People differ in many ways according to social classes/status, marital status, gender, age, sexual orientation, and disabilities. These differences can be visible or invisible. Human resource management acknowledges these differences and knows that workforce diversity is a reality in every organization. Different countries have different predominant workforce diversity issues. In the recent past, however, the predominant diversity issue worldwide was gender inequality. Women were viewed and treated as inferior to men. Over time, this issue has been corrected, although there are communities where women are still powerless and undermined. In the current world, other diversity issues have come up, such as religion and race/ethnicity. For example, in China, rural migrants are looked down upon and ill-treated in the workplace by their urban counterparts. The human resource department of every organization must ensure that the positive aspects of diversity in the workplace are appreciated and that nobody is treated as a second-class employee only because they are different from other workers. This paper gives an analysis of various issues surrounding diversity in human resources and proposes management guidelines to promote well-being of everyone in the organization.
Increasing Diversity in the Workplace
In the modern workplace, major issues concerning civil rights are racial equality and gender equity. However, these are not the only issues that personnel management considers when they come up with diversity initiatives in their organizations. Other factors that need addressing diversity in the workplace include age, disabilities, and workers caring for sick relatives. This has necessitated enactment of various laws to help to cater for these employees’ needs, for example, the Age Discrimination Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Family Medical Leave Act. Other factors that increase diversity in the workplace include cultural, religious, and linguistic differences among employees (Marquis, 2007).
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Despite increasing diversity in the workplace, the human resource management has the responsibility for fostering a healthy working environment in their organizations. Their task is to make certain that the organization is compliant with the anti-discrimination laws of the state. In addition, they must facilitate the development of an environment where people of different cultures, ages, sex, race, and religion work together harmoniously to achieve the goals of the organization (Beham, Straub, & Schwalbach, 2012).
Major Issues in Human Resource Diversity Management
Some firms with diverse workforce argue that they are diverse in human resources because they have employees, both men and women, of various religions, races, and skin colors. However, in reality, despite the fact that they have diverse workforce, opportunities differ. Such inequality leads to a situation where a certain group is favored when, for example, promotions are given. Moreover, one finds out that in some organizations only a specific group of people can be in top managerial positions due to, maybe, their race, color, or religion. To handle these cases, there must be a law/policy that addresses such biases. The Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) policy protects employees against discrimination in the workplace. It requires that all employees have the same opportunities for recruitment, firing, transfers, wages/salaries, and promotions irrespective of their skin color, sex, race, national origin, or religion. The policy, which was passed into law in the United States in 1964, also states that discrimination in the classification of positions and advertising is illegal. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission handles all issues that arise in this field (Kossek, Lobel, & Brown , 2005).
Diversity management in human resources seeks to harness differences in the workforce to ensure that individual talents are utilized optimally to meet the goals of the organization. Every company should work with different talents among its stuff to guarantee that organizational goals are met in the most efficient way. This means that, instead of concentrating on discrimination, the human resource department should know the strengths of each employee and where they can work most efficiently so that the aims of the organization are achieved. It would be important to note that diversity management tries to overcome discrimination in the labor market by addressing individual differences that are most likely to bring inequality to the workplace. It also highlights the importance of respecting and taking advantage of those individual differences to maximize the potential of the workers and the organization in general. This vividly shows that diversity management in human resource acts, beyond the EOO policy, only requires a legal compliance (Kossek, Lobel, & Brown , 2005).
Objectives of Diversity Management
Organizations implementing human resource diversity management seek to achieve competitive advantage in the market. Their main objective is to comply with the requirements of EEO policy. This is the basic idea for most companies. However, others go a step further and aim at utilizing diversity management to achieve employee attraction and retention. More probably than not, employees will be willing to work in organizations where their individual differences are respected and not used as a basis for discrimination. Therefore, organizations that promote diversity management have a higher retention rate since their staff is more comfortable working there as compared to other organizations where their differences bring about discrimination (Golembiewski, 1995). In addition to this, an organization can use diversity management to improve marketing capabilities. This plan applies where diverse workers present a good image of the organization to the outside world. Consequently, this acts as a marketing strategy for the company. In fact, research shows that diversity management reduces absenteeism among the staff. Evidently, this happens because people feel motivated and appreciated, hence there is job satisfaction. This is dissimilar to organizations with ‘dominant’ and ‘less dominant groups. In such companies, job satisfaction levels are quite low of those individuals who come from less dominant groups as compared to those in the dominant ones. Therefore, not allowing and appreciating diversity in human resources affects job satisfaction and hinders the possibility of healthy working relationships among co-workers and managers (Beham, Straub, & Schwalbach, 2012).
