Is Diversity in the Workplace a worthwhile Goal for Corporations?
Much hype has been raised on diversity in the workplace in the early 90’s and various studies have been conducted on the advantages and disadvantages on this matter. Put on the highlights are the issues on race, gender, age, and ethnicity, among others. However, the benefits which range from cost to productivity, from labor needs to technical skills are not always apparent or measurable. Research studies based on surveys, questionnaires, interviews, and actual observations are not unanimous in putting forth a solid recommendation of the merits of diversity in the workplace in pursuing the goals of an organization.
Some believe that diversity in the workplace would impair organizational effectiveness. Women are perceived with less commitment for work and consistency in work performance may always be affected by other priorities like raising the children in the family. Giving opportunities to people with disabilities are seen more as an organization’s contribution to its corporate social responsibility rather than looking at these individuals based on what they can contribute to the organization.
Older people are seen as cost drivers since they are already nearing their retirement age. In all these things, diversity is viewed more as a political concept rather than as a driver of
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Executives in big international companies are not also one in their opinion on diversity in the workplace. Many believe, though, that it is an inevitable change for the better especially with the diversity in population and economies of nations. Those who spouse the idea of diversity in the workplace justify their stand based on a rationale that diversity brings about new and even fresh viewpoints and talents to the organization. In such instances, diversity puts them ahead in the globally competition. (Orenstein, Diversity: The Business Case.
2005). “It is generally believed that attaining workforce diversity has many positive social, legal, strategic, and competitive benefits for an organization. ” [Sacco &: Schmitt, 2005. Cited in the Business Case, 2005). For companies that operate globally, according to Mary Jo Green, a senior vice president and treasurer for Sony Corp. of America, diversity in the workplace is perceived as a representation of the best practices of different business environments. (Cited in Diversity: The Business Case. 2005).
Many executives, however, do not share this view not for their unbelief in the concept but more on the lack of concrete and clear evidence that, indeed, diversity in the workplace is the answer to the needs of today’s organizations. The more acceptable stand among executives of companies and learned professionals is that diversity may work in some but not all cases. Some markets may really require diversity in order to make them globally competitive. Some organizations also adopt diversity in compliance to some laws; thus the benefits that it can bring to the organization are already out of the question.
“A study in 2001 by Roy Adier, Women in the Executive Suite Correlate to High Profits, published by the Glass Ceiling Research Center, found that the 25 Fortune 500 firms with the best record of promoting women to high positions are between 18 and 69 percent more profitable than the median Fortune 500 firms in their industries. (Cited in Diversity: The Business Case. 2005) In an article by Pauline Croft entitled “Forward Thinking,” the CIPD diversity adviser Dianah Worman was cited as saying:
“Progress has been made, Worman, (Chie believes: “We have moved on from one or two case-study examples and the odd diversity initiative,” she says. “ But organisations now need to move to the next stage. ” The CIPD’s 2007 report Diversity in Business: A Focus for Progress found that activities were concentrated on raising awareness, with little focus on including diversity objectives in managers’ performance assessments or recognising and rewarding diversity achievements. (Cited in FORWARD THINKING by Pauline Crofts. People Management, 1/24/2008, Vol. 14 Issue 2, p77).
With all the foregoing advocacies, research studies, and write-up’s on workplace diversity, still there seems to be no end to the issue as it continues to be the subject of conflicting views among executives, organizations, cause-oriented groups, markets, and nations. The issue is more on the political will to adopt the concept and implement it in workplaces. The human resource departments of organizations or corporations can play a vital and strategic role in putting into reality the concept of workplace diversity. After all is said, it cannot be denied that workplace diversity is a people issue.
There are peoples all over the world with different talents and abilities. There is just a vast resource of talents everywhere and a corporation that fails to recognize this or one that refuses to recognize this reality has actually compromised the growth and future of the organization. The world has opened its markets globally and it should be enough reason why resource talents in the workplace should also be diversified. ‘People from different backgrounds and cultures, speaking different languages, tend to have different creative talents,’ says David Becker, president and co-founder of Philippe Becker Design in San Francisco.
(Cited in WHY DIVERSITY REMAINS ELUSIVE. By: D. B. , Advertising Age, 9/24/2007 Talent Works Supplement, Vol. 78. Business Source Premier) Diversity is not only on compliance to laws on equal opportunity of employment. In reality the law requirements complement that of workplace diversity. The latter is more on bringing to the fore people from different cultures, different beliefs, different trainings, and different disciplines in doing and accomplishing things.
“The European Commission, in its report The Business Case For Diversity, suggests that diversity has a positive impact on organisations, making their workforces more dynamic, innovative, and creative. Because of this, it should not be regarded as ‘political correctness’, but how organisations can implement changes to drive success. ” (Jo,Causon. “A positive change. ” Employers Law, 13649493, Sep2007. Business Source Premier) Diversity is about building relationships. It is about respecting individuals of the world with talents and abilities who deserve to be given a chance to grow, to contribute to society, and to self-actualize.
