Whether sensitivity seminars do in fact negatively impact diversity, albeit, needs further investigation.
In "Workplace diversity: A generational view," Dale E. Collins (2004), a course developer for MGH Institute of Health Professions, asserts that generational diversity constitutes one factor that fuels dynamics in education and in the workplace. Because individuals today remain in the workforce longer and other individuals change careers, society routinely sees changes in the workforce composition. During 2003, the Silent or Veteran generation workers, were ages 61 to 78. Today, according to Collins, these individuals may be working in their second or third career. Even though this particular generation contributes a small portion of the workforce, the Silent possesses years of experience, knowledge and wisdom to the workplace. "As a result of surviving the Great Depression, this generation has become discerning and cautious. Their ability to adapt to rapid change is limited; however, this reluctance provides younger coworkers a valuable perspective in patience" (Collins, Silent section, ¶ 1-2). This generation positively influences the workplace, however, as its productivity, job accident rate, as well as its ability to learn new skills along with its ability to remain active rival other generations.
The report, "Diversity' defined in less than a third of workplaces," (2008), notes that research indicates that despite the reported positive impact of diversity practices, diversity management continues to constitute a challenge. Respondents indicate that the field of diversity "is not well-defined or understood, focuses too much on compliance, and places too much emphasis on ethnicity and/or gender" ("Diversity' defined…," 2008, ¶ 10). Frank McCloskey, survey contributor and vice president of diversity at Georgia Power, asserts that "There is lack of discipline and understanding of what diversity means beyond race and gender or how success is being defined, or not being defined, by most corporate diversity and inclusion initiatives" ("Diversity' defined…," 2008, ¶ 11).
Positive Workplace Diversity Strategies
Birritteri (2005) asserts that along with public perception, the following list reflects the four factors that the top 50 Fortune companies for diversity have in common:
1. CEO commitment,
2. investment in human capital in terms of recruitment and retention,
3. corporate communications (both internal and external) and
4. supplier diversity. (Birritteri, 2005, ¶ 9)
Sadi Mehmood (2007), managing director of the Noble Kahn cultural awareness training centre in Nottingham, explores a number of diversity concerns in "Hints & tips: Sadi Mehmood gives some practical advice on diversity training issues in the modern workplace." The lack of understanding, along with the fear of different cultures and religions, particularly within the Asian communities fosters diverse problems in the contemporary multicultural society. Understanding how the individual behaves, as well as, what does and/or does not offend him/her enhances relations with both employees and customers and contributes to developing a more diverse dynamic workforce. Mehmood recommends the following strategies for organizations to consider to increase workplace diversity.
& #8230;Employers and staff alike need more confidence to talk to those from a different culture. The secret is to provide specialised training. Employers need to think again if they believe that diversity and equality is enough in today's multicultural markets.
See training as an investment. & #8230;Face-to-face training is the most effective training out there.
& #8230;Many people fear difference and are too afraid to communicate and work with people who are of a different ethnic origin, due to political correctness. This can lead to tension and misunderstandings that could end up in a courtroom. Ignorance can be solved by quality training that benefits all without the fear of political correctness.
& #8230;Be sensitive to 'culture shock'. You may want to put them on to a course to get them up to scratch on how we work, live and socialise.
& #8230;Having & #8230;internal training audited regularly by an outside company… [may] ensure that the training & #8230;[the organization provides] is adequate and covers the necessary issues.
Knowing who & #8230;[one is] speaking to is key to avoiding causing offence and risking potential discrimination claims. For example, [know how to] distinguish between Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. These three faith groups are the second-, third- and fourth-largest in the UK.
... Make sure all your staff have efficient religion-, culture- and belief-training.
