In todays society, cultural diversity is at the highest point it has ever been. As companies are becoming more diverse, it is becoming more important for them to understand and manage that diversity. People of different backgrounds, races, ages, sex, and/or religions create a diverse workforce. There is an importance of having a diverse workforce in order to provide better performance overall. With a diverse workforce, there arises a need for new management strategies, which require organization leaders and managers to know the differences among their employees and to know how to handle situations involving these differences.
As Dr. Sondra Thiederman, a leading expert in workplace diversity, stated, “whether you are a business owner, executive, salesperson or customer- service professional, your success will increasingly depend on your ability to function in a culturally diverse marketplace” (Thiederman, 2000). During this past summer, I participated in an internship program in which I worked for a major company, Thorngate, that employees over 300 people. In this organization, there is a divide between upper management and the workers in terms of diversity.
Upper management is predominately white male, while the worker population is predominately female. This is added to with the diversity in race among the workers. This divide could potentially be problematic for the company. Literature on the subject of diversity in the workplace and how it can be handled, revealed statistics on diversity and suggestions for how to handle it. The growth in diversity is continually on the rise. Today, one in four people in this country belong to a minority or are foreign-born (U. S. Census Bureau, 2001).
These minorities are considered include any person who is not a white-male. Women today, who currently make up less than half the work force, are expected to fill 65 percent of the jobs created during this decade (Jackson et al. , 1998). Also during the next decade, all minorities are expected to hold almost three-quarters of all jobs in the country (Johnston, 1999). The work force at Thorngate follows this trend since women are roughly three-quarters of the employees and that women minorities are roughly one-third of the workers.
Businesses like Thorngate, whom employ mass amounts of people, should realize that a diverse workforce is needed in order to continue longevity, growth, and increased profits. Companies should see this shift in worker population and change their organizations to meet the challenge presented. Above all other policies is that discrimination is wrong, both legally and morally. In addition to this is the fact that a more diverse workforce will increase organizational effectiveness. It will lift morale, bring greater access to new segments of the marketplace, and enhance productivity.
In short diversity can be good for business (Cox and Blake, 1992). Research out of Canada states that the Canadian companies leading the way in the area of diversity management have discovered that by embracing the elements of ethnic and cultural diversity in their workforce they have enhanced their ability to understand and tap new markets, both within Canada and abroad (Thomas and Ely, 1998). Many American based companies could do the same with effective use of diverse human resources The management in these companies will have to change their strategies and follow different guidelines in order to facilitate diversity.
In the companies, management will have to focus on getting the best talent out of the person regardless of age, sex, or other demographic differences. The management will have to develop career plans for all employees of the organization including the minorities. The management will have to promote minorities to responsible positions in the workplace instead of only promoting those individuals of the more traditional white-male population. Management will have to become effective in communication with all employees and be able to listen to their problems, even if they are of a different background or culture.
Over time, management will have to become as diverse as the employee population. As this relates to the employees, management will have to encourage diverse thinking among those who are not of the minority. There are many aspects to establishing the right attitude in the rest of the department. In the workplace, expectations bias will need to be eliminated. This leads people to expect less productive work or more \”goofing off\” from certain employees. Management and the employees should expect the best from the workers and given the correct training and resources, those workers can deliver.
In the workplace, the use of labels should be strongly discouraged. Labels are words used as powerful weapons against another person or culture. How to refer to people from diverse populations requires some conscious sensitivity. This involves more than not using crude references; it means using words preferred by the people themselves. Such words change over time, the way the term \”Negro\” gave way to \”black\” and \”African American. \” \”Oriental\” has been replaced by \”Asian. \” \”Handicapped\” has been replaced by \”a person with a disability. \” Individuals may have their own preferences as well.
If management and workers are unsure of how to refer to someone, then they should simply ask. A moment’s awkwardness in the present could prevent misunderstanding and resentment in the future. Ultimately, management has to involve itself in crowd control. In the workplace, employees will behave in the ways most accustomed to them. If groups form, then those groups can often put pressure on other individuals or other groups. These people will have to be watched and discouraged from behaving in certain ways. Management will have to eliminate jokes, name-calling, sabotage, or whatever form discrimination may take in the workplace.
Management is responsible for establishing and maintaining the atmosphere of the business or else they can be held accountable for any problems that arise. Thorngate has a diverse population in its work force, but not in its management. The strategies suggested in the literature are used by the management. No major problems seem to exist between the workers and the management, but there are minor problems. These are the attitudes that are present in the workers toward the management. Perhaps these are normal attitudes to have toward the management; the us versus them frame of mind.
Still, there are these diversity issues that the women and minorities feel. As long as these remain minor, they pose no threat to the structure of the organization. But, if these issues ever evolve into something more, then the company may have to implement more strategies such as those suggested in the literature. No matter how major or minor the issues of diversity are in Thorngate, there is no denying that there is a growing diversity. As with Thorngate, businesses cannot deny diversity. As stated earlier, diversity in workforce is growing.
It is important for the companies to know diversity and how to handle the issues relating to it. Also, the need of the diverse workforce is increasing because of the diversity of society. Not only that though, but the variety of people in the workforce can produce better results for the company. Having a more diverse work environment when managed properly can produce better performance. It is for these reason that managers and leaders in the organizations should learn about the differences of gender, age, sex, religion, etc in their work environment and learn how to communicate well between them.