More and more organizations are openly adapting to the demands of diversity and its proper management. It should not be surprising. It is not only good for individual employees but for team education and the whole organization as well. Thus, human resources departments are getting on the bandwagon, devising the best practices that they can offer to their growing diverse workgroup.
Despite this positive organizational development, there are many diversity issues that need to be resolved. One major concern is that the more diverse the organization becomes the more differences between people and departments can ensue. With this, at a certain point, the management of diversity becomes superficial that instead of addressing diversity in terms of being inclusive, it highlights the differences between employees. This fails the whole point of diversity altogether.
The problem is far deeper than how it seems. To begin with, human resources departments may not be aware that their diversity initiatives are doing the company more bad than good. Many companies structure diversity efforts, thinking that by doing so they are being inclusive to members of the organization who belong to a different age group, ethnicity, or gender as compared with the majority. On the other hand, the more efforts are put on catering to diversity, the less inclusive it becomes. Members of the minority, if they should be called that, get a spotlight for being different—something that is totally unappealing for some.
Another issue is that the majority may feel that they are being set aside. With the growing concern focused on other races and groups, with favors being thrown their way, the latter is a viable scenario. It is also possible that some members will feel superior to the others, given special treatment thanks to corporate diversity efforts.
In a small organization, diversity efforts may appear much easier. There are less people to manage and few departments to maintain. Being located in a multicultural city can do very little to complicate the operations. However, the process of recruitment and selection can be especially taxing. Add to this, each employee may have different needs and preferences depending on their background.
This paper discusses how workplace equality and diversity can be implemented in a small company standing in a multicultural city, referred here as the company or the small company. The discussion will include a broad definition of diversity as well as the two factors where the issues on the subject come from, this being the human resources departments and the employees. It will be shown how human resource services are acting towards the growing acceptance of diversity in workplaces, and how many practices can go astray or overboard. In return, a discussion of how employees can contribute to the difficulties will also be included.
Upon discussion of the related issues and key factors, appropriate measures that can be taken will also be noted. While it is impossible to come up with a fool proof strategic plan that will have no side effects for the employees and the organization, proper control and management can be intervened. Where necessary, recommendations will also be given as to the changes in structure that must be made in any example, such as organizations and their practices, which will be included in the paper. In the end, the paper hopes to shed light on the diversity issues in workplaces. Noting that diversity is a difficult subject matter because people will always have different reactions toward practices concerning it, still the best for the most number of people shall be instituted—this without having to neglect the needs and preferences of the small numbers that also help make a company prosper.
Workplace Equality and Diversity
According to Rose (nd), almost half of workers in the United States will be non-white by 2050. This diversity by race and ethnicity is not the sole determinant of diversity among organizations. In fact, there are various differences among employees and managers that can make a workplace diverse. Carlson defines it as more than the gender and race game; it touches sexual preference and life experiences. (Diversity, inclusion, and work-life nd) There is diversity in age, life roles such as motherhood or being a single parent, religion, family background, and many other traits that differ from each individual. However, focus will be given in multicultural diversity, this being the case of the company. The Berkeley Lab gives an appropriate definition. Diversity encapsulates the fact that wherever one is from, whatever the circumstances of his life is, and whoever he is out of work, he is still a viable part of the organization because of his contributions. (What is diversity nd)
The Magazine Publishers of America further states that diversity is valuing the differences and similarities of each of their member and concentrating on the contributions of this to the organization. (Industry Mission 2000) All of these definitions are true. Diversity is not just about racial differences. Workers differ by gender, age, education, work experience, language, and many other workplace formalities that may hinder them from becoming easily employed or retained. Thanks to diversity initiatives in many companies nowadays, this is no longer impossible.
Ives (2008) agrees, stating that respect and acceptance and working despite similarities and differences are the keys to diversity. This is a move for ensuring that employees feel included and valued. However, he also stresses that the feeling of being valued is also person-dependent. Thus, different people may have different ideas of how they will feel that they are important branches of an organization. This is a major playfield for the human resources department.
Yet organizations are beset by issues surrounding a diverse workgroup. A small company in a multicultural community, while easy to manage given the size and extent of control, is not isolated from the same issues. Given the differences between the workers and their difference with the managers and supervisors as well, it is difficult to imagine how a company will not be bothered by difficulties especially when it comes with diversity and equality.
Again, a major problem with equality and diversity initiatives is the highlight that it leaves to people’s differences. Workers may feel uncomfortable being treated in a special way because they are different. Others may feel uncomfortable that the company is treating others in a special way because they are different. It is a cause-effect scenario, and no party likes any of the ends.
