Everybody is created uniquely as compared with others. There might be qualities that some people or groups possess that the other group does not. This is diversity.
A diverse workforce can give many advantages that the problems associated with it are carefully studied and solved for. Variety of ideas and views regarding important matters within the organization can contribute a lot to the success of the work. Although there might arise conflict and misunderstanding, it can be addressed properly to be converted as strength of the company. Efficient diverse workforce management requires a lot of effort and even money, yet it is very worth it for it gives a lot of benefits to the company.
Managing the Diverse Workforce
With further advancement in technology, health issues are continuously being addressed. As such, the life expectancy of people is increasing. This has an immense effect in the business sector. According to Sheldon Steinhauser, the median age of workers raised from 38 years in 1994 to 55 or more in 2005. Also, more and more people from poor performing countries or states are going to richer countries or nations to apply for jobs. The days when women are left in the houses for housekeeping and baby-sitting are also over. Women are pursuing their own careers nowadays. With these happenings, diversity in the workforce is very evident and is expected to increase in the coming years. The question now is what its effects in the business are and how this issue should is addressed.
Everybody is created uniquely as compared with others. There might be qualities that some people or groups possess that the other group does not. This is diversity. Oftentimes, diversity is associated with demographic-related factors such as ancestry, gender or age. Aside from those mentioned above, this may also cover sexual orientation, educational and professional training, civil status and religious preference. Cultural background is also a major dimension. According to Bateman and Snell, a diversified workforce may include, but are not limited to: ethnic groups and minorities, migrant workers, disable, women, and people with varying expectations, values, affiliations, economic status and work style.
In order to manage diversity, the systems and practices must be reviewed and changed if necessary to maximize the capabilities of the people in it. Implementation of the systems must be ensured to extract the abilities of the employees so as to maximize their contribution to the company. In order to do this effectively, the employer or the human resource personnel must know the individual differences of the workforce. Just like in other setting, diversity can be taken as advantageous to the company if handled well. People with varying values and skills may contribute to the aggregate success of the whole. However, to be able to achieve such success, each difference must be preserved and nurtured. Bateman and Stale noted the existence of a glass ceiling in the company. This is an invisible barrier that hinders women and members of the minority groups from reaching a higher level in the hierarchy of the organization. As such, the potentials of these groups are not maximized. However, for the sake of profit and improvement, this barrier is being removed nowadays. As different ways to manage diversity are being discovered, discrimination in the workplace is slowly exiting. Although there is really no definite formula in handling diversity, researches and experiences help the human resource personnel and leaders extract the full potentials of their employees from all walks of life.
Employing people amidst their cultural and demographic background allows the company to have a good share in the labor pool. Many skillful workers belong to ethnic groups or are women, or are older people. Thus, not including them in the search would lessen the already small labor pool. Also, according to studies at the Stanford Business School, as written in the Business and Legal Reports, diversity among employees can generate better performance when it comes to out-of-the-ordinary creative tasks. For instance, business developments are more effective if the decision-making body is composed of diverse individuals. Their different views could be taken into the advantage of the company. Their varying experiences can be put together to achieve a solid and effective decision. In sales and promotions, a team composed of people from different regions or age brackets or lifestyles can have their own suggestions based from what they themselves want or favor. The target customer could be represented by the members of the team so their needs would be addressed even at the start of the project. Discussions about the differences of ideas can also be taken as positive since more options will arise and more factors would be considered on the initial planning, thus reducing the chance of error or unseen circumstance. Also, a company that crosses boundaries and differences creates a good impression to the labor pool. In effect, workers would be the ones to approach the human resource personnel, thus, saving more money for the promotions and employee search, and more often than not, those highly-skilled workers are the ones who go for such companies. Furthermore, traditional practices may no longer be applicable to the current policies and need and a diverse workforce is more unbounded to deviate from this, resulting to a better system.
Businesses and organizations are sprouting all over during the course of time. In effect, competition is high not only for the share of the market, but also for the shrinking labor pool. Aside from attracting workers due to effective diversity management, homogeneity can also address the need for flexibility and change. By valuing the differences of the individuals, the company is rewarded by its employees by means of loyalty and excellence. A secret in effective management is making the subordinates feel its worth as part of the team. If this is given to him, he would strive to return this sense of importance by means of excellent work and loyalty. This is when the employee shows his best capabilities.
Managing a diverse workforce creates a good impression not only to the employees and members of the organizations but to the people outside it as well. According to Bateman and Stale, diverse customers tend to favor these kinds of organizations. Also, the diverse market can be better addressed if they are well-represented in the company by the diverse employees. As such, customer satisfaction is higher and patronage would be awarded.
