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AT&T Diversity in the Workplace Research Paper


Executive Summary

AT&T is an American multinational company that offers telecommunications solutions to retail and enterprise consumers. The company is one of the largest employers in the United States and provides competitive salaries and benefits among the top Fortune 500 companies. This paper reviews the human resource management (HRM) issues as they relate to best practices of the professional and particular strategies of the company.

Most notably, AT&T manages its workforce through a HRM team that consists of the corporate executive of the company, the human resource department staffs, the strategic business units heads, and members from delivery and business support, and production.

The organizational inclusive team arises out of the company’s strategy to blend its human resources (HR) goals with its other business goals. As a result, its various departments and divisions all work together to implement employee growth and development programs. The company has an explicit diversity and inclusiveness program for its people.

It recognizes employee cultural differences, occupational differences, and other sources of uniqueness that can help it better deal with its customers. Consequently, it actively promotes the inclusiveness of people with diverse backgrounds to its workforce so that it benefits from their unique perspectives. This includes people with disabilities. Sexual harassment is one of the localized HR issues that AT&T has to deal with.

Beyond that, there are universal cultural differences that will always be at play in the company. In addition, there are different categories of people making up the organization, such as it leadership, retirees, active workers, and their dependents who all act as stakeholders to its HR policies.

The paper highlights the strategies used in staffing, employee benefits, and wages used by AT&T and offers recommendations on areas of HR policy improvement.

Brief history of AT&T

AT&T is a multinational telecommunications company that started in America and has its headquarters in Texas, USA. Alexander Graham Bell founded it and the initials in the name stand for American Telephone and Telegraph. The company’s mission is to connect people, irrespective of where they are.

To achieve its goals, AT&T continuously innovates as it operates in the communication and entertainment industry. AT&T today has more than 28,000 workers located throughout the world. Senior leaders at AT&T lead the diversity initiatives for employees that aim to grow the company by servicing its consumers well.

Main products or services

AT&T continues to evolve and specializes in consumer and enterprise technological solutions. It provides data, video, and mobile services solutions, which include business within cloud, security, and mobile business features.

The company has 250 million mobile customers. The company operates a cellular service in the United States and Latin America. It also offers video subscription services and TV through fiber optic lines and satellites.

Human resource (HR) concerns and features at AT&T

As a multinational organization, AT&T has staffs from diverse cultural backgrounds. The company faces a challenge of regulation compliance, given that employees are social in nature. They may show biases towards race, religion, sex, nationality, and other sources of prejudice in the workplace.

While the company has relevant policies, it has to work constantly on specific cases of ethical violations that depend on different cultural interpretations. The staff diversity program at AT&T is part of the leadership priorities and business goals that include workforce inclusion, among other features.

The company adopted a program known as the ‘Chief Diversity Officer Forum’ in 2009 to help it integrate and gain from enterprise-wide activities that would help it remain competitive as a company that embraces diversity. AT&T ensures that all employees are able to connect with their world through the forum that meets quarterly and with other initiatives of inclusion.

Diversity in this case is not only cultural, but it also includes communication challenges and medical disabilities that make employees different. In fact, AT&T actively recruits students with disabilities in one of its student career programs. Within the organization, various training programs are available for employees at any level to use in advance their skills, which include tolerance and understanding of cultural differences.

Employee harassment

Sexual harassment is one of the localized issues that the company deals with constantly as reflected in its codes of conduct for all employees (Stephenson, 2014). The issue arises because of gender difference among its employees. AT&T was the subject of several lawsuits on sexual harassment, where employees were complaining of the company’s failure to intervene and prevent the harassment.

On its part, the HR management has always insisted on valuing employees and not tolerating any sort of harassment that could arise in the organizational setting. In 2010, there was a sexual harassment issue reported by two former employees who worked at the retail division of the company.

The complainants mentioned the use of derogatory language and behavior, together with inappropriate description of female features of employees and customers. There was also the question of being sexually suggestive in remarks to employees who were breast-feeding.

In its defense, the company management argued that the employees received adequate information about potential remarks that colleagues would make and it was the duty of the victims to let their colleagues and supervisors know their personal boundaries. Unfortunately, the particular incident also had features of employee victimization after raising the complaints.