A catchy tune on the diversity song is that it is being done by companies initially out of necessity. Laws have embraced the need for addressing inclusion, and the easy way to go through this is to ensure that there is legislation to encourage, or rather force, companies to welcome diversity in their organizations. This meant ensuring all people from all kinds of backgrounds are welcomed and not one bit of discrimination takes place. If anything like this happens, the company is in for a serious trouble. However, many companies feel boxed about this forced diversity initiatives. For one, there are industries and companies, even states, where there is very few applications coming from the minority. In some cases, the company has no choice but to turn down an applicant because of low qualifications and incompatibility to the job—and if that employee is of special circumstance such as too old, gay, married, and the likes the employee often takes it against the company that he or she is being discriminated. In this light, the company can be hassled by a discrimination lawsuit that it does not really deserve. (The harm of diversity, 2008)
On the onset, lawmakers were not the only ones who started the diversity game. The big bang commenced in the early 2000s, with the economy faced with a diverse workgroup population. At the same times, new studies are coming out which are relevant to business development through workplace diversity. This renewed the interest in the principle and created a huge impact in both small and big organizations. (Armour 2003)
But the huge impacts were not free of problems. With legislation, every company became vulnerable to lawsuits. (Frierson 2001) Small and big organizations were suddenly faced by the onset of a principle industries welcomed. Getting off the chain is not a choice. Getting on it required drastic measures and careful control and management.
While diversity efforts are purely necessity for some, there are many companies who adhere to the principles because of study-supported advantages. Cepero (2005) asserts that diversity is the best way to boost and promote teamwork among work units. This has also been proven many times. Because of the conflicts that arise out of a diverse group, with people enjoying the differences and similarities as well as learning from each other, new ideas and a deeper homogeneity are achieved. Macmillan (nd) says that diverse companies have more success in their business regardless of the size of the company. The effectiveness of diversity efforts is not based on the size of the company but the quality of the initiative within the organization. This asserts that the company, despite its size, can thrive with diversity and work with multicultural backgrounds efficiently.
Companies also get the best deals through diversity and inclusion. Vijayan (2004) assessed that companies who welcome small suppliers, a form of diversity, enjoyed lower costs and speedier transactions as compared to companies wholly transacting with big organizations. Because we are a small company, this is a turning point for the organization. Highlighting our diversity and the fact that this is tantamount to the diversity of the world outside—that we are as diverse as the clientele of our multicultural community, it is easier to assimilate ourselves with that of the customers and the job-hunting public.
Boyd Gaming Corporation is one among the many companies who started their diversity efforts and realized the advantages at once. As it opened doors for the various suppliers big and small, of varying ethnicities and backgrounds, the company has seen itself grow to new heights and expand. (Benston 2005) Viewing this can be optimistic for the company. With growth achieved, it is a bonus to getting a diverse workgroup coherent and homogenous.
Companies like us and Boyd have many motivations in taking on diversity efforts. McInnes (2000) enumerates them as social response which shows that the company is in touch with the society, a big plus for market visibility; economic advantages, where the ends benefit the company, the customers, and the suppliers collectively; the availability of talents and the tight competition of companies to sign them up; legal requirements as discussed earlier; marketing strategy in connection to social response; and as a business development program, especially noting that companies subscribing to diversity are prized and recognized.
Yet these motivations are superficial indicators to the topic. The real question is the effectiveness of the diversity efforts, especially for similar small companies in multicultural cities globally. Rodriguez (2008) asserts that in a survey conducted, only 38% of the diversity practices being administered have eliminated or minimized prejudgment among employees and within organizations. This startling truth may be discussed in light of two key factors.
Two key factors can be named as the most eventful in managing diversity concerns. First is the human resources department who holds the recruitment and retention processes. Secondly, there is the employee factor, where the implementation of human resources initiatives depends. Proper control on these factors can make any diversity program successful.
The HRD factor
In a small company, the human resources department is a mover of its kind. Next to the bosses, the department takes direct control of employee recruitment, selection, retention, and termination. Thus, it can be said that the human resources department is the playground of diversity initiatives.
This is especially true in the case of the organization. Tucked in a locale where cultures mix and match, where people come from different nationalities and backgrounds, and with the company comprised of the same diversity, it is important for the human resources department to understand how divers the population is and how to manage each without having to discriminate anyone. This takes many forms, and not all people conform to each of the forms. It takes adaptability; getting the right move at the right time with the right people. Perhaps, much can be improved through a look at the beginnings of diversity.
