Managing Diversity in the 21st Century Workplace

Abstract

Modern organizations are distinguished by the diversity of their workforce. This is largely because of the nature of the modern businesses, which is characterized by constant change. Managing a diverse workforce is a big challenge and therefore, managers should plan according to the extent of the diversity in their organizations. Managers should also demonstrate good leadership in order to create employee satisfaction in the organization. Good leadership can not be expressed without the right channel of communication. Communication is important as it helps to express various issues in the workplace and helps the diverse workforce to understand each other. Leaders need to exhibit participative leadership in order to represent various employees in the workplace. This paper examines the best management principles that managers and other organization leaders should employ in managing a diverse workforce.

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Modern organizations are characterized by their diversity. Diversity management is accomplished through the implementation of systems that maximize the advantages of diversity while minimizing its disadvantages. Modern organizations are also distinguished by high flexibility and creativity. Managing a diverse workforce in an organization is very challenging. It requires managers to possess exceptional skill and understanding (Thomas, 2010). Their knowledge should range from areas of diversity to the psychology of its various extremes, and understand the behaviors that are exhibited by various groups. Managers must understand not only the benefits that diversity brings to the workplace, but the challenges it poses as well. They should first appreciate the differences that exist in the workplace rather than criticizing it. It is very hard to operate an organization that does not have any kind of diversity in its work (Thomas, 2010). Managers should therefore devise ways of dealing with particular diversities in their organization.

Diversity in the workforce can be visible or invisible. Physical ability, gender, race and color are examples of visible characteristics. Invisible characteristics include education, religious belief, sexual orientation, social status and work experience. Managers should understand the behavior that is demonstrated by employees, even the extremes of both visible and invisible qualities. Understanding employees helps managers strike a balance in their style of leadership in order to create satisfaction in all workplace groups. Although an organization is managed by guidelines and procedures, managers should still devise systems that are tailored to the organization’s unique composition (Dubrin, 2011).

 

Benefits and Challenges

Managers should be in a position to understand the benefits brought by the diversity of the employees. They should also know the challenges that a diverse workforce bring to the organization. One of the advantages of diversity in organizations is increased adaptability. Organizations that have employed diversity can easily find solutions to different problems that may occur in the organization. Problems such as service, resource allocation and sourcing are easily solved when an organization is comprised of a diverse workforce. This is because employees from diverse backgrounds have different talents, capabilities and experiences that help them create ideas and solutions to the organization’s problems (Dubrin, 2011).

The second advantage is that employees from diverse backgrounds have different capabilities. People with similar backgrounds tend to have similar experiences; individuals from diverse backgrounds possess different abilities based on their experience. The diversity in skills also helps an organization to deal with different organizational aspects. The understanding of various cultures within the workforce can help the organization to make informed decisions such as those concerning market targeting. Diversity in terms of languages may also help in communication where customers from different ethnic communities are concerned (Dubrin, 2011).

A diverse workforce also views various proposals of the organization in different ways. A diverse workforce would feel comfortable in communicating their points of view. Such discussions create a pool of experience and ideas that would help foster a learning environment in the organization. Companies that nurture a diverse workforce inspire their employees to perform to the best of their abilities because they feel appreciated. When employees feel appreciated their efficiency increases; this enables the organization to have higher productivity which leads to increased profits (Dubrin, 2011).

Despite the advantages, there are also challenges faced by organizations with a diverse work force. One of these challenges is communication barrier. In order to make diversity programs successful, it is important to address language, cultural and perceptual barriers wisely. Balancing these extremes may be challenging. When communication in the organization is ineffective and its key objectives are not understood, this may result to confusion, low morale and ineffective teamwork. Organizations should work to address these discrepancies (Dubrin, 2011). This is because if they are left to accumulate, they could lead to dire consequences which may include heavy losses.

Another significant problem is resistance to change. The change process is very critical in businesses. Managers should keep track of the changes that occur in their organization. If an organization initially had a less diverse workforce and more employees joined later on, managers should take note of the changes so as to adapt their styles of management. Organizations with different degrees of diversity have different approaches towards finding solutions to problems and making important decisions. Resistance to change in the organization creates an impediment towards growth (Dubrin, 2011).