The victim employees did not receive any consideration for promotions and the company did not take any action against the harassment, which forced them to resign as a way of avoiding the humiliation (Beaven, 2010).

While much of the harassment account comes from the victims and there is a chance of exaggeration, it still brings out a localized issue that AT&T has to deal with due to diversity in the workplace (McDonald, Charlesworth, & Cerise, 2011).

Union relations

AT&T is one of the largest employers in the United States and it protects middle class careers with its competitive wage and benefits programs. The company works harmoniously with its various employee unions, which bargain for fair contracts that safeguard the middle-class careers of employees.

On its part, the company ensures that any terms of agreement allow it to maintain necessary flexibility, which is paramount in the fast-paced technology centered telecommunications industry.

Salary and benefits issues

Even as the company works towards the provision of competitive wages and benefits, it grapples with high costs of providing medical benefits to its employees in the United States. The company acknowledges that since 2004, medical costs per employee increased by 54 percent. On the other hand, nationwide inflation rates increased to 15 percent in the same period, despite the sharp increase during the recession in 2010.

The rapid cost of employee medical benefits is responsible for the decline in the amount that firms are providing to their employees as medical benefit. Nevertheless, AT&T is still among the companies that continue to subsidize high quality health care. The medical benefits go to active employees, dependents, and retirees.

As of 2012, AT&T provided work contracts for its technician staffs with a total compensation of $90,000 in wages and $43,000 in benefits. A consequence of being one of the best paying companies in America is that the company receives thousands of jobs applications annually (AT&T, 2012). In 2011, the figure stood at 190,000 applications. In future, AT&T does not plan to reduce wages, even as the cost of benefits goes up.

Currently, its benefits program covers medical, dental, vision, flexible spending account, health reimbursement accounts, pension, savings, life insurance, leaves of absence, long-term care, disability, adoption reimbursement, employee assistance programs, commuter benefits, and voluntary benefits (AT&T, 2012).

The different categories of benefits help in bridging the socio-economic gap among employees to put them at a relatively equal position, despite their various job capacities and salaries. For many of the jobs at AT&T, total wages and benefits exceed the national median household income. The company recognizes the similarity of its employees’ demands for better compensation, irrespective of their background or disability situations.

It, therefore, places health benefits as a key feature of its employee compensation program. The objective here is to offer high quality cost effective coverage in health care that its employees and their families would enjoy without discrimination.

A challenge for AT&T is the growing retirement bill for the company. By 2011, it had about 335,000 retirees who were eligible for receiving benefits from the company. The company was able to meet its obligation through its ongoing pension plans, which makes it one of the 34 percent of the Fortune 500 companies that are still carrying the program.

At the same time, AT&T is among the 26 percent of large employers in the United States that still offer health benefits. The figure significantly reduces annually as many companies face challenges of increased business costs. The company gives its call center workforce about 25 days off annually, exclusive of holidays and vacations. At the same time, it provides 34 paid days off for its employees.

On average, employees will enjoy 60 days off and still receive their wages for the days off. As a result, the company generates a high attachment effect on its employees and compels them to identify more with their similarities as colleagues, rather than their differences in education, job, and cultural backgrounds.

Global HR issues

In the global context, diversity issues of HR are culture and gender related. Cultural diversity is not just the Western context of other people being different in their perception; instead, it encompasses everything that makes people similar and different from one another.

Diversity, therefore, concerns race, gender, age, disabilities, and sexual orientation. AT&T seeks to find the best and brightest employees and, in many cases, they will happen to have differences among them. They could be African, Asian, and Hispanic European, male, female, and gay. Therefore, depending on the category used to analyze diversity, any employee could be a minority.

The biggest challenge is the expectation of other cultures to understand the cultural orientation of AT&T, given that it is an American multinational (Ivancevich & Konopaske, 2013).

There are underlying cultural considerations rooted in American context that the company embodies, which are under constant revision. AT&T has to respect its workers diversity; it does this by valuing its people wherever they are in any of its global operations.

The message that the company is putting out is that it is ready to work with people from all backgrounds by providing an environment and culture that help them work productively together.