It was in the 1990s. Esty (2007) claims that in the beginning the purpose of companies taking on the diversity initiative is to be labeled as such: Companies Valuing Diversity. The race was not about getting the best talents regardless of their circumstances. The race was on for the company who has the most diverse workgroup. The larger the diversity is the better. The human resources department felt responsible for the task. Thus, job openings came sprouting up to people of other culture and of different circumstances. Not to disappoint, applicants came rushing in.
This paved the way to irresponsible diversification of organizations. People from different ethnicity, age group, gender, and other classifications started pouring on organizations. The loopholes were imaginably enormous. The employees were not prepared for the diversity and so teams felt intruded. The newcomers also had problems associating because it follows that they are ill-prepared. Managers and employers are likewise unprepared for the scenario.
Luckily, this has changed from mere diversity to inclusion. Companies are now not only looking at hiring the best of the minority, they are also getting on the groundwork to make these members of their organization feel included. (Esty 2007) However, there lie the difficulties of the initiative. Again, pressuring inclusion made the differences stand out. Instead of becoming assimilated, it puts people in a tendency to be more withdrawn from the majority.
This led to the need for training and education. The unlucky thing was that it started a trend of forced training sessions so that each and every employee undergoes a diversity lecture of some sort. Dolezalek (2008) said that this does more harm than good. Not only are these trainings ineffective, they also pressure employees and gives them the hint of leaving. Thus, in a small organization where training is of the essence, teaching about diversity should be part of the orientation yet the education should be a continuous need-based process. Given that highlighting diversity trainings as a necessity for all does not do the trick, it becomes necessary to shift gears and create new ways to make diversity happen in the organization.
Van Kerckhove (2007) on the other hand made a good point about inefficient trainings, saying that normally diversity trainings are teaching not the management of diversity and differences but how to hide discrimination and racism especially in their action and language. Furthermore, most undergoing, or rather put on, forcible diversity trainings are white Americans which can make them feel like the antagonists. This further divides the organization. With the majority reaping the negative effects of the diversity tactics, the minority suddenly becomes competition rather than ally.
In the same way, small multicultural companies may also be beset by the boundaries or labels set by diversity initiatives. Wade (2007) notes that diversity efforts often box the minority and the opportunities opened to them which in turn thwarts equality altogether. With employees feeling singled out and the majority feeling that the minority are stealing opportunities that should be for them, reverse discrimination occurs and creates discomfort among employees. (Problems with diversity nd) For instance, when the company starts an all-black singing group, it makes them in the spotlight. This is not comfort for everybody. Also, the whites and the other ethnicities may feel left out. It is evident that multicultural singing groups can do better for inclusion rather than culture-specific groups that have the tendency to eliminate others and upstage some.
All of these can be printed on impressive guidelines and handbooks. However, the truth is that despite the paperwork and outlines the human resources departments are busy about procedures do very little for diversity. This has been an experience learned by the University of Wisconsin who have set diversity agenda and seen themselves a decade after without an inch of improvement. (The Daily Cardinal Editorial Board 2007) Structures are not much until implementation occurs. Plans need to be laid out and acted upon before improvement is made and achieved. The company can learn much from this. Instead of focusing on the paperwork, focus should be given on initiative and implementation. At par with improving the guidelines, improving the monitoring is a requisite too. This can be difficult, especially that to begin with the workgroup is already diverse given the location of the organization. However, there are appropriate measures that the company can take to aid the issues.
Gettelfinger (1999) remains optimistic about the promise of corporate diversity. Assuming that it highlights the differences among people, it is still proven to be a source of positive force from the union of differing individuals who respect each other. Today, there may still be a number of companies prescribed to this old idea of diversity. However, the immediate necessity for diversity now is in terms of talent and contribution. Companies with the better diversity efforts are serious about getting the best employees. However, there still lies the other factor: employees.
The employee factor
Small company may equal few employees. Still, this should not be a reason not to detail diversity in the organization. Noting the environment in which the company is settled, it is just right to give focus on diversity, equality, and inclusion in light of growing the company and protecting its stakeholders.
A good principle has been detailed by Ives (2008), stating that in diversity the two golden rules should be observed. First, treat others as you would like to be treated. In a snapshot, all of us are minorities in some place and time. For instance, the all-American accounting department may be majority for an Asian employee, but once an American accountant gets inside the production facility where most employees are Asians and Mexicans, the American becomes the minority. Understanding this, each person inside the organization should understand that they should treat people accordingly.