Effective diversity management also aims at promoting greater creativity and innovation. A diverse team allows for more clever ways of solving problems, fostering innovation and creativity in the organization. If the company does not appreciate the diversity of its human resources, then there is a lot of rigidity in the way they operate since they use only one perspective. Involvement of additional perspectives, which involves diversity management, will broaden the scope of thinking among workers and management, enhancing creativity and innovation. This is a great advantage to the organization that will steer its growth and ensure that the goals are attained (Golembiewski, 1995).
Common Practices in Human Resource Diversity Management
Human resource management has some functions that are aimed at maintaining and directing human resources of the organization. Diversity management can be incorporated along with these functions to produce an effective blend of policies. The discussion below is an analysis of human resource management functions combined with diversity management.
Recruitment and Selection of Employees
Diversity management in the process of recruiting and selecting employees entails giving everyone an equal chance to enter the organization. This means that, for example, women and other minority groups must be treated fairly. In the modern world, this is an increasing trend after various laws regarding equality in the workplace have been enacted. An organization that appreciates diversity in recruitment of its employees creates a good image, hence winning new customers. From time to time, some countries like South Africa use the Affirmative Action (AA) policy to favor the appointment of black people above better-qualified whites in a bid to address past discriminative policies. These efforts are supposed to provide equal opportunities for both the blacks and whites since initially management positions in the country were reserved for the whites. These efforts have yielded fruit as currently there is a higher percentage of blacks in managerial positions in South Africa (Cartwright, 2002).
Training and Development of Employees
Diversity management in training and development of employees demands “give a fair chance for every employee to get ahead” from an organization. Previously, in the case of South Africa, the blacks were denied opportunities for advancing in their careers since there was a monopoly on skilled labor among the whites. This meant that blacks did not have a chance to learn managerial skills by apprenticeship. The Affirmative Action Programs have solved this issue. Other countries with a strong femininity culture have higher percentages of women in managerial positions as compared to countries where male chauvinism prevails (Kossek, Lobel, & Brown , 2005).
Despite a worldwide call for diversity in training and development of employees, the rate of women and other minority groups is still quite low. It is likely that the management of organizations where diversity management is not appreciated will promote employees with similar views to a position of a human resource manager. Evidently, fewer women are promoted to managerial positions or given relevant training as compared to men. This inequality creates the ‘glass ceiling effect” phenomenon. This is an unacknowledged barrier created for women and colored people in the professional world where they cannot advance beyond; it means they cannot hold top managerial positions in organizations. It is illegal. Many countries and organizations still exhibit this effect, as a result, top managerial positions are reserved for specific groups of people, predominantly men (Marquis, 2007).
Compensation: Wages and Salaries
There should be equal pay for employees who work at the same level irrespective of their background or individual differences. Pay inequality leads to demotivation and job dissatisfaction among employees. The Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO) and Affirmative Actions (AA) programs state that compensation among employees must be fair. However, this has not been effective since some people are paid less just because they are, say, women, or come from minority groups. This trend has necessitated the development of trade unions to solve the problem. Unions advocate for numerous issues that employees face in the workplace, among them, zero-tolerance for discrimination among unionized staff regarding wages (Golembiewski, 1995).
Although, there have been reduced earnings disparities between women and men in the workplace, it has not ceased being a global concern. Statistics shows that females earn 20-30% less than their male counterparts. This is a total contrast to the requirements of the Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO) and Affirmative Action programs. Every organization that appreciates diversity in management should smoothen out this disparity to ensure that ladies do not feel less motivated or looked down upon at work (Beham, Straub, & Schwalbach, 2012).
Diversity management in performance appraisal calls for equal promotion opportunities among workers. This means that promotions are issued in accordance with an employee’s performance irrespective of his/her gender or background. This is an ideal case. More often, it is easier to get a promotion when employees share the background with the managers, which leads to a situation where employees from less dominant groups do not get promoted, or they find it almost impossible to climb the career ladder. Women are victims of these circumstances. This heightens the effect for women who form minority communities. In some organizations, supervisors and managerial staff come from the same location, are of the same age, and they are all men. This is an ultimate sign that diversity management is not appreciated in the organization (Beham, Straub, & Schwalbach, 2012).
Overall, most companies only comply with the Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO) policy regarding the minimum basic legal requirements. However, beyond that, they do not have affirmative action plans to gain the fulfillment of these minimum requirements. An organization that seeks to improve diversity management through human resources can use a variety of techniques. These techniques would involve generating a framework that addresses the strategies necessary for each function of human resource management. If properly utilized, these strategies would deliver great results in diversity management in the workplace. The discussion below analyzes the strategies that can be employed to provide diversity management on every function of human resources in a company (Beham, Straub, & Schwalbach, 2012).
