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Managing Diversity: HR Challenges and Opportunities

Consistent with Schneider’s attraction component, self-limiting behaviors among women (Heilman 1983) and ethnic/racial minorities (Ilgen and Youtz 1986) help to create homogeneity in the workplace. Women and minorities tend to limit their career choices, the result of which is homogeneity in certain occupations, such as in sex-typed jobs or lower-status ones. Heilman’s (1983) lack-of-fit model argues that self-limiting behaviors observed among women are developed from an assessment of poor fit between one’s perceived attributes because of female sex-stereotypes, and perceived requirements of male sex-typed jobs.

Such an assessment leads to expectations of failure, and such negative evaluations result in self-limiting behaviors, and discrimination by others in selection, reward allocation, and performance appraisals. A similar case is made for ethnic/racial minorities by Ilgen and Youtz (1986). Because of expectations of failure, minority group members tend to limit their job choices. Such differences generally lead to fewer and less favorable opportunities, what Ilgen and Youtz (1986) call “lost opportunities effect”, which in the long run result in decreased motivation and abilities for the minority group member.

Thus, self-limiting behaviors and discrimination stemming from perceived lack of fit among women and minorities tend to result in homogeneity in the workplace. How Organizations Can Cultivate a

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Diverse Workforce Can organizations manage diverse work groups? The following strategies aid organizations to come up with an effective program: • Soliciting top management support for diversity programs • Incorporating the organization’s attitudes toward diversity into the corporate mission statement, strategic plans, and objectives

• Establish corporate offices or committees to coordinate the companywide diversity effort that provides feedback to top management • Minority advisory groups or task forces to monitor organizational policies, practices, and attitudes • Assess program impact on diverse groups • Provide feedback and suggestions to top management HR leaders are dealing with a myriad of factors regarding diversity management in an altering marketplace compounded with a diverse labor pool (Michal 2005). Broadly speaking, workplace diversity challenges can be considered within three interrelated categories:

1. Attracting and retaining talent 2. Greater diversity among employees 3. Training Attracting Employees Competition for talent is growing from competition abroad, lower education levels of U. S. workers compared with other countries, U. S. immigration challenges and fear of terrorism in the United States. Many HR leaders are looking for ways to attract and retain older workers. Benefits and workplace programs, such as reward initiatives and flexible work arrangements (e. g. , part-time work, phased retirement), are key tools that offer attractive options to older workers (Michal 2005).

A company’s image can be a strong recruiting tool. This factor can be leveraged as mentioned below: Figure 2: Guidelines For Diversity Training Retaining Employees A recent study notes most firms are not paying close attention to retention and promotion strategies. For example, top minority talent is seeking leadership opportunities; yet companies indicate they have difficulty attracting talent for executive leadership (42%) and professional and technical skills (42%). In corporate America, the “revolving door syndrome” is particularly evident for women and minorities.

To retain women and minorities, HR professionals should re-evaluate their organization regarding talent, mentoring, career development and succession planning. Strategic initiatives, such as mentoring, on-boarding and “listening” forums, are additional tactics to address minority retention (Cole 2004). Support groups form minority networks to promote information exchange and social support. These groups provide emotional and career support. Also, they help diverse employees understand work norms and cultures.

Mentoring is an effective approach that can be adopted by higher-level managers to ensure that high-potential people are introduced to top management and socialized into the norms and values of the organization (Cole 2004). Career development and promotion can be taken care of by established teams to evaluate the career progress of diverse employees (Cole 2004). Systems accommodation will help to recognize (Cole 2004): • cultural and religious holidays • differing modes of dress • dietary restrictions • needs of individuals with disabilities

Accountability of the policies and procedures adopted lies with the HR managers responsible for workforce development. Conclusion The term “diversity” has typically referred to women and minorities. Today, however, employers are beginning to formally acknowledge other employees as well (e. g. , ethnic groups, people with disabilities and self-identified gay, lesbian and bisexual persons). Some firms encourage a welcoming and inclusive environment for all employees by creating diversity network groups. Kraft Foods uses employee councils to build employee development.

Through nine employee councils (African-American Council, Hispanic Council, Asian-American Council, Rainbow Council, Women in Sales Council, Black Sales Council, Hispanic/Asian Sales Council, Women in Operations and African-Americans in Operations), Kraft takes an active role in mentoring and supporting its diverse workforce. For example, the company builds relationships with universities to bring in talent through internships and internally sponsors career days focusing on leadership competencies. (Cole 2004) Different groups have different needs, and they want their needs recognized and met.

Acknowledgment of different needs yields greater employee satisfaction, employer loyalty and, in turn, lowers turnover and greater productivity. As a result, more organizations offer programs to address issues such as work/life balance and demands for more flexibility with telecommuting, adoption support, flexible health and dependent care spending accounts, elder care and domestic partner benefits. (Burke 2004) Within workplace diversity, one of the least discussed minority groups is people with disabilities. This group is a source of under-represented talent in the workplace.

One study reveals that in the majority of companies, individuals with disabilities comprise less than 10% of their total workforce. The study recommends top management lead by example and hire qualified individuals with disabilities on their staff. Through training and focus groups, HR leaders can improve sensitivity toward employees with disabilities. (Burke 2004)


Burke, M. E. (2004, June). SHRM 2004 benefits survey report. Alexandria, VA: Society for Human Resource Management. Cole, Y. (2004, June/July). Top 10 companies for diversity. Diversitylnc Top.

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