1. Workplace Diversity- Introduction
Workplace Diversity is the acceptance of the fact that every individual is unique, and respecting that their uniqueness could be because of their race, gender, age, class, and physical ability, and religious inclination. It is also the recognition that these unique people have many common characteristics that help them in collaborating with others while performing a common task.
The objective of this tutorial is to introduce our readers to the concept of Workplace Diversity and to create an awareness about diversity management. This tutorial also gives an insight into how large organizations implement workplace diversity and gain success and recognition from that.
This tutorial is defined primarily for those professionals, who are getting the opportunity to work in a diverse workplace and need assistance in understanding the approach they are supposed to have.
Before proceeding with this tutorial, you are expected to have a calm mindset and be open to exploring the suggestions mentioned here.
Workplace Diversity is the acceptance of the fact that every individual is unique, and respecting that their uniqueness could be because of their race, gender, age, class, and physical ability, sexual orientation, and religious inclination.
It is also the recognition that these unique people have many common characteristics that help them in collaborating with others while performing in a common task. That provides them an opportunity to bring together their unique set of abilities to the table, which helps in getting different approaches to a situation
▪ Defining Workplace Diversity
Successful organizations that stress on having a diverse working environment have proved that people learn to channel their differences to make it their strength when they are given a common task. This phenomenon is different from assimilation, where people change their lifestyle to adopt the lifestyle of those they work with.
In case of diversity, people will still retain their individual values and mutual respect of one another as unique people, even if they are working as a team on a common task by combining their skills, experiences, and ideas. In a way, diversity is all about differences. The manner in which you analyze and use these differences will determine if diversity is an asset or liability to you and your organization. Many organizations have now started providing training on diversity to their employees, however,
diversity is not really a craft or a skill that you can acquire through training. Is a person doesn’t have a broad mentality, he would always notice the differences between people, which will affect the way he handles relationship at his workplace.
The key to understanding diversity is to have an open and honest communication, which helps people in understanding one another and building a feeling of mutual respect and trust in the workplace.
2. Workplace Diversity- Importance
This is what the underlying working principle behind diversity-it needs to be understood. Diversity requires respecting one’s own beliefs while learning the skills of dealing approximately with belief and values that may be totally different.
When we put people of different color, gender, and ethnicities into one workplace, we get the advantage of the many different ways of thinking these people bring with them. Many of these factors impact, however diverse groups bring a lot of variety through their personality, thought process, processing information, assertiveness, values, energy levels, education levels, experience, goals, political views, lifestyle, and social status, among many others. Mastering and applying diversity in workplace will help professionals and managers understand a diverse workplace better, so that they can attract new talent and retain productive employees in a today’s competitive global economy.
This also helps manager to create a dynamic and complete work environment where all employees are respected and treated with dignity. It ensures that every person’s commitment to the company is maximized by making him feel as if he belongs in this place.
3. Identifying a Diverse Workforce
Diversity in workplace is not just related to color and race. Even people of the same race and color can be diverse in the way to process what they listen, see, think, and accept information about. It is a subconscious and automatic process.
Nowadays, many trainers start their training programs with an initial study of the kind of learners they have in their training room. If they have a predominantly visual learner base, they try to use more graphic and diagrams. For auditory they will rely on audio files and listening techniques, and for kinesthetic-oriented learners, they organize one-on-one discussion, forums, and jam sessions. We can identify three major categories of processing styles-Visual Learners, Auditory Learners, and Kinesthetic Learners
▪ Visual Learners
These prefer to receive information visually. They like to get information in written form. A visual person would like to read an email or see a fax of something before taking any decision, no matter how articulately you explain things to him. They will tend to use sentences that will have a lot of visual words like “I don’t see a lot of profit here”, “did you see what he said?” etc. They enjoy reading, watching TV, writing stuff and playing intellectual games.
▪ Auditory Learners
Auditory learners like to ask for something in speech. Instead of reading a book, they would like to listen to audio book where the line will be narrated to them. If you send them a brief mail, they would most likely respond somewhat like “yeah, I got the mail, however couldn’t get the time to go through it. Could we talk about it now?”
Auditory Learners use auditory sentences like “I don’t like the sound great.” They like something unconsciously, and love listening to music. They enjoy word games and having conversations.
▪ Kinesthetic Learners
Kinesthetic Learners would want to meet you in person before taking any decision. They would use words that are predominantly related to touch, feel and presence. Their sentences would sound like “this is a touchy issue”, “this doesn’t feel right’. They like to hold things while talking. Even if they are complimenting the color of your dress, they might reach out and touch your dress. They enjoy sports and dancing.
People do cross over from one style to another but researchers say that, we stay in our comfort zone 70% of the times. So, identifying and adapting to someone’s primary style can help you break the ice quicker with them and build a rapport.
