HRM's Emerging Role as Cultural essay

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Give profile to people in the organization who are high performers and who also use the policies to create a view that success and work-life balance can go hand in hand. Organize some social functions at times suitable for children as well as adults and specifically invite the employees' family members. Introduce awards for managers or supervisors nominated by employees for having provided an environment where both employees' work productivity as well as their personal needs are addressed and enhanced. Organize award ceremonies for those employees who are playing an important role in changing the workplace culture. Finally, allow people to have pictures or other personal objects in their work area (Workplace culture, 2009).

Developing and valuing a workplace culture does not happen overnight and requires commitment from both employers and employees. It is important to build consensus for culture change from the top down as well as the bottom up. Education about the importance of work-life balance, the benefits provided by work-life balance policies and the role of workplace culture is necessary to convince managers and front-line employees of the importance of a supportive 'work-life balance' culture (Workplace culture, 2009).

Organizational culture consists of shared beliefs and values established by leaders and then communicated and reinforced through various methods, ultimately shaping employee perceptions, behaviors and understanding. Simply, a company's structure and design can be viewed as its body, and its culture as its soul (Neal et. al., 2008).

Because industries and situations vary significantly, it would be difficult and risky to propose a one-size-fits-all culture template that meets the needs of all organizations. Nonetheless, research does propose that if an organization's culture is to improve its overall performance and effectiveness, that culture must be strong and must provide a strategic competitive advantage. In addition, its beliefs and values must be widely shared and firmly upheld (Neal et. al., 2008)

An organization that develops and maintains a strong organizational culture may realize benefits such as enhanced mutual trust and cooperation, fewer disagreements and more efficient decision-making processes, an informal control mechanism, facilitation of open communication, a strong sense of identification, and a shared understanding.

Finally, regardless of whether supporting evidence exists to establish a definitive link between culture and effectiveness, valuing different viewpoints and styles as well as developing concrete ways to facilitate organizational learning from differences can prove to maximize organizational structure, procedures and processes (Neal et.al., 2008, p. 34).

Diversity Training

There has always been a tremendous amount of controversy over the term "diversity training" and just how effective it is. For that matter, there is also much debate over the word "diversity" and what it really means. Not all, by far, are in favor of diversity training. As a matter of fact, TIME magazine came out with a significant article a couple years ago that described a study which proved diversity training did not work at all. More on that later. Of course, there have been studies which say just the opposite and praise the effectivity of sensitizing people to the cultural and ethnic differences between them.

Many companies hold training sessions regularly to ensure employees are up to speed in this area of the work lives. It has become essential to prove the fact that they are much attuned to diversity and have programs to prevent any racial, sexual, cultural, or ethnic harassment.

Critical Measures, a company that specializes in diversity training defines diversity this way:

"diversity includes, but goes well beyond, race and gender. To us, diversity includes age and generational differences, disability, religion, language, national origin, culture and cultural norms, marital status, sexual orientation, union and non-union, differences in personality style and many other characteristics. In short, diversity is any difference that can make a difference at work" (Our approach to diversity training, n.d., para.1)

The debate is, "does diversity training make us more, or less, sensitive to diversity?"

Does keeping it "on the front burner" make the situation better or worse? When we start including marital status, differences in personality, union and non-union, in mandatory diversity training in the workplace, have we gone too far? Or not far enough? Is HRM overstepping their bounds? Are they bringing people together to understand cultural differences -- or forcing eveyone's beliefs on everyone else? Experts and studies show evidence both ways.

The training company, Critical Measures, will tell us that, "New research shows that most human bias is unconscious. Teaching people about the nature of bias helps them move beyond guilt to understanding. We discuss how personal, cultural and organizational biases can affect recruitment, hiring and retention decisions/practices."

TIME magazine, on the other hand reported the results of a major decades-long study concerning diversity training and said this:

"A groundbreaking new study by three sociologists shows that diversity training has little to no effect on the racial and gender mix of a company's top ranks. Frank Dobbin of Harvard, Alexandra Kalev of the University of California, Berkeley, and Erin Kelly of the University of Minnesota sifted through decades of federal employment statistics provided by companies.

Their analysis found no real change in the number of women and minority managers after companies began diversity training. That's right -- none."

(Hutchens, 2007, para.2)

They are not alone by any means. Social psychologists have many theories to explain why diversity training doesn't work as intended. Studies show that any training generates a backlash and that mandatory diversity training in particular may even activate a bias (Hutchens, 2007).

So what does work? The study's findings in this area were striking too: at companies that assigned a person or committee to oversee diversity, ensuring direct accountability for results, the number of minorities and women climbed 10% in the years following the appointment. Mentorships worked too, particularly for black women, increasing their numbers in management 23.5%. Most effective is the combination of all these strategies, says Dobbin (Hutchens, 2007).

Facilitating Change Due to Diversity in the Workplace

Managers and supervisors have a unique challenge. These leaders have to not only accept change and manage change themselves, but they are most often charged with the task of helping others to cope with change. Change has become so prevalent, in fact, that in order to be successful, leaders not only have to accept change, they must drive change. So says the University of Notre Dame, Office of Human Resources.

Diversity will continue to place increasing demands on and present formidable challenges for businesses, educational institutions, health care systems, the criminal justice system, and other governmental entities, and the individuals who work within these systems. The demands and challenges center on change (Soto, 1999).

Diversity will demand that we rethink and revise our list of the competencies needed to work effectively at a professional level within an environment of increasing racial, ethnic and cultural diversity (Soto, 1999).

Currently, and more so in the future, professionals, and Human Resources Management must be culturally competent, that is, they must possess a wide repertoire of skills and a broad cultural knowledge base to interpret and understand the world views, communication styles, and unique ways of "thinking, being and doing" of others. Further, professionals will be required to use this new knowledge, skills, and abilities to accurately assess needs and select the best strategies and techniques to manage the dynamics of difference within their changing organizations (Soto, 1999).

There are literally hundreds of questions we should be asking ourselves, on an ongoing basis. Our individual and collective answers to these questions will give us insights as to our own "cultural baggage" and will also serve as an indication of how prepared we are to coexist in a world increasingly marked by diversity and change, work effectively across cultures, and serve as social-change agents. The journal, Black Issues in Higher Education, (Vol. 15, No. 20, 11/26/98), offered a list of questions. Following is just a small sample:

Have you established clear expectations and goals in the areas of diversity and affirmative action for your area of responsibility?

Do you actively and enthusiastically participate in diversity programs and initiatives on a frequent and ongoing basis?

Do you actively solicit input and support for diversity-related initiatives from "higher ups" (e.g., your supervisor, the board of directors/trustees) in your organization?

Do you "walk the talk" of diversity, multiculturalism, and affirmative action, or are your efforts more symbolic, token, and geared toward public relations?

Accommodation and adaptation within organizations to the expected changes in the diversity equation will be successful to the extent institutional decision-makers assume personal and professional responsibility for facilitating change and exerting leadership in their spheres of authority and influence (Soto, 1999)

HRM Future Role

Might the current times accord an opportunity to the HR profession to change direction?

The collapse of financial markets has brought to the attention of the public and policy makers the risks of the relentless drive to maximize profit, or "the bottom line," at all costs;…[continue]

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