DIVERSITY IN THE WORKFORCE
Category : Diversity Management
Diversity in the Workforce
Recognizing the diversity of the workforce is a value expected of today’s managers. This in part springs from the process of globalization. Top companies all over the world are composed of ethnic and racial make up in their workforce. They are realizing the importance of creating a workforce as a broad and diversified as the customers they have. The globalization of diverse populations requires the intercultural dialogue from the top management to manage diverse workforce in all areas of the business. However, empirical studies show that heterogeneity in the workforce may also lead to poor performance and inefficiency. Aside from this, there is the tendency among organizations to hire and retain the same employees. This natural tendency drives out the concept of diversity. Various conflicts also arise from the diversity of workforce within the organization.
Diversity in the Work Environment
Diversity has received an increased attention in the study of organizations. The definitions of diversity ranges from narrow to very broad conceptualizations. Narrow definitions emphasize the issues of racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, ableism and other forms of discrimination at the individual, group and system level (, 1999, ). Thus, diversity is the group of people with different identities within the same social system.
Workforce diversity refers to individual human differences. In the organizational context, these are differences which can be used to develop and promote the practices of the organization. This definition refers to individual and group differences that comprised distinct social identities. For some , managing diversity means managing the difficult employee- the physically challenged, open gays and lesbians or immigrants for example (, ). For workers with physical disabilities, work takes an increased meaning. Such individuals are viewed as being incapable employees when emphasis is put on physical abilities. Indeed, some employers believed that individuals with disabilities are less than normal. Such employers are likely to recall negative stereotypes of physically disabled people and as a result, expect less of their own workers with such disabilities (, 1994, ). Indeed, there are other factors than physical prowess for the performance of most jobs.
Such form of workplace discrimination has paved the way for the promotion of diversity. In most companies, for instance, diversity is incorporated to the corporate value within the mission and values statement of the company. They implement policies on ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation (, 2005, ). Embracing diversity as a business focus and corporate value is thus becoming the trend among many companies.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Organizational demography research focused on the causes and consequences of the composition and distribution of specific demographic attributes of employees in an organization. It offers a direct and extensive research on the specific effects of diversity on work outcomes and performance. Demographic heterogeneity potentially has positive and negative effects on work outcomes. On one hand, heterogeneity (compared to homogeneity) reduces intragroup cohesiveness, lowers member satisfaction (at least from members of the majority group) and increases turn over. On the other hand, it also increases creativity, the quality of decision making and innovation (, 1999, ).
The diversity in group identifications may lead to difficulties in relations between the people of different group identities. The ability of people to work together in teams composed of members from different group identities may become detrimental to the work environment (, 1999, ). While groups have become central to organizations they also have their intrinsic problems of coordination, motivation and conflict management. Although the work force is becoming diverse on a number of dimensions, the similarity-interaction theory suggest that people still prefer similarity in their interactions (, 1999, ).
The theory of selection and socialization also promotes similarities in values and demographics as the basis for maintaining effective working environments. Even so, empirical research on the effects of work diversity revealed mixed results. In some research, diversity groups outperform homogenous groups. By contrast, other research shows that homogenous groups avoid process loss resulting from poor communication patterns that plague diverse groups (, 1999, ). Groups with diverse members are often ineffective in capitalizing the benefits of informational diversity. Managers expressed their frustrations over the time and resources demanded by functional diverse teams while team members expressed difficulties in motivating others to work together effectively.
Aside from this, diverse groups fail to perceive the benefits of informational diversity and task conflict. This is attributable to two reasons. First, groups in an organization used the common bases of similarity, proximity and familiarity in their formation. Naturally, they select members that re from the same social networks. Because the knowledge and perspective of the members from the same social networks are more redundant, they lack diversity which undermines their ability to learn new insights. The second reason is disagreements with the group in terms of how a task should be done and the resources to be used. Such circumstances reflect the difficulties inherent with diversified workforce.
Indeed, there are inherent difficulties in recruiting, training and managing a diverse workforce. When employees with ethnic, cultural and political backgrounds different from current employees are hired, the organization is faced with difficulties of integrating them without possible conflict. Even when handled adequately, the process may become time consuming and will present multiple opportunities for problems among employees which may lead to poor performance. and (1996) found out that the more diverse a group becomes the higher the turn over rate and the more likely it is that dissimilar individuals will become absent (as cited in & , 2000, ). Employees who have successfully adjusted to workforce diversity of their fellow employees also perceive the difficulties of managers in handling the workforce due to culture shock. This in part can be attributed to the lack of training to improve the diversity management skills.
Moreover, ’s (1987) attraction-selection-attrition hypothesis (ASA) suggests that organizations tend to attract, hire and retain similar types of people. This natural tendency to drive out diversity implies that organizations seeking to promote diversity need to develop mechanisms to ensure organizational heterogeneity (, 2001, ). Thus, an orientation to diversity is a mechanism that can be used to increase diversity in the organization.
Diversity affects the effectiveness of the firm depending on the business and human resource strategy. While diversity brings different backgrounds into the same organization, it creates advantages and disadvantages. For one, the variety of perspectives can lead to increased creativity. On the other hand, this variety of perspectives can also lead to inefficiencies especially if the group lack shared understanding which makes the communication low and performance poor. Because of the mixed effects of diversity among organizations, there appears to be no consistent main effects on the organizational performance.
