An Introduction to Workforce Diversity Management

Today, at the beginning of the 21st century, the world is submerged in a wide range of demographic trends which have the potential to radically change the demographic, cultural and ethical mixture of the population in many countries within just a few decades. Top managers often say that their company’s people are its most important asset. In a tight job market and a global economy a company that puts people first – regardless of their race, religion, gender, age, sexual preference, or physical disability – wins.

Companies, especially big multinational players which have to deal with these changes, are growingly forced to react. Employees, once a homogenous group in many countries, are increasingly diverse and need to be integrated within and into working environments. Diversity can present an immense source of opportunities but it can also mean the opposite, a big threat.

Workforce Diversity Management

Diversity management is a managerial approach in response to these trends and can help companies to effectively and efficiently manage their personnel diversity, i.e. personnel made up of diverse and multifaceted people.

Promoting workforce diversity is a process that takes place in many stages and on many levels. It requires HR professionals first to recruit a competent and qualified staff, then to accommodate individual needs within the context of the work team and the organization.

In today’s world of cultural diversity, businesses can’t thrive unless they implement a  workforce diversity initiative. Besides tapping into the unique abilities and talents of people from different backgrounds, businesses can improve their image in the community by opening up a place of business to anyone regardless of race, color, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability.

What is  Diversity?

Diversity to us means all aspects in which people differ from one another. This includes both the visible and relatively easily demonstrable personal characteristics such as gender, age and ethnicity, as well as the less visible personal characteristics, such as competencies, needs and wants, work styles and character traits. Each employee has his or her own, unique combination of such characteristics. Another definition describes diversity as creating high performing organizations through valuing and using all the talents of employees of different groups. Regardless of how diversity is defined, it is an issue that is weeping the nation. If the corporate society does not address the issue by learning how to manage diversity, they will fail.

Benefits of  Workforce Diversity  

Workplace diversity refers to the variety of differences between people in an organization. That sounds simple, but diversity encompasses race, gender, ethnic group, age, personality, cognitive style, tenure, organizational function, education, background and more.   Diversity not only involves how people perceive themselves, but how they perceive others. Those perceptions affect their interactions. For a wide assortment of employees to function effectively as an organization, human resource professionals need to deal effectively with issues such as communication, adaptability and change. Diversity will increase significantly in the coming years. Successful organizations recognize the need for immediate action and are ready and willing to spend resources on managing diversity in the workplace now.

An organization’s success and competitiveness depends upon its ability to embrace diversity and realize the benefits. When organizations actively assess their handling of workplace diversity issues, develop and implement diversity plans, multiple benefits are reported such as:

  • Increased adaptability: Organizations employing a diverse workforce can supply a greater variety of solutions to problems in service, sourcing, and allocation of resources. Employees from diverse backgrounds bring individual talents and experiences in suggesting ideas that are flexible in adapting to fluctuating markets and customer demands.
  • Broader service range:  A diverse collection of skills and experiences (e.g. languages, cultural understanding) allows a company to provide service to customers on a global basis.
  • Variety of viewpoints:  A diverse workforce that feels comfortable communicating varying points of view provides a larger pool of ideas and experiences. The organization can draw from that pool to meet business strategy needs and the needs of customers more effectively.
  • More effective execution:  Companies that encourage diversity in the workplace inspire all of their employees to perform to their highest ability. Company-wide strategies can then be executed; resulting in higher productivity, profit, and return on investment.

Workforce Diversity Management

Managing diversity is one of the most important challenges faced by manager sand their organizations. In today’s work environment, co-workers are likely to be of different gender, age, religion, cultural background, race and ethnicity. They also differ in terms of lifestyle, choices available, perspectives, attitudes, value system, beliefs, behaviors, expectations, skills and experiences. These issues are not just about discriminatory practices but they modify the nature and demands placed on leadership and management and bring into prominence the concept of diversity. How well or how prepared managers are able to invest in the concept of diversity will impact not just on work issues but also on sensitivity to customer’s needs, legal compliance, business’ ethical issues, profitability and even social cohesion.

Workforce diversity management is a strategic process to manage a diverse workforce-including the fight against stereotypes, prejudice and all kind of discrimination due to the individual perceptions and assumptions- in the manner to maximize the benefit and minimize barriers of different opinions, behavior and attitudes of human beings within a company.

Workforce diversity management is a strategy that is intended to foster and maintain a positive workplace environment. Usually initiated by  Human Resources  professionals and managed by department heads and supervisors, an effective  diversity  management program will promote recognition and respect for the individual differences found among a group of employees. The idea of this management  style is to encourage employees to be comfortable with  diversity  in the workplace and develop an appreciation for differences in race, gender, background, sexual orientation or any other factors that may not be shared by everyone working in the same area of the company.

Workforce diversity management can be adapted to many different types of working environments and be integrated into many different types of  management  styles. Promoting recognition and acceptance of  diversity  among the employees can convert a  hostile workplace  environment into a welcoming environment where people freely communicate and support one another with any tasks associated with the job. In doing so, the implementation of a  diversity  management  approach often makes it possible for productivity levels to increase dramatically.

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