The other great challenge in managing diverse workforce is implementing policies of diversity in the workplace. This is quite challenging because it entails formulation of inclusive policies. Managers must devise a strategy that would have a positive impact on the organization. A diversity management plan is not effective through diversity training only; there must be an implemented strategy aimed to create a culture that will be adopted throughout the organization. The effective implementation of diversity increases an organization’s productivity because all employees feel valued (Erlenkamp, 2005).

 

Planning for a Diverse Workforce

Planning is a process that entails setting goals and finding means through which these goals can be achieved in an organization. Planning is important when the workforce is diverse. Proper planning helps to prevent conflicts of interest that may arise due to the dissatisfaction of various stakeholders in the organization. Planning helps to address all areas of diversity and helps to prevent chaos in the workplace. Employee dissatisfaction in the workplace could result to high turnover and could create a bad reputation for the organization (Erlenkamp, 2005).

One of the approaches that could be used to best attain planning results is by assessing the prevailing situation. This is determines the extent of the diversity in the organization. Managers need to create a profile for each employee in the workforce. This would help to understand the employees in-depth and would help to provide a platform on which to base planning. Environmental scans could help to create structures that could anchor, develop and manage teams in a diverse workforce. A cohesive team experiences high performance in the tasks they perform inside the organization (Erlenkamp, 2005).

It is also important for managers to consider the extent of diversity in their organization while formulating the mission and vision. If the mission and vision of the company acknowledges diversity, it would be easier to adjust the mission of the company when the need arises. Managers should conduct recruitment programs, while making policies for the future direction of the business, which will address problems of diversity in the work place and will help workers to interrelate well. Recruitment of the staff in the organization creates satisfaction among employees because they feel that the organization is non-discriminatory and values them (Barak, 2011). When recruitment is successfully conducted, hiring follows. There are situations where the current workforce does not have the capability to conduct a particular task. In such a situation, hiring is done to fill vacant positions. This is only conducted if the existing staff members can not handle the task at hand. Such hiring should be done with care in order to avoid more challenges that emanate from increased diversity. Therefore, hiring should be in line with the existing dimensions of diversity. Hiring a team that increases diversity in the organization requires more planning. This is because the organization has increased the scope of diversity (Barak, 2011).

Recruitment and hiring can be done easily, but the big challenge where change is concerned is maintaining the diverse team. Informed decisions in planning is required in order to lay down strategies that could lead to maintain the hired team as well as the other members of a diverse workforce. Improper planning could lead to high turnover in the organization. This could lead to great losses because the company has already invested funds in the recruitment of new staff (Barak, 2011). To prevent such losses, it is always important for managers to plan in accordance with the current situation of the organization.

There are several options that could act as guides to effective planning. The first one is to plan in line with the existing plans. When managers disregard the current objectives and goals of the organization, they could bring confusion as to which direction needs to be followed, or whether to terminate the task that was already in progress. In stead of terminating the existing plans, managers should modify them so that they align to the prevailing condition in the organization (Barak, 2011).

The second option is to demonstrate participative behavior. Managers should involve their employees in the planning process. This would leave their workers contented because they feel that their interests have been addressed. Involving employees in making important plans for the organization gives them an opportunity to raise their concerns. The decisions would therefore represent the goals of the organization as well as those of individual employees. This would minimize the chance of resisting change because of the abruptly changed plans. Taking such a step would increase performance of the employees because they feel that the organization has recognized their presence in the organization. The company would also incur fewer costs that are involved in the implementation of the plan. Involving employees in the organization increases the performance in the organization because employees are motivated (DiTomaso, 2004).

Communication is very important as far as diversity in the organization is concerned. Managers should communicate the plans that have been made in the workplace. Diversity plans should be reviewed constantly. It is recommended that they are reviewed at least once in every year. The review ensures that the plans include the constant changes that occur in the organization. Modern organizations are characterized by many changes largely due to constant improvement in technology and globalization. The changes that necessitate constant review of the plans are from both internal and external environments. Although all organizations must comply with particular requirements of the industry in which they operate, they must also comply with the requirements that are within the organization (DiTomaso, 2004).

 

Employing Good Managerial Practices

Dealing with diversity depends on the size of the organization. There are organizations that do not have an established personnel and human resource department to conduct the hiring process. Whether an organization is small or large, it must be ready to learn about the rapidly changing global business environment. Modern organizations are achieving success depending on how well they are coping with the changes that are occurring within the business sector. Small organizations that have less developed human resource management are not left out from dealing with diversity because they have to deal with customers from a diverse population (DiTomaso, 2004).