The second rule is to treat people as they want to be treated. Remember that Ives (2008) mentioned that the feeling of being valued is person-dependent. Thus, different people have different measures on how they will call themselves valued. Diversity involves a massive collection of cultures and from each culture lie a different reaction towards similar occurrences. When employees treat others the way they want to be treated, there is little conflict and more understanding among individuals. This creates a common good for the organization.
Following these two rules is a good start to teach diversity to employees. More than ever, companies are embracing on diverse workgroups and those who are ready to take on the challenge of meeting and working with new people from a myriad of backgrounds are the ones who have the edge of taking on the available jobs. (Rose nd) However, there are several issues that take form when diversity among employees is the subject.
According to Heathfield (nd), politics is one among the many taboo topics that frictions with diversity. While it is true that everybody should be entitled to his or her own opinion, it cannot be denied that politics is a sensitive topic to bear. Oftentimes, discussions on the subject can be fatal. Inappropriate topics also include religion, gender, family background, and personal beliefs. Unfortunately, even proper wording, phrasing, or creative speech cannot do any better. For this and other sensitive diversity topic, Heathfield has one recommendation: leave them home.
In the absence of highly interesting topics there can still be a feeling of aloofness in a multicultural organization. Goetz (2001) explains that people can feel threatened to work with people who are different. This is understandable. In the company, for instance, those who have been in the organization for a long time can feel threatened by a newcomer especially if the newcomer is of different caliber—a white entering a diverse domain were there is no majority perhaps. These stereotyping creates threats that employees can feel discomfort with.
Jonas (2007) agrees, saying that the more diverse a group, the less people are willing to open themselves and take part. At worst, negative attitudes and behaviors can make the initiative useless and even harm employee relations. In turn, morale and productivity is damaged, putting on a negative effect on the organization as a whole. (Green, wt al. nd) Lack of understanding on this people dynamics has led to mismanagement, which can make diversity even worse. (Goetz 2001)
Despite the challenges, there are several things that can be instituted to ensure proper management of diversity in an organization. Rose (nd) says learning more about the culture around the person is a good step. With a multicultural city such as the one where the organization is located, it is essential for employees and employers to learn more about the cultures present. This makes a person ready to socialize with different people, armed with the sensitivity and accurate language and action to use. This also removes or minimizes any threat that one may feel.
The Magazine Publishers Association of America gives its two cents too, saying that awareness, retention, outreach, and recruitment are important. Employers and human resources managers need to be aware of the cultures present and adapt human resources activity based on this knowledge. Diversity should then be retained for those who are qualified. The company should also reach out. It is the best way to make someone feel included in the organization. Lastly, increasing recruitment for a diverse workgroup is a key to ensure that diversity is being taken cared of. (Industry Mission 2000)
Human resources departments should also note that diversity is one thing and inclusion is another. Inclusion is more efficient, but it takes several small developments to make notice. Esty (2007) asserts that the impact of this ripple is far greater than that of one big leap that does not make waves. If diversity welcomes the variety of workers, inclusion welcomes the absorption of these workers, ensuring that they feel valued and essential part of the organization. The company can do this by focusing on task-related and work-specific dynamics where the differences of personalities are acknowledged but not put to the question. There are also other ways to improve diversity and promote equality and inclusion.
Zanchettin (2007) enumerates three elements that improve the initiative for big and small companies alike. First, the headquarters/subsidiary relations should be nurtured. If the headquarters is keen about diversity, it should monitor and follow through that subsidiaries prescribe to the same understanding. With a small company, this should not be a problem. The absence of subsidiaries makes the efforts streamlined in the headquarters or main office. However, supplier and customer relations can benefit from this fact.
The local business context should also be considered. For instance, being a small company in a multicultural city, a diverse application should be expected and prepared for well. This makes it easy for the human resources department to manage multicultural applications while using best practices for selection, recruitment, and retention. On the other end, it also promotes best practices with which the employees can follow through. Preparing the employees for the company culture emulated from the different cultures comprising it is a good reason to incorporate education on the subject in employee orientations.
Lastly, the development of multicultural teams is a big help. Rice (1994) describes a useful scenario that can make all employees feel what the minority feels. The scenario takes on splitting the majority, joining them into the multicultural teams, and assigning them to work together. This way, even members of the majority will know how it is to be part of the minority. For the company, teaming up can be one option. However, given the size, this can be a secondary priority, with focus on inclusion being the primary.