Recruitment and Selection
Human resource managers tend to recruit employees with similar values and cultures as them. To promote diversity in human resources, this should be abolished. In fact, human resource professionals who constitute interview committees ought to be conversant with the ways in which their beliefs, values, and customs influence behaviors of participants during interviews. This will eradicate bias in the selection process, and more diverse groups can contribute to the organization irrespective of individual disparities (Beham, Straub, & Schwalbach, 2012).
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Training and Development
An organization can promote diversity in the workforce by providing excellent diversity awareness training to allow for effective integration of diverse staff. This training is essential for building a mutual understanding of diversity as a value. Consequently, social cohesion among workers may be created, which helps to achieve individual and organizational goals. In 1995, some researchers carried out a study to determine the effectiveness of diversity training in an organization. The results were beyond belief. When the training commenced, only 9% of attendants were positive about diversity training in their company. By the end of the program, the figure rose to 75%. Before the training, 68% were skeptical of its effectiveness. However, after the training, a whopping 93% agreed that diversity training programs do work to create cohesion in the workplace (Marquis, 2007).
For diversity training to work, it would be essential to provide a top-bottom strategy, whereby staff at top managerial positions are taught first, and then they pass the knowledge to their juniors. This training should be accomplished from different perspectives, depending on the organization’s goals and nature of operations. When this diversity training is linked to the strategic goals of the organization, it achieves greater results as compared to situations when it is just a vague general training (Beham, Straub, & Schwalbach, 2012).
Compensation: Wages and Salaries
In order to adopt effective diversity management in an organization, the principle of equal remuneration and a pay system that is based on performance must be applied. The determinants of wages, benefits schemes, and compensation structures ought to be designed on common principles, taking the ability, skills, and knowledge of an individual into consideration at the same time (Marquis, 2007).
To make the model of diversity management in performance appraisals more effective, fairness is vital. It calls for an inclusion of mon-traditional managers in the performance appraisal committees. These managers should be rational, upholding fairness. Additionally, they must use an objective criterion rather than a subjective one since they must minimize bias in making their decisions on the right candidates for promotions. Moreover, the performance appraisals should use the language that focuses on an individual’s performance and not their religion, race, or culture. This attitude will promote effective diversity management in the organization. It is also important to note that when assessing managers’ performance, those who make an effort to hire and promote minority groups and women should be recognized because they show improve of diversity in the organization (Marquis, 2007).
Diversity Management and Balancing Work and Family Life
Every organization that seeks to have effective diversity management in human resources must adopt measures that help to create awareness of the work environment in order to improve working conditions and stimulate productivity. One of these measures would be to ensure that the organization supports better work-life balance. It could manifest itself in various forms. For example, shorter working hours and childcare leaves. An organization can implement the Childcare Leave Law to guarantee that new parents in the organization are not discriminated against and that they are comfortable at work. The law requires that employees must be given a paid leave of up to 10 days if they return to work within three months after the delivery of their child. A shorter working-hour-program implies that employees with children, who attend third-grade elementary school and lower institution, must be given working hour options and work time patterns that best meet the needs of their individual lifestyles. This ensures that the welfare of these employees, who would be otherwise stressed in the workplace due to rigid timetables, is considered (Robert & John, 2013).
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Effective human resource diversity management is essential for every organization. It fosters innovation since versatile workforce means a broader base of cultural experiences. This brings in a new perspective, improving the operations of the business in a unique way. Additionally, effective diversity management attracts talent and customers. This happens because customers prefer to purchase products or seek services from diverse companies. In the modern world, if an organization wants to be successful and maintain healthy competition against competitors, it must embrace diversity, not only in the products it is dealing with but also in the human resources employed in the organization. Moreover, stimulation of diversity management in human resources promotes cultural intelligence among employees. This may be explained by the fact that it gives both the customers and the employees an opportunity to learn and appreciate the values of other cultures. Diversity expands the minds of the staff, fostering national unity in general since the people have been taught to value other cultures irrespective of the differences they have.
The benefits of having diverse workforce cannot be understated. They go a long way in bringing fruits at organizational, national, and global levels. If people are taught to give every person an equal chance in everything, this attitude instills in them a strong culture. It reduces circumstances where workers feel discriminated against and receive no satisfaction in their jobs. Otherwise, organizations will have to work with employees that have no job satisfaction and behave like robots. Such conduct will mean that attainment of organizational goals will become too hard or sometimes, the goals become ultimately unattainable. For this reason, it would be in the best interest of every organization to ensure that they diversify their human resources and manage them effectively.