Managers in larger organizations should instruct their human resource managers or the personnel management staff to undertake courses that would give them adequate knowledge on managing diversity. Other managers should take additional courses as well; finally, other staff should also undertake a course on diversity. The courses that should be involved in managing a diverse workforce and courses that relate to teamwork with members from diverse origins. Managers should know that training all the members of staff in their organization is not the solution to all the diversity problems, but it does help the members to be aware of their difference and understand the different cultures of their colleagues (DiTomaso, 2004). It helps them to be sensitive about what they say or do.

The other management practice is to hold constant meetings. Managers should devise schedules that could see the staff and the managers hold monthly or weekly meetings. They should also set aside time for teams to interact through holding discussions in the organization. They should encourage team members to ask questions on the progress of the team and on the performance of their team. This would enhance the relationship between the members and build strong relationship between members. Since not every member of staff would feel at ease in talking in public, team managers should hold regular meetings with their teams and encourage all team members to raise the issues that surround the team and organizations (Powell, 2011).

In order to understand different diversities, managers should set aside time for one individual from a diverse culture to explain how things are done differently in their culture. Such kind of sessions would help members of staff to understand different cultures and diversity and would help the team members to know how to act in such situations. Such sessions help to explain that even in a single country, people conduct different can have different ways of lifestyles. This would help the members of the team to have a clear understanding of other people’s culture in the organization (Powell, 2011).

Managers should also keep communication open to everyone in the organization or in the team. Communication helps people from other cultures to adjust to the organization culture. This is because it keeps all people in the organization informed on the culture of the organization. Managers should understand his employees in order to know which employees have good understanding of organizational culture. Those people who understand the organizational culture better should offer help others who have not adjusted fully. This would help them fully understand the culture and make the necessary adjustments too (Powell, 2011).

Leadership is also an equally important facet in managing diverse workforce. Organizations should include different staff members from diverse backgrounds in all levels of management. They should also ensure that all individuals in the organization have equal chances of getting promoted. This would create satisfaction to all employees as they are represented in the hierarchical structure of the organization. It is the desire of every employee to work in an organization that provides opportunities for their growth. Employee development is highly valued and it is one of the motivators in organizations (Powell, 2011). Good leadership is the key to managing a diverse workforce.

Different organizations have different cultures; there are times when organization cultures fail to be compatible with individual cultures. This is a time when leadership needs to be fully demonstrated. An example is when managers plan to increase productivity in the organization while employees demand for a break in their work. Leadership is required in such situations. Leaders should try to understand both perspectives and strike a good balance between the two situations (Powell, 2011).

Modern organizations are characterized by diversity in the workforce. Due to constant changes that are taking place caused by rapid developments in technology and globalization, organizations are hiring employees from diverse backgrounds in order to find the expertise they need. This search for the expertise increases diversity in the organization, which is a great challenge for managers. Diversity of the workforce in organizations has both advantages and advantages. Managers should be able to maximize the advantages of diversity in organizations and minimize the disadvantages.

Achieving maximum advantages in organizations need proper planning. Since coping with diversity of workforce is challenging, strategies are needed that could lead to good relationships within the diverse workforce in the work place. Proper planning in the organization would help employees develop good relationships with one other and increase their performance in the organization. Adequate planning would create an environment in which everyone in the organization would feel valued and would give a chance to employee development.

One of the most important functions in managing a diverse workforce is leadership. It is important to represent all members of a diverse workforce in all levels of an organization. This would create employee satisfaction and would reduce conflict in the organization. Managers should also devise training programs for all employees including all managers on understanding diversity. Such programs would help members of the organization to understand diversity and tolerate each other in the workplace. They would also help in increasing the relationship between employees leading to efficiency in the workplace. Therefore, leadership is the key to effective management of a diverse workforce in an organization.

 

 

 

References

Barak, M.E. (2011). Managing diversity: Toward a globally inclusive workplace. New Delhi: Sage.

DiTomaso, N. (2004). Diversity in the workforce. San Diego: Emerald Group Publishing.

Dubrin, A.J. (2011). Essentials of management. Ohio: Cengage Learning.

Erlenkamp, M. (2005). Managing international teams and workforce diversity. Norderstedt: GRIN Verlag.

Powell, G.N. (2011). Managing a diverse workforce: Learning activities. California: SAGE Publications.

Thomas, R.R. (2010). World class diversity management: A strategic approach. California: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

 

 

 

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