To marginalize the workforce is to waste money, time and skillful workers. Such action would create a bad impression to the market and to the labor pool. Also, it would hinder the entrance of highly-skilled workers who happened to not belong to the widely-accepted group. It may also illicit complaints and conflicts from members of the marginalized group.
Having a diverse workforce is not all glory. Diversity also creates conflicts especially if it involves ideas or beliefs. Yes, varying opinions create a healthy atmosphere for discussion and debate but this oftentimes lead to misunderstanding and conflict. Interpersonal conflict may arise and eventually destroy the group. Sometimes, attack is taken not just against the idea but on the person as well. Discrimination among workers may also be difficult to handle. People from different groups tend to be more protective of their identity or beliefs and this often lead to discord. Discussions may also take longer than usual in order to entertain all differing and sometimes conflicting views.
Lack of cohesiveness does not only involve ideas or views but even understanding of the goal. The aim may be interpreted differently and this would lead to people walking towards different directions, making the finish line more difficult to reach. This must be attended to at the start so as to ensure that the team is walking towards the same direction in order to save effort, time, money and other resources.
According to the Business and Legal Reports, problems also include the answer to the question of how the employees must be treated. Should it be fair or same? What is the basis of fairness? Treating different employees is not an easy task. A simple task of distributing a memo for all the employees poses a problem. The language to be used, the capacity of all the people to understand and a lot others must be taken into primary consideration. Biases must be kept far from decision-making and management but individual capacities of the employees must also be taken into account.
As for members of the workforce, the major problem is miscommunication. Differences may hinder smooth transfer of information from the people inside the organization. People from different races might have different understanding in words or expressions. Misinterpreting the gestures or actions of others may yield to conflict or argument within the organization. Also, stereotyping may also arise. An individual or group may think that they are superior to others. This would affect the performance of all the people in the workforce. Instead of focusing on the goal, stereotyped members of the team may be distracted and concentrate on being within the “more superior” group. Also, perseverance and efforts of the members might be disregarded as several members focus on their colleagues.
Researches and experiences claim that to manage a diverse workforce is never easy. It is a task that has to be well-taken cared of. Yet, it is also possible. In fact, there are several multicultural organizations that employ a diverse workforce. There are advices for management and human resources personnel as to how this issue must be handled in order to extract the best abilities of the members of the team.
First and foremost, the top management must have an eye on the effectiveness of the diverse workforce. They must be sensitive to the feedbacks of diverse groups regarding company policies or ordinances. They must be also aware to the response of the other members of the team. The plans and objectives of the organization must also incorporate diverse workforce.
Most of all, top managers must participate and take the lead in the programs that aim to learn about diversity. Trainings and seminars can also be conducted to better handle and manage a diverse workforce. Rewards can be given to further affirm the good works of the team members. Lastly, a team building is essential to create a bond between members of the company. In doing so, the risk of miscommunication is lessened, as well as the possibility for conflict.
With the growing competition in the labor pool and the market, any organization cannot afford to lose a skillful individual just because he belongs to a minority or because he is outside the margin line. A diverse workforce can give many advantages that the problems associated with it are carefully studied and solved for. Variety of ideas and views regarding important matters within the organization can contribute a lot to the success of the work. Although there might arise conflict and misunderstanding, it can be addressed properly to be converted as strength of the company. Efficient diverse workforce management requires a lot of effort and even money, yet it is very worth it for it gives a lot of benefits to the company.
Bateman and Snell. Managing the Diverse Workforce. Retrieved November 22, 2007 from http://management.uta.edu/Dr.Wheeler/Mana5312/Chap011.ppt
Business and Legal Reports. Diversity Can Improve Decision-Making. Retrieved November 22, 2007, from http://www.vault.com/nr/newsmain.jsp?nr_page=3
Human Resources, University of California, Berkeley.Guide to Managing Human Resources: Chapter 12: Managing Diversity in the Workplace. Retrieved November 22, 2007 from http://hrweb.berkeley.edu/guide/diversity.htm
Improvement Network. Managing a Diverse Workforce. Retrieved November 22, 2007 from http://www.improvementnetwork.gov.uk/imp/core/page.do?pageId=10912
Piturro Marlene, PhD.. Recruiting and Managing a Diverse Workforce. Retrieved November 22, 2007 from http://www.vault.com/nr/newsmain.jsp?nr_page=3&ch_id=402
Steinhauser Sheldon. (1999, January). Successfully Managing an Age Diverse Workforce. Managing Diversity, Vol. 8, Retrieved November 22, 2007 from http://clem.mscd.edu/~steinhas/managing_diversity.htm
United States Department of Trade (2007). Leading a Diverse Workforce. Retrieved November 22, 2007 from http://dothr.ost.dot.gov/Toolkit/Diversity/ leading_a_diverse.html