Some of the notable ways that inclusion strategies happen at the company is through combined individual and team exercises, role playing, engagement with education material, and work through diversity issue to grow the employee appreciation of their differences and how the contribute to the group’s goals.

The systems and culture at AT&T work together such that the respect message translates to all actions and company decisions concerning workers. The company’s HR leadership acknowledges that realizing its diversity and inclusion goals does not happen in a fortnight. In that regard, it keeps on seeking ways to improve.

Rather than export its approach whenever it encounters new diversity challenges, the company chooses to understand first the necessary training needed to appreciate the underlying differences (Koster, de Grip, & Fouarge, 2011).

AT&T devises a blend of its culture and the foreign one to foster inclusion after finding out as much as possible about the differences, which could be cultural. Consequently, the company changes as much as it influences its workforce to change into embracing more heterogeneity.

Recruitment at AT&T

As AT&T seeks to hire the best, it ensures that it remains near the top in students list of potential employers. The organization does that by building strong collaborative relationships with faculty and staffs of higher learning institutions. It capitalizes on opportunities to be part of the students’ classroom experiences where it is able to highlight its orientation towards innovation and technology.

The company relies on a dedicated college recruitment staff to bring in fresh graduates for its full time employment opportunities, as well as internships (AT&T, 2012). Getting fresh graduates into the employee development programs lets the company shape their cultural orientation to fit the company’s ideal culture that is inclusive of peoples differences due to their diversified backgrounds (Daspro, 2009).

Apart from specific job skills for filling particular vacant positions in the company, the human resource department considers the following attributes for every job or internship candidate.

It looks at enthusiasm about technology and innovation, interest in communications, entertainment and information technology, a commitment to honesty and integrity, and the ability to respect and thrive in a fast-paced diversified work environment.

As the company develops and reacts to changing consumer demands, it is in constant need of professionals to fill its emerging areas of business. For example, in recent years, AT&T has been hiring individuals with Internet Protocol (IP) expertise, and Radio Frequency (RF) protocol engineers and micro controller.

Many of these professionals do not necessarily come from dominant American backgrounds of education, culture, and work. They must, therefore, pass through various induction programs to fit within the AT&T human resource.

AT&T’s human resource management team

The HRM team at AT&T makes up the HR leadership council, which works are the key driver of all other HRM practices.

The team includes corporate executives of the company, the human resource department staffs, the strategic business units heads, and members from delivery and business support, and production because they make up most of the AT&T workforce. The HRM team is interdisciplinary and it links corporate and business-unit HR activity (HR transformation at AT&T Consumer Services, 2002).

Human resource strategy of AT&T

After the split of the organizational business interest into AT&T, Lucent technologies and NCR cooperation, each company conducted its HR transformation using similar steps. At AT&T, the transformation began with the determination of business needs such as customers, growth, and cost reduction. It then reviewed the organizational structure, dynamics, and systems before defining the strategic implications of HR.

The implications were continuous learning, team working, and empowerment. After that, AT&T worked on identifying HR systems that would support organizational, cultural, and structural changes (HR transformation at AT&T Consumer Services, 2002).

Part of managing HR as a business process involved the leveraging of HR capability using leading edge practices like leadership, staffing, education, and performance management. Lastly, the HRM strategy lately has been to devise high-level HR initiatives that cater for the organization’s special needs, such as downsizing and workforce planning (HR transformation at AT&T Consumer Services, 2002).

The AT&T HRM strategy constantly shifts to reflect changing demands of the business, such as rapid technological convergence in broadband telephony.

Consequently, the organization seeks to match the workforce capacities, skills, and capabilities with the emergent customer services. A key feature that affects the success of the HR strategy is the deployment of relevant staffs to positions that help the organization to meet its customer’s expectations.

AT&T has a devolved employee education framework that places line managers in charge of business-wide reviews of skill gaps. With HR as part of every business process at divisional and regional levels, the HRM team is able to deal with everyday workplace issues. The aim of the education program in the company is to design ideal features that focus on cooperation in work practices with job sharing and remote working.

It supports pilot schemes that the leadership council introduces to ensure that the workforce has adequate work-life balance. At the same time, it seeks to invest in employees such that they are well educated and receive personal support whenever it is necessary. Lastly, the HRM team aims to influence decisions on production, work content, job content, and technology.