Train staff at all levels, not just management. & #8230;Enhanced cultural knowledge can only improve customer service. (Mehmood, 2007, ¶ 3-10)
To achieve a positive level of diversity management, organizational leaders need a clear understanding of the way they define diversity, as well as what how the organization relates to the concept of being a diverse workforce. Lockwood (2005) asserts that within the context of workplace diversity, the primary purpose of diversity training is to "promote workplace harmony, learn about others' values, improve cross-cultural communication and develop leadership skills. Awareness training raises understanding of diversity concerns by uncovering hidden assumptions and biases, heightening sensitivity to diversity in the workplace and fostering individual and group sharing" (Lockwood, 2005, Training, ¶ 1). Lockwood also notes the following regarding diversity training:
Skill-based diversity training improves morale, productivity and creativity through effective intercultural communication. Leadership development, team building and mentoring programs are also examples of organizational training that promotes growth and collaboration. An overlooked area regarding retention is cross-cultural competence within the organization, often a missed opportunity to address minority retention concerns (Lockwood, 2005, Training, ¶ 1).
Penny Franklin (2007), University of Plymouth, focuses on the race equality agenda and stresses the significance of educating and supporting issues of equity and diversity in the workplace. In the article, "Race equality and health service management: The professional interface," Franklin asserts that even though addressing cultural awareness is needed, diversity training does not always strongly support interactions or changes in the managerial level power relationships. When members of staff respect the individual instead of focusing on his/her culture, however, this practice does work. As leaders value diversity, and lead by example in this area, positive changes will likely begin to emerge within the workplace.
"Diversity' defined in less than a third of workplaces" (2008) relates that an assessment of information from than 1,400 HR professionals and diversity practitioners to measure which diversity actions accomplish overt business found the following:
52% said that to a "large extent," diversity practices created a work environment or culture that allows everyone to contribute all that they can to the organization.
To that same extent, 49% said the practices achieved appropriate representation of racial and ethnic groups.
Similarly, 48% said that to a large extent, the practices enhanced the ability of people from different backgrounds to work together effectively. ("Diversity' defined…," 2008, ¶ 6-8).
Nancy Sutton Bell, Professor and Marvin Narz (2007), Associate Professor, both with the Stephens College of Business at the University of Montevallo, discuss generational diversity in the article, "Meeting the challenges of age diversity in the workplace." Bell and Narz assert that assessing the background and characteristics of various generations may enhance the understanding of the distinctive talents and challenges each person contributes to the workplace, as well as identifying long-range trends currently changing the culture of the workplace.
Figure I portrays a number of differences in generations that Bell and Narz (2007) note.
Figure 1: Characteristics of Different Generations (adapted from Bell & Narz, 2007, ¶ 2 -- 6).
Ideally, for a business to "get the job done," Cynthia Waller Vallario (2006) asserts, organizations have to develop and nurture relationships that respect the individual's mutual interests, while maintaining a culture of inclusion, demonstrated through workplace diversity. In the article, "Creating an environment for global diversity: Global diversity in the workplace is not just a human resources issue, but a business strategy that embraces many elements. Here's how 10 multinationals are successfully managing the process," Vallario stresses that the most successful firms do not perceive diversity and cultural differences as obstacles, but consider them to be tools with the potential to contribute to the organization's bottom line. As Hoffman and Stallworth (2008) stress, increased diversity in today's global world presents more choice and more experience, which consequently proves particularly pertinent where the option of ore perspectives may prove useful for the organization and/or the employee.
Global diversity in the workplace, according to Vallario, constitutes more than a human resources (HR) issue, is depicts a business strategy that combines "people skills and cultures that enable a range of viewpoints to challenge traditional thinking" (Vallario, ¶ 4). As businesses increasingly become global not only in the workplace, but also in the realm of suppliers and customers, this may simultaneously contribute to better business emerging from innovative connections between participants from diverse fields, who collaborate for their and the organization's best interest.
In regard to diversity, a strong business sense constitutes the key to determining what practices prove best for an organization, Montagu (2006) purports. "Embedding diversity means deciding what aspects of diversity are relevant, even critical, to achieving them" (Montagu, ¶9). Determinations may vary with and within the organization as businesses are in fact, diverse by definition. As…