all of them and will promote coordination amongst them since they would be working for a common goal – “Victory”.
This article has been authored by Shrey Kohli from Goa Institute of Management
Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner, Riding the Waves of Culture, Nicholas Brealey Publishing London, Second Edition.
Susan L Kirby, Impact of Marketing Work-Place Diversity on Employee Job Involvement and Organizational Commitment.
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