In the modern business world employees expect more and have more rights than ever. To accompany this, employees are seen as core contributors to an organization. The workplace has changed from one where employees blindly follow the guidelines of the company to complete tasks, to one where employees are central to the organization. Employees are also more educated than ever before.
In recent decades, issues like employee empowerment, collaboration, teamwork, self-managed teams and cooperation have all become important. Each of these issues have the idea of giving more and getting more at their basis. In Ideas that will shape the future of management practice (Bohl 1996, 8), human resources is described as being the way of the future, "We will see a more mature articulation of the importance of people as a firm's only sustainable competitive advantage." The change is described as giving high reward for high performance with the focus on a partnership. Other management trends also show the same focus. Three of these worth looking at are total quality management (TQM), the balanced scorecard, and best practice, all of which have been recent popular management ideas.
Cherkasky (1992, 23) describes the TQM approach as:
Involving everyone in the company, from the boardroom to the mailroom, in a daily search for incremental improvements. Everyone is trained to identify and fix problems, to set performance standards and measure results, and to focus the company's strategic vision on the needs of its customers."
Clearly, this approach has the employees of the company as central to it.
The balanced scorecard was first described by Kaplan as a set of measures that gives an overall picture of an organization, "the balanced scorecard is like the dials in an airplane cockpit: it gives managers complex information at a glance" (Kaplan & Norton 1992, 73). Rather than just measuring financial characteristics, it extends to covering other key areas. Kaplan and Norton (1992, 76) divide the scorecard into four different perspectives: financial perspective; internal business perspective; customer perspective; and innovation and learning perspective. The important thing is that both the internal business perspective and the innovation and learning perspective are based on the employees of the business. Again this shows that the employees are becoming a major focus.
Finally, it is worth looking at best practice. A report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology titled Ten years of business excellence for America (1999), looks at the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award as a representation of what makes a company the best. Seven categories make up the criteria for the award, with one of these being human resource focus. Again, this shows that the employees of an organization are a major consideration.
The next consideration is what it means for an organization that employees expect more as well as expect to give more. The major result is that organizations can no longer create a workplace and expect employees to adapt to it. Instead, they have to create the right environment for employees.
This is true because of the business environment and also because of the legal environment. Organizations have to create inclusive workplaces where sexual harassment, cultural biases and other forms of inequality do not exist. The remainder of the report will look at these specific components that make up an inclusive workplace, namely gender and cultural equality. Firstly, these issues will be looked at in detail. It will then be considered how an organization can create such an environment for employees.
Findings and Results
Cultural Equality multicultural organization is one with employees from different backgrounds and with different attitudes, beliefs and abilities. A successful organization needs to recognize the diversity and provide an environment that ensures that every employee is valued for what they bring to the organization.
The reality is that organizations are not in a position to be biased against different cultures. This is a legal necessity based on equal opportunity and discrimination laws. However, looking at cultural equality as something necessary because of the legal ramifications fails to recognize the benefits of cultural diversity. Looking at the benefits for an organization is a better way of looking at the issue.
Firstly, as business becomes more international, organizations need to consider other countries and cultures. This could be to serve customers in other countries, to purchase supplies from other countries or to set up operations in other countries. A multicultural workforce means that employees are available that may represent the other culture. One article argues that cultural barriers are a major reason that companies do not pursue opportunities in other countries. The author argues that business and social networks that operate across national borders can overcome these barriers (Rauch 2001, 1187). Having employees of different cultural backgrounds is an effective way of building these social and business networks. Employees from different cultural backgrounds have an understanding of the other culture. This understanding can be used to allow the organization to move into new international markets.
Another trend in business involves a focus on relationship building. The shift to relationship marketing is described saying, "A shift is clearly taking place from marketing to anonymous masses of customer, to developing and managing relationships with more or less well-known or at least somehow identified customers" (Groonroos 1994, 22). The important thing is that these relationships are based on individuals within the company effectively communicating with individuals outside of the company. Having a multicultural workforce contributes to this by developing the communication skills of all employees and their ability to understand others. The multicultural workplace has a focus on respecting differences. Employees learn to understand and appreciate different cultures and develop the skills necessary for bridging cultural gaps. These skills learnt within the internal environment can then be applied to the external environment. The end result is an organization that has the ability to understand and develop relationships with a wide range of diverse groups.
A culturally diverse organization also has improved flexibility. In any organization there is a need for many different tasks to be carried out. Having a diverse workforce means that there is more likely to be the right person for any task. Having a diverse workforce also increases flexibility as the organization has more options for reorganizing as needs change, than if the organization had all similar staff. The diversity also allows for individual employees to recognize their own diverse skills. This creates a workplace where every employee appreciates what they and others have to offer. The end result is a workplace with a broad skill level, where every employee is motivated into contributing their own set of skills. This wide skill level gives the workplace a flexibility that can be a major advantage.
Individual differences are also useful in creating changes and creating an innovative workforce. Putting a range of different people together is one way to create innovative solutions that a group of similar people would not be capable of. To illustrate how diversity encourages creativity consider the situation where a problem needs solving. If a group of individuals of similar characteristics are asked to solve the problem, every individual is likely to contribute similar ideas. However, if a diverse group of people are asked to solve the problem, a range of ideas will be contributed. Putting these ideas together results in a wider range of options and combining these ideas often results in new and creative solutions being developed. The fact that so many diverse ideas are present tends to force people to question their own thinking and come up with new possibilities themselves. This same process applies to many aspects within the organization. The more diverse perspectives are present, the more innovative and creative the environment becomes.
Overall then, a culturally diverse workplace has many benefits. The most obvious one is the benefits in being able to overcome cultural barriers. In addition to this, a culturally diverse workplace gives all employees the skills to communicate with any individual regardless of individual differences, increases the flexibility of the organization and enhances creativity within the organization. All of these benefits are reasons why cultural diversity can be a major source of competitive advantage for an organization. This means that cultural diversity is not only a good thing for the organization operating internationally, cultural diversity is of benefit to all organizations.
Clearly then, an environment based on cultural diversity is not something an organization should implement just to meet the laws, though this is also a consideration. An environment based on cultural diversity should be implemented for the benefit of the organization.
Gender equality is about creating an environment where both sexes are treated equally and have equal opportunity. Gender and cultural differences are generally treated the same, both being part of equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws. EEO laws focus on discrimination, where discrimination is defined as, "The hiring or promoting of applicants based on criteria that are not job relevant" (Daft 1997, 417). This applies to discrimination based on race, gender or other factors…