Indeed, workforce diversity serves as a challenge for managers. The inherent difficulties associated with it tend to create reluctance among managers to employ individuals that are rather different. However, the advantages of diversity must not be dismissed just because of such difficulties. Organizations that desire diversity may benefit from it if a diversity initiatives and management are carried out well.
Career Development and Success
Opportunities for career development are important motivators for employees. They want to know what opportunities exist for the development within the organization that will help them achieve their goals. Most companies have integrated the career development activities of their employees to their HRD strategies. Such activities enhance the skills of the employees through trainings and various programs.
However, a recent change in the human resource management has led to the reduction of career development activities for employees. Organizations have shifted from the traditional paternalistic approach to an individualistic approach. Such has put the responsibility of career development and success to the employees themselves. Employees are thus responsible for planning their own careers by setting career objectives and developing ways to achieve them. The role of the organization becomes limited in providing them with opportunities to accumulate skills and experiences that will enhance their employability.
Career Development and Success
The social structure to career development focused on the relationship between social status, as indicated by parental occupation, education, wealth and career attainments. For today’s organizations, career development has become a critical organizational competency. Businesses have recognized the need for career development programs to train employees to set their career goals, train managers tot act as agents and establish mentoring programs (, 1995, ). Career Development is particularly critical for firms in businesses where the employees’ knowledge and skills are the sources of competitive advantage. However, recent changes in the organization of work, employment and career resulted to the decrease of career development activities within organizations ( & , 2004, . ). These organizational practices argue that career development must be reinvigorated though not in its traditional form.
As the business environment becomes increasingly complex, new ways of thinking, managing and working are demanded. Hence, individuals are employed based on the perceived skills and the future contributions they can make to the organization. The employability of an individual includes his academic skills, personal management skills and teamwork skills. Skills are the set of characteristics which makes an individual employable such as knowledge, know-how, attitudes and behaviors towards work. In addition to skills and talents, one must be able to have the creativity, initiative and knowledge of her industry to be able to land a job. In the company’s perspective, the concept on employability is the commitment to train people in skills which are marketable both across and outside the organization (, ).
The competitive landscape has demanded new approaches to employment relationships and careers. Employers have abandoned the traditional employment contract in which company loyalty was given in exchange for employment security. With the need for greater flexibility, organizations offer “employability” rather than employment security. Firms provide the employees with opportunities to acquire skills and experiences that will enhance their contribution to the firm and their attractiveness to the labor market ( & , 2004, ). They become responsible for managing their known careers, building their portfolio of diverse competencies and experiences.
Individuals are imposed with new skills demand with the changing nature of work. For this, people need to be continuously learning to prepare for the future of the present careers or even new careers. Also, one’s employment security which encompasses the extent in which their skills and talents are demanded in the labor market must be carefully considered. By knowing the abilities and skills that are required in the future in the job, career failures can be easily overcome (, 1998, ). This would mean assessing the environment where there are career opportunities and being able to match oneself to those perceived opportunities.
This requires individual development which is an important aspect of personal growth. Employees are able to develop knowledge, competencies, skills and appropriate behaviors in their current jobs. This may be referred to as training although individual development is much broader than that. It involves communication, interpersonal skills and other aspects of personal development in addition to training ( & , 1998, ). Learning is something which is acquired by the employee both in formal and informal settings.
The key element for this is the ‘self’ since no one will do things for you. The responsibility for career development is dependent on oneself even if resources are provided by other people. This requires properly utilizing the strengths to achieve the career plan. From the perspective of the individual employee, the policy of new career implies that the focus of career development responsibility will shift to the individual from paternalism to individualism. This assumes that individuals have the responsibility to make sense of their own competencies and understand the future requirements of the organization and their occupation (, 1999, ). It is also assumed that they have the skills which are transportable outside the company and are not so company specific to be value less outside the context from which they are gained
In career development, the individual is responsible for career planning. This is process in which the employees set up career objectives and develop activities that will help to achieve them. From the point of view of the employee, career planning is a personal process with the following outcomes (1) broad life planning (2) developmental planning and (3) performance planning. In broad life planning, the employees’ interests, abilities, experiences and values are analyzed to improve self concept as related to career ( & , 1998, ).On the other hand, developmental planning is concerned with the realistic evaluation of career options and opportunities as well as the creation of activities that will prepare the employee for future jobs and future career decisions. Lastly, performance planning is the identification of specific job demand goals and priorities for job assignments.
A proactive approach in management of career is one way of achieving career development. Career self-management is the ability to keep pace with the changing needs of the organization, the industry and the economy through proactively acquiring the required competencies ( & , 2005, ). Another personal factor that affects career development is mentoring. Mentoring is based not on personality but on the behaviors that can be learned. Thus, employees can enhance these opportunities by taking advantage of any formal programs. Similarly, they can also take the informal mentoring programs that may facilitate their career growth. Studies indicate that early career rates of advancements for young managers are their involvement in mentoring relationships. Mentoring is related to the rate of promotion while social support mentoring was related to salary level ( & , 1998, ). Aside from achieving positive career outcomes, employees can also learn many skills form their mentors which may be professional, political and communication.
Changes in the organization of career and employment have shifted the focus from the traditional approach to an individualistic approach to career development. While some organizations carry out training and career development programs, employees are increasingly encouraged to adapt self management of their careers. As such, it becomes their individual responsibility to make sense of their skills and competencies. On the part of the organization, it only provides opportunities for the enhancement of skills and experiences in such a way that they may be used both across and outside the context of the organization. Ultimately, it becomes the employees’ responsibility to direct his own career path and success.