Overall, understanding diversity is about feeling comfortable in an interrelated society and providing optimal output in an interdependent workplace that is a representation of the different demographics of the world
4. Workplace Diversity- Disadvantages
While the final results of a properly-run diverse workforce might turn out great, it’s the period of implementation of the program that is the most trying for any organization. It has been observed that the first steps of implementation provide the biggest hurdle stem from the insecurity and pre-conceived notions that the employees have in their minds. Workplace diversity is not a study of simple empirical data. Instead, it is about understanding and accepting diversity.
Cases of managers discriminating against people from what they perceive are inferior backgrounds are well-known as well. These cases of discrimination might not be pronounced but it can exist in a hidden manner. When a worker is discriminated, it directly impacts his productivity. In extreme case, it invites litigation.
▪ Challenges in Diversity
When diverse people start to work together, it has been observed that they face initial hiccups in communicating with each other. That’s natural when you consider that all of them are from different backgrounds but this initial lag in communication decrease productivity in the workplace and causes a lot of issues in team-meetings.
In addition to the issues discuss above, there is always a culture clash in the beginning of the training.
While cultivating a mutual respect for one another’s culture is the main idea behind implementing workplace diversity, it could be a huge task to accommodate every diverse employee’s request based on cultural and religious beliefs.
There have been cases where companies had no other choice but to hire other full-time staff to keep a track of their diverse employees’ preferences and needs. These cases happen in large organizations with very diverse workplace. For example, many Muslim employees decide to not work on Friday, as it is a special day for prayers in their religion. To accommodate this request of theirs, the company now has to hire additional staff who would work on their behalf
▪ Implementing the change
The purpose of implementing workplace diversity is getting employees together to see the big picture and contribute to achieving it through their different ideas. However, it has been seen that instead of bringing employees together, it actually polarizes them into factions and groups. Although these groups are all informal, however it actually prevents employees from interacting with people beyond employees from interacting with people beyond their culture. The old saying of “birds with same feathers flock together” will be perfect to describe this case. Employees don’t meet, socialize or spend leisure time with one another. Although this isn’t fundamentally wrong in itself, it can put limitations on employees knowing about other employees which reduces effective communication skills, hence decreasing productivity.
5. Workplace Diversity-Globalization
Globalization is a process where organizations take their businesses to an international stage. In todays world, companies are more interested to operate on a global scale as they find that, there is demand for their products. There is also another reason behind this phenomenon. The price of raw materials also very all often the world. Different countries offer different tax breaks to companies too. Keeping all these factors in mind, companies find it a very profitable venture to open their office in different parts of the world.
This creates an interesting situation. While getting more inexpensive raw material and tax breaks is fine, a company soon realize that it’s impartial to send its entire workforce from their home-state to another country. The logistics just won’t add up. So, what they do is, they tap into the abundant local labor in that country which works both ways. It reduces, as well as provides employment opportunities to their local. However, to get people work together so that there is one common output, the company
has to send supervisors who can instruct the indigenous people on the specifications and design. This creates a diverse workplace by default.
In today’s world talent shortage is a huge issue when every other company is offering extremely competitive wages. Organizations now know that, they have to attract, motivate and retain their talent force. Increasing diversity in the workplace not only increase turn-over but also reduces absenteeism.
Globalization has also brought in a wave of increased product awareness and consumer need.
Companies now know that their product can have an appreciable market demand in a country that far away from the place they are located in. they understand that they have to employ people from various backgrounds so that they can correct better with different markets that they are familiar with, and increase the business potential of the company
6. Workplace Diversity-Implementing
Change is the only constant, however when it comes to accepting this fact, many people find it difficult. Many employees don’t want to accept the change in their workplace that diversity brings with it. Employees fear the competition that highly motivated people from different backgrounds, social status and economic fronts bring with them to the workplace. When these issues crop up, as they do, the management needs to take a tough stand and send a clear message to their staff that the change is bound to happen and that the way to a better future. This message should come firm and with conviction. The staff should understand that the management is serious about diversity and they will do well to follow suit. In addition to sending a strong message, the management can successfully implement workplace
diversity by following these steps-
• Establish Urgency- The management must provide convincing argument on the need to embrace diversity, and that the employees shouldn’t be viewing this change as a policy
makeover, but rather as a change in ideology.
• From a Winning Team- The heads of the departments need to get together on this and throw their entire support behind the move. This will encourage the employees to see the right picture.
People tend to follow their managers as they have more experience and are the right people to get information from.
• Define Clear Vision and strategy- Outlining a clear strategy and empowering people with a vision gets them motivated and engaged in a result-oriented process. This helps the company
keep to track of its employee’s involvement and successful implementation of the project.
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