Organizational actions that promote a diverse and inclusive workplace
Organizational actions that promote a diverse and inclusive workplace
Diversity management refers to organizational actions that aim to promote greater inclusion of employees from different backgrounds into an organization’s structure through specific policies and programs. Organizations are adopting diversity management strategies as a response to the growing diversity of the workforce around the world.
Advancements in technology now allow companies to hire and manage employees from around the world and in different time zones. Companies are designing specific programs and policies to enhance employee inclusion, promotion, and retention of employees who are from different backgrounds and cultures. The programs and policies are designed to create a welcoming environment for groups that lacked access to employment and more lucrative jobs in the past.
The concept of diversity started in North America in the mid-1980s, spreading to other parts of the world afterward. The then United States President, Ronald Reagan, originally vowed to dismantle the equality and affirmative action laws that were viewed as legal constraints. Equality and affirmative action employees presented the argument that diversity management should be seen as a competitive advantage to US companies rather than as legal constraints. The discussion attracted research into the concept of diversity and benefits of diversity management. The globalization of the world economy and the spread of multinational corporations brought a new twist into the concept, in that diversity management does not solely refer to the heterogeneity of the workforce in one country but to workforce composition across countries.
The following are the two types of diversity management:
Intranational diversity management refers to managing a workforce that comprises citizens or immigrants in a single national context. The diversity programs focus on providing employment opportunities to minority groups or recent immigrants. For example, a French company may implement policies and programs with the aim of improving sensitivity and providing employment to minority ethnic groups in the country.
Cross-national, or international, diversity management refers to managing a workforce that comprises citizens from different countries. It may also involve immigrants from different countries who are seeking employment. An example is a US-based company with branches in Canada, Korea, and China. The company will establish diversity programs and policies that apply in its US headquarters as well as in its overseas offices. The main challenge of cross-national diversity management is that the parent company must consider the legislative and cultural laws in the host countries it operates in, depending on where the employees live.
Unlike legislation that is implemented through sanctions, diversity management is a voluntary organizational action. It is self-initiated by organizations with a workforce from different ethnicities, religions, nationalities, and demographics. There is no legislation to coerce or government incentives to encourage organizations to implement diversity management programs and policies.
Unlike in the past when diversity management was viewed as a legal constraint, companies use the diversity strategy to tap into the potential of all employees and give the company a competitive advantage in its industry. It allows each employee, regardless of his/her color, religion, ethnicity, or origin to bring their talents and skills to the organization. A diverse workforce enables the organization to better serve clients from all over the world since diverse employees can understand their needs better.
While legislation and affirmative action target a specific group, diversity management uses a broad definition since the metrics for diversity are unlimited. The broad definition makes diversity programs more inclusive and having less potential for rejection by the members of the majority group or privileged sections of the society.
Organizations can implement these best practices to maintain a competitive business advantage and also capitalize on the potential of its diverse workforce. The following are the best practices that an organization can implement:
Workforce diversity can succeed if it is adopted by a shared vision with the company’s top management. The senior executives of an organization are responsible for policy formulation, and they can promote or kill workplace diversity depending on the policies they make. When the senior management fails to show commitment to implementing the diversity strategies, the diversity plan becomes severely limited.
In an organization where more people are leaving the workforce than are being hired, management must immediately employ fresh talents. Most companies prefer the traditional new-employee sources like competitor organizations and graduate schools to recruit the best talent. Companies should look beyond the traditional new-hire sources and explore other talent pools, such as veterans exiting the military, minority groups, and talents from other regions or countries. Hiring individuals with diverse skills and knowledge can help companies to deliver better quality services to a global client base.
Organizations should organize resource groups where employees from similar backgrounds can connect and communicate their concerns in a safe environment. People from minority groups often feel isolated from organizations and may, therefore, increase employee turnover. Creating avenues for mentorship, networking, and socializing helps to increase employee engagement and performance levels. Successful staff members can demonstrate how they found success within the organization and mentor new staff members.
An organization that practices workforce diversity should not shy away from letting the world know that the organization embraces diversity and works with people from all backgrounds. The organization can start by encouraging and supporting its staff who volunteer in different causes such as a disability walk or HIV/AIDs awareness forum. It can sponsor fund drives to raise funds to support vulnerable and underrepresented populations. The organization can also offer internships and scholarships to minority groups.
Various governments around the world have implemented affirmative action programs to provide opportunities for women and other minority groups. While such affirmative actions complement diversity, organizations should make a distinction between affirmative action and diversity. Diversity is proactive rather than reactive, and it requires a change in the organization. People from diverse cultures, backgrounds, and beliefs bring a range of work styles, thoughts, and perspectives that an organization can use to improve efficiency and encourage creativity in product development.
Thank you for reading CFI’s guide to diversity management. For further information on career development, see the following CFI resources: