In contrast to the equal opportunities stance, there is a growing body of work related to the need to manage what has become known as diversity in the workplace—to be responsible for and sensitive to the different types of individuals who make up an organization. Gender is an important topic in diversity, as are race, ethnicity, class, disability, and HIV status, as well as other issues less prominent in the equal opportunities literature, such as personality, value systems, working style, religion, lifestyle, education level, and so on. As Patricia Arredondo points out, the idea of managing diversity refers to a strategic organizational approach to workforce diversity development, organizational culture change, and empowerment of the workforce. It represents a shift away from the activities and assumptions defined by affirmative action (an equal opportunities tactic involving positive discrimination) to management practices that are inclusive, reflecting the workforce diversity and it potential. Ideally it is a pragmatic approach in which participants anticipate and plan for change, do not fear human differences or perceive them as a threat, and view the workforce as a forum for individuals’ growth and change in skills and performance with direct cost benefits to the organization.
Managing diversity means establishing a heterogeneous workforce to perform to its potential in an equitable work environment where no member or group of members have an advantage or a disadvantage. Managing diversity includes a process of creating and maintaining an environment that naturally allows all individuals to reach their full potential in pursuit of organizational objectives. Diversity management emphasizes building specific skills, creating policies and drafting practices that get the best from every employee. It assumes a coherent environment in organizations and aims for effectiveness, productivity, and ultimately competitive advantage targeting everyone within an organization, as opposed to focusing simply on less-represented groups such as women or people of color. Through effective integration of diversity management principles in the key human resource functions of recruitment and selection, training and development, performance appraisal, and remuneration, an organization can effectively manage workforce diversity.
However, traditional organizational imperatives may drive decision makers away from an affinity toward or an awareness of diversity training initiatives. Highly bureaucratic and mechanistic organizations have traditionally thrived on sameness. The principles of management in the past were generally seen as being based on the concepts of standardization and homogeneity. According to R. M. Kanter, the desire for social certainty causes decision makers to prefer to work with individuals that they perceive to be similar, revealing an unspoken, and perhaps even unconscious, drive to maintain traditional demographics in the workplace and to accept diversity only in the shallowest of terms.
Moreover, the need for control and the ways in which managers achieve control in the workplace are still seen as being based on standardization of work outcomes, work processes, or skills. However, while managers may experience a need for control, this is also accompanied by a need to perform and achieve results. Building a business case for diversity is likely to be one of the most persuasive ways of promoting and encouraging diversity across occupations and hierarchical levels.
Although organizations are using a broad range of initiatives in their efforts to manage diversity, training is one of the most widely used strategies in effectively managing diversity in the workplace. Diversity training has been categorized in different ways. One perspective, according to P. Nemetz and S. Christensen, looks at four different classifications: (1) sensitivity training, (2) dissonance creation, (3) cultural awareness, and (4) legal awareness.
Sensitivity training is designed to sensitize individuals to feelings provoked by discrimination. Content tactics include separating individuals by characteristics like eye color and then arbitrarily discriminating against a group to illustrate the underlying belief that all individuals are hurt by discrimination. For example, men are separated from women, and women are empowered through role-playing to sexually harass men. This strategy is used to illustrate the belief that men victimize women.
The dissonance creation approach is based on purposely creating cognitive dissonance with the hope that the target audience will resolve inconsistencies by changing attitudes and ultimately behaviors. Tactics range from requiring an individual who exhibits initial prejudice to write an essay showing the absurdities of stereotyping to requiring an individual who shows initial prejudice to debate in favor of the idea that the dominant group is oppressive.
Cultural awareness training provides an exploration of cultural differences. Tactics range from discussing stereotypes and unintentional slights to building consensus on ways to avoid stereotyping. Cultural awareness training also separates the oppressed from the oppressive while encouraging the former to express their feelings to the latter.
Finally, legal awareness training is based on explaining discrimination laws. Content includes describing various activities that violate the law with an explanation of the consequences of the violation. Content also includes discussing unfairness and bias in laws and the injustice present in white-male dominated justice systems.
A second perspective, according to M. Gentile, identifies five categories of diversity training. These include: (1) introduction to diversity, (2) focused awareness, (3) skill building, (4) sexual or other forms of harassment, and (5) integrated diversity training.
