"The benefits of diversity cannot be achieved with isolated interventions. To the contrary, a complete organizational culture change is required in order to promote appreciation of individual differences… diversity is a multifaceted reality…" (Martin-Alcazar, et al., 2012)
The need for diversity in the workplace has been well established in the literature, but the need for managers and executives to build a culture based on diversity is still on the drawing boards for many organizations. Learning the how, why and when of diversity in the workplace is the next big step for companies, in particular those organizations competing in the global marketplace. Diversity in the workplace must be more than numbers and demographics, according to the literature in this paper. It is a moral imperative and in addition it should be an intelligent, insightful and practical business policy.
Diversity is not a new concept in the workforce, but diversity has been receiving a great deal of attention due to the growing immigrant population in the United States and due to an awakening by human resource professionals vis-a-vis the need for fairness and justice in places of employment. This paper delves into and critiques the existing literature on the basic question of whether or not managers and employees truly understand the importance of diversity in the workplace.
An International Perspective of HR Management and Diversity
An article in the peer-reviewed journal, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, is an appropriate first scholarly source to present because it reviews the major issues associated with diversity management, and posits that inequality in the workplace is still rampant. Hence, it helps answer the question -- do managers and employees fully grasp the value of diversity? The piece also covers the objectives and reports -- unfortunately -- that "…inequality and discrimination still widely exist. The suggestion by the authors is that inequality and discrimination are still a problem because HRM has focused "…mainly on compliance with equal employment opportunity (EEO) and affirmative action (AA) legislation" (Shen, et al., 2009, 235). Hence, less attention has been paid to "valuing, developing and making use of diversity" (Shen, 235).
This paper was published in 2009, and at that time the authors assert that there was "very limited literature" that examines precisely how diversity is handled through human resource management (Shen, 235). The authors review the existing literature on diversity and present a "conceptual framework" which they believe will be of benefit to other organizations' HRM components. In their review, Shen and colleagues assert that a "large number" of corporations are not willing to hire ethnic minorities or females -- especially when it comes to openings in high-level positions within companies (236). Some of those same companies go through the motions of diversity training, but those activities do not provide opportunities within top management structures or in the overall diversity of the workforce, Shen continues (236).
That having been pointed out, on the other hand, research shows there is a "wide recognition" of the value added to a workplace with diversity is welcomed; empirical research shows evidence that companies that have put in place effective "…diversity management stand to benefit through bottom line returns" (Shen, 236). In other words, if embracing diversity is actually profitable, an alert reader would wonder why more companies don't engage in diversity programs.
Moreover, Shen references McLeod, Lobel and Cox (1996) in presenting several benefits from diversity inclusion, including the following positives related to the existence of genuine diversity in the workforce: a) brainstorming sessions are more productive and solution-based; b) there is a greater sense of cooperative behavior; c) organizational efficiency is raised to a higher level; d) the chances for profitability are greater; e) organizational success is assured when diversity is a reality because diversity can "…enable access to a changing marketplace by mirroring increasing diverse markets" (Shen, 236).
All that said, just hiring workers from diverse ethnicities and nationalities won't necessarily produce the results mentioned in the paragraph above, Shen warns. That is where competent diversity management comes into play, which "…hinges on strategic thinking and people-centered policies" (Shen, 236). In the conclusion, Shen insists that companies should not embrace diversity just because of legal compliance issues; rather, diversity management should be a priority for HRM practices for "all organizations" because it is the right thing to do and because it improves companies in many aspects -- including the bottom line.
The Bottom Line's Linkage to Diversity Management
Speaking of the bottom line, an article in Forbes points out that diversity indeed is the "key to growth" in today's global marketplace (Llopis, 2011). Diversity isn't about numbers and demographics, Llopis declares; diversity is about "how an organization treats its people authentically down to the roots of its business model" (1).
Because many corporate leaders are still paying "lip service to diversity" -- and they aren't really living it -- they are missing out on growth and moreover, they are apt to "tarnish their brand" (Llopis, 1). Diversity isn't just about data and numbers, as the author explains in myriad ways throughout his narrative; it is about "responding" to the needs of workers and consumers in a "holistic way" (2). And it isn't just about responding to the "…changing face of America," it's about responding to the "…mindset of the global marketplace" (Llopis, 2).
The dearth of "cultural intelligence" in society and in business is having a damaging effect on the American economy, according to Kathy Hannan, managing partner in the "Diversity & Corporate Responsibility" component of KPMG LLP (Llopis, 3). Hannan points out how her company, KPMG integrated the concept of diversity with corporate responsibility. "Today, KPMG views its sustainability strategy across four areas: Ethics, Citizenship, Environmental and Diversity (talent sustainability)" (Llopis, 4). In no instance can a "homogeneous talent pool be innovative," Hannon insists; "Diversity is essential."
Human Resources at the University of California -- Berkeley
The value of diversity in the workplace is clearly understood by managers at the University of California at Berkeley. Since it has hundreds of employees, UC Berkeley has created its own "Guiding Principles" for workforce diversity, and those principles echo what Shen and colleagues pointed out in the previous article. To wit, managing diversity offers a "…distinct advantage in an era when flexibility and creativity are keys to competitiveness" (UC Berkeley, 2009). Heterogeneous groups "have been shown to produce better solutions to problems," and further, a "higher level of critical analysis" can be accomplished when the workforce is diverse (UC Berkeley).
The UC Berkeley "Concepts & Definitions" section points out that while the "golden rule" says "…treat others as you would want to be treated." But in diverse workforces what seems like respect to one person isn't the same for another person. So that golden rule might be edited a bit and it should read "…treat others as they want to be treated" (UC Berkeley). Also, as to fairness in the diverse workforce, does fairness mean "treating everyone the same"? Not necessarily, the authors of this material assert.
For example, when important information is transmitted to all employees, it would seem fair to send a staff memo to everyone. But for an employee has a reading proficiency issue (perhaps this person has English as a second language and struggles a bit but does his job well notwithstanding his lack of English proficiency), it would not be fair. Hence, quality a HR manager would be alert to that, and knowing how important inclusiveness is to the success of the organization, would make sure the memo is understood by all employees (UC Berkeley).
Applied Anthropology & Diversity Management
How do the fields of diversity and anthropology intersect? Professor Hector N. Qirko writes in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Business Anthropology that the goals of diversity management within a business-related human resources component are compatible with an anthropological approach to diversity. Qirko explains that well beyond the issues of social justice, civil rights laws, and fairness, managing diversity in the workplace of today entails understanding how to represent, "…in one social system…people with distinctly different group affiliations of cultural significance" (Cox, 1993) (Qirko, 2012, 108).
The business reality that Qirko embraces in recommending a more anthropological approach to diversity management is that in today's workforce "…only one in every seven new employees [are] the standard-issue white male" (108). Hence, there are many "dimensions, including race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, educational level, geographic origin, sexual orientation," among others, in the workplace. These dimensions may not be affiliated with "societal identity groups" at all and may in fact be "transitory in nature" (Qirko, 108).
So, given the many obvious differences that are represented in the workplace, what is the most practical application of human resource management to be used? Are workshops that focus on "understanding differences" appropriate for a diverse work culture? Qirko backs away from recommending seminars and workshops with that theme. Instead, the professor suggests that managing diversity -- which in a way is like embracing affirmative action and gaining a full understanding different…