In relation to these elements, Limlingan (2004) recounts three things that diverse teams should consider to welcome efficiency. Styles should be observed, including manners and cultural familiarities. Given that the company is multi-culturally comprised, each member of the organization should know and be sensitive about the actions and languages of each culture present within the company. This also helps eliminate miscommunications.
Abilities should be noted too, making sure that each employee knows the extent of aptitude of each other. This is less of a complication because abilities are not essentially culture-significant, unlike age or gender. Thus, the company and its employees may find it easy to cope with familiarizing oneself to the abilities of co-workers.
Lastly, the level of motivation of each employee should be observed. This is especially important for multicultural companies. Again, stereotypes have brought in different labels and complications to the motivation of an employee. For example, someone of a different nationality may feel timid when in the company of co-workers who are majorly coming from a similar culture.
Moore and Wilson’s (1998) Diversity Dialogue Groups is a useful tool to keep track of this. In the process, employees hold a meeting regularly to discuss their differences and how each benefit or spoil the working relations and work necessities of others. The dialogue allows each member to be transparent and seek clarifications. With a small company, this is significantly helpful and feasible. Thus, it is a recommended move.
The twelve commandments
According to experts, there are twelve ways to make a company diverse and inclusive. (Start your own strategic diversity initiative 2008) This is especially useful for the small multicultural organizations.
Long-term commitment. Diversity and inclusion cannot happen overnight. One needs to sustain the efforts and continually monitor the initiative.
Time, money, and emotional energy. Like any other investment, diversity and inclusion will need time to be allotted to it, money to be spent on it, and emotional energy from both employers and employees.
Top-level support. Diversity initiatives will be futile without the knowledge and support from the high ranks. Remember, it takes example for employees to follow through.
Realism. The efforts should be realistic and attainable at all extents.
Expect difficulties. Change is always filled with difficulties. Expecting it and being prepared will make it more manageable and easy. Be reminded of goals.
Clear efforts. Any effort should be time-lined and outlined. This ensures that efforts are maximized and are in line with objectives and strategic development goals.
Modify systems. It is difficult to initiate change without modifying systems already existing in the company. Without modifying systems, it will be confusing and taxing for both employees and employers to work in a diverse group.
Beyond individual needs. Human resources managers should be able to see beyond the needs of each person and be in touch as well with the needs of the organization.
Measure goals. The initiative should have some way of measure or evaluation so that it can be found if it is effective or not.
Show improvement. Most employees can be cynical. Others can be indifferent. It should be part of the plan how these employees can be made a part of the plan without force.
Training is insufficient. Companies are out to search for the best trainings for diversity, but this is not all. More than training, implementation is needed as well as monitoring and feedback. These are the ways to ensure that the diversity efforts are effective.
There is no end. Diversity and inclusion, once started, will be a daily thing. The best scenario is that it gets too assimilated with the employees that it will no longer take much effort. However it will still need constant follow through.
Being a small company should not hinder one from reaping the benefits of diversity, equality and inclusion. It is an open enterprise for businesses big and small. However, it takes careful planning and consideration of factors to make the initiatives effective. It should be remembered that diversity can take a lot of complications. Chiefly, it highlights how different the workforce is, making people feel isolated and more focused on the differences rather than celebrating their similarities.
There is a difficulty in trying to console this especially in being located in a multicultural city. The case given, it becomes a requisite to open the organization to multicultural applicants, suppliers, and customers. With this continuous focus on how diverse the group is, lines are forming as to where the differences lie. The dissimilarities are flashing.
There are two key factors where the efficiency of diversity lies: the human resources department and the employees. In hindsight, the two are inter-related. The efforts of the human resources department should cooperate with the employees. The employees, in turn, should cooperate with the human resources department. Of course, it can be possible that some or all will not cooperate. Measures towards these probabilities should be expected and measures should be made ready.
Despite these probabilities, there are things that can be done to ensure that an organization is diverse yet inclusive. This new trend in the diversity clause has helped companies manage their workgroups with much success. Inclusion, while not at all a new breed of diversity initiative, is a next step. For some, it is also the only step towards becoming efficiently diverse. There are many recommendations given for ensuring that diversity is inclusive. All of the recommendations aim to make diversity as manageable as possible for the organizations.
It is important to note that the highlight given by diversity to the differences of the employees is short-lived as long as proper management is taken. When resolved, the advantages are endless. Teamwork is boosted and productivity is increased. The good news is that the advantages are for the company and its employees to enjoy. Having become a diverse organization, it becomes welcoming to diverse clients. That means definite growth for the company, making it at par with its larger counterparts.
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