The first category, introductory training, usually includes the presentation of demographic statistics, a brief overview of historical approaches to diversity in organizations, descriptions of distinctions between affirmative action and valuing diversity, provision for basic self-awareness building, and exercises to help individuals see ways in which they may unconsciously harbor and act upon various stereotypes. The purpose of this type of program is to begin to develop a shared definition and vocabulary around diversity, to share the organization’s rationale and goals, and to create a sense of positive interest in further individual training.
The second type of training is in-depth, focused awareness development. These programs feature more individual and small group interactions. They pursue an understanding of the nature, functions, and prevalence of various stereotypes in the organizational setting. Sometimes they focus on race, gender, or particular ethnic groups. The purpose of these programs is to expand individual understanding as a means to changing behavior in relation to other employees and those in the business environment.
A third type of training is the skill building workshop. It is increasingly recognized that specific competencies and skills are necessary in order to work successfully as members of a diverse group. People who are not equipped with these skills will be less able to develop the integrating group processes that are characteristic of highly effective diverse groups. This type of training workshop is designed to teach specific communication skills such as listening across differences, conflict resolution, interviewing, and mentoring with an emphasis on the ways gender, race, culture, or other differences may affect the process.
These skills could in turn be based on the existence of some key preconditions: A shared social reality between group members; ability to “decenter” or to consider viewpoints that may differ from one’s own; motivation to communicate; ability to negotiate and endorse contracts of behavior and ability to attribute difficulties appropriately. Developing people’s abilities to create such preconditions might form the basis of a competence and skills based training program.
Another training technique in this category targets the workshop for specific minority groups within an organization. For example, some companies have developed programs for middle-management-level women who are trying to counteract the effects of the perceived “glass ceiling.” This type of program can have a negative impact if members of the targeted group are perceived as being less prepared than others to advance within the organization or if the targeted group is perceived as getting special assistance or attention. Some organizations have avoided these problems by having members of the targeted group develop these workshops for other members as a function of a special support network.
A fourth type of training is the workshop on sexual or other forms of harassment. Such programs usually focus on communicating the legal definition of harassment and the organization’s policies and practices for dealing with such occurrences. Sometimes these efforts provide discussion where conflicting feelings and concerns about the definition of harassment can be aired.
Diversity training can also be provided in the form of integrated diversity training. Such programs integrate appropriate diversity issues into the course of pre-existing and new training efforts that target specific functional skills or business goals. For example, in customer service training programs the particular challenges and opportunities of serving a diverse customer base can be introduced.
Finally, some of the goals frequently mentioned by the experts related to increasing organizational effectiveness include connecting the diversity training to the organization’s strategic goals; and improving organizational culture. According to diversity experts, an organizational climate that emphasizes fairness and equity and promotes trust, respect, and understanding among all employees motivates individuals to maximize their individual performance and contributions to an organization’s profitability and competitive edge.
- Adler, International Dimensions of Organizational Behavior (Thomson Learning, 2002);
- Arredondo, Successful Diversity Management Initiatives (Sage, 1996);
- John Bank, Managing Workforce Diversity (PrenticeHall, 2005);
- J. Davidson and C. L. Cooper, Shattering the Glass Ceiling: The Woman Manager (Paul Chapman, 1992);
- Mary C. Gentile, Managing Diversity (Harvard Business School Press, 1995);
- Carol P. Harvey and M. June Allard, Understanding and Managing Diversity: Readings, Cases, and Exercises (Pearson Prentice Hall, 2009);
- Alison Konrad, Pushkala Prasad, and Judith K. Pringle, The Handbook of Workplace Diversity (Sage, 2006);
- Joan Marques, “Workplace Diversity: Developing a Win-Win-Win Strategy,” Development and Learning in Organizations (v.22/5, 2008);
- Michàlle E. Mor-Barak, Managing Diversity: Toward a Globally Inclusive Workplace (Sage, 2005);
- Carole Spiers, “The Business Benefits of Diversity,” Management Services (v.52/2, Summer 2008).
This example Diversity Essay is published for educational and informational purposes only. If you need a custom essay or research paper on this topic please use our writing services. EssayEmpire.com offers reliable custom essay writing services that can help you to receive high grades and impress your professors with the quality of each essay or research paper you hand in.