It is linking to people and recognizing their uniqueness. Diversity is consolidating different talents, different minds, and different mindsets as they all contribute to the pursuit of the corporate goals. Diversity is being realistic. In the global market, where products and services are made globally, the opportunity of having a diverse workforce puts to test the corporate strategic plans. There is affirmation before execution. There is validity of what otherwise would only be bright ideas.
“Adopting a varied approach to recruitment encourages higher levels of innovation and change across the entire workforce. In addition, the objective should not be just to highlight differences, but also to identify commonalities. Employees need to understand difference, but it should not dominate every conversation and interaction with their colleagues. ” (Jo,Causon. “A positive change. ” Employers Law, 13649493, Sep2007. Business Source Premier) The need is for employers to communicate the essence of workplace diversity, its worth, its need, and how it can drive the organization to greater leaps.
Giving information is one thing but getting stakeholders of the organization understand why workplace diversity should be the next big thing would eradicate the resistance and cold-treatment of this otherwise beautiful and realistic concept. “Resistance to the changes that occur in creating an inclusive working environment can happen at various stages in the change process. At the beginning, there may be a lack of understanding as to why the changes are important. Barriers to diversity should be overcome by promoting the benefits to your organization. ” (Jo,Causon. “A positive change.
” Employers Law, 13649493, Sep2007. Business Source Premier) The HR department is the catalyst of this change. Thus, incorporating diversity issues in the training and development programs of the organization is one step towards its acceptance among members of the organization. Policies on workplace diversities should form part of the organizations archives to ensure that implementation is within plans and expectations. Strategic plans on the implementation of workplace diversity should include tools of measurement to document the relevance and benefits of this program.
With the laying down of these basic foundations, workplace diversity among corporations will become the norm and not the exception. “Change agents are essentially cheerleaders who help reiterate the CEO’s attitude toward diversity. “When you have people who are effective and believe in this and put in time and energy, they should be rewarded because they’re enhancing productivity,” he adds. Company events, such as picnics, offer an informal but important chance for small businesses to embrace workers’ different backgrounds. Employees of different ethnicities or cultures can bring different foods that workers at all levels can enjoy together.
” (Gatland, Laura. “Profiting from workplace diversity. ” Crain’s Small Business — Chicago Edition, 10783296, Mar1997, Vol. 5, Issue 2). Most companies commit the mistake of getting employees only from their backyards believing that they are the only best that can drive the organization in leaps and bounds. This strategy is self-defeating and runs contrary to globalization of goods, services, and ideas. “A company that embraces diversity reflects the basic premise that a business is only as strong as its employees, says James H.
Lowry, a Chicago consultant who specializes in small business development and diversity issues. ” (Gatland, Laura. “Profiting from workplace diversity. ” Crain’s Small Business — Chicago Edition, 10783296, Mar1997, Vol. 5, Issue 2). Diversity is more than just employment and more than just pursuing the goals of any corporation. Diversity means knowing other people, connecting with other cultures, and linking with other nations. “Companies can celebrate different ethnic and religious holidays, such as Black History month or Martin Luther King Jr.
‘s birthday. “Don’t just have it as a day that one takes off, but have people talk about the significance of it,” he recommends. ” (Gatland, Laura. “Profiting from workplace diversity. ” Crain’s Small Business — Chicago Edition, 10783296, Mar1997, Vol. 5, Issue 2). A study in 2004 which was published by Catalyst, the Bottom Line: Connecting Corporate Performance and Diversity revealed that those companies with higher representation of women among its workforce showed better financial performance than those with lowest women representation.
All these initiatives may seem just a fad to some corporations who, in the interest of being “in the game” would adopt diversity programs in the company. Adopting a diversity program in the organization as a matter of trend would really differ from implementing a diversity initiative due to legitimate needs and foreseen strategies of the corporation In the former situation, the program is not perceived as the answer to a need; thus, stakeholders may not put their hearts into the program and the results would not matter at all.
The latter situation, however, sets a strategic program in the workplace where all efforts and energies are directed to it, where accountabilities are set, where expectations and measuring tools are established, where time frames are set, and where understanding of every process and every step is communicated.
It is in this latter situation where we can say that workplace diversity is a worthwhile goal for corporations – more than just return of investments, more than just productivity, more than just employment, more than just business growth; but more importantly, it is starting ripples and building a bigger world where people seek to understand others.
1. Orenstein, Diversity: The Business Case.2005. 2. Crofts, Pauline. “Forward Thinking. ” People Management, 1/24/2008, Vol. 14 Issue 2, p77. 3. D. B. “Why diversity remains elusive. ”Advertising Age, 9/24/2007. Talent works Supplement, Vol. 78. 4. Jo, Causon. “A positive change. ” Employers Law, September 2007. 5. Gatland, Laura. “Profiting from workplace diversity. ” Crain’s Small Business — Chicago Edition, Mar1997, Vol. 5, Issue 2).