Recommend actions the human resource team should take at AT&T

AT&T needs to create a complaints resolution division that would cater for employee misgivings that relate to any part of its HR policies (Banfield & Kay, 2008). For example, the company was accused of neglecting employee concerns about harassment, even though it has explicit policies against the same violation.

The incident and its resolution suggest that the company has good intentions, but it lacks the necessary mechanisms of ensuring that employees adhere to the regulations. As much as AT&T strives to promote inclusion and tolerance, it cannot effectively affect employee conduct without appropriate disciplinary measures.

The company must recognize the power that supervisors and line manager hold against their subordinates. Any abuse of the power constitutes discrimination on job scale differences and can lead to the manifestation of other prejudices among employees.

Within its HR department, the company needs a policing unit that has enough influence and executive leadership mandate to recommend or implement disciplinary measures that would include reprimand and termination (Bratton & Gold, 2012).

The positioning of employees within the organization in leadership and management capacities should reflect their maturity in the inclusion values of the company and personal respect towards people’s differences.

At the same time, those in charge of shaping the company’s internal culture must be represent its ideals well beyond the business centered qualities of being innovative and willing to go the extra mile in delivering customer solutions (Ananthram, 2013).

The critical points for AT&T are its service centers and retail centers where employees directly interact with customers and experience diversity in their interpersonal relationships. Understanding the emotional context of their labor and its implications in their behavior is important.

Already, the company demonstrates its concern by providing adequate off days and paid leaves for workers such that they have better work and life balance.

Beyond that, AT&T must continue its training programs, especially on sociological aspects of the work environment and its challenges to equip its employees with necessary coping abilities for high stress situations. This would prevent future incidences where they let emotions affect their behaviors, their colleagues and customers (Gianfranco, 2013).

Related case law precedence

At AT&T, cultural diversity is one of the business goals that emphasizes on the understanding of not only its customers, but also the cultures of its employees and customers. AT&T has to comply with a number of legal requirements that govern human resources in the United States.

Among the notable legal regulations governing the conduct of AT&T human resource management are the Equal Pay Act of 1963, Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Titles I and V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and the Civil Rights Act of 1991 (Engstrom, 2011).

The AT&T HRM team runs a compliance program that ensures the company’s business strategies do not violate any legal statute. The HRM staffs have relevant experience and they review the existing HR policies and implement new policies.

Implementation includes the supply of updated work manuals to employees on important issues. Beyond that, it must also include listening to managers and employees and understanding compliance risks and opportunities (Ananthram, 2013).

Concluding thoughts

AT&T does a commendable job of fostering employee cohesiveness and contributing to personal development and career advancement for its diversified workforce. The company goes out of its way through various HRM initiatives such as employee benefits programs to ensure that it not only remains innovative, but also protects the middle class careers of its employees.

The attachment of HR goals with overall organizational objectives allows the company to sustain its HR programs in the long term. Consequently, it emerges as one of the favorable places to work in among the Fortune 500 companies in the United States.

The accuracy of the paper and its analysis is limited to the company and scholarly sources consulted. The biasness exhibited in any of the consulted secondary materials may, unfortunately, extend to the findings presented in this paper.

Personal reflection

From this assignment, I learned that despite a company’s best efforts to influence ethical and cultural inclusive behaviors for its employees, there could still be situations that challenge that position. I also noted that the alignment of HR goals with other business goals is beneficial to the overall growth of the company, given that people are the main contributors to the attainment of business goals.

Putting people first and respecting their differences is a good strategy for excellence. However, the strategy cannot work without adequate mechanisms for implementing it. In fact, every goal of HR management needs space and other resources to implement; otherwise, the organization will still grapple with problems of managing its people.

References

Ananthram, S. (2013). Challenges and strategies for global human resource executives: Perspectives from Canada and the United States. European Management Journal, 31(3), 223–233.

AT&T. (2012). . Web.

Banfield, P., & Kay, R. K. (2008). Introduction to human resource management. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Beaven, S. (2010, September 24). . The Oregonian. Web.

Bratton, J., & Gold, J. (2012). Human resource management: Theory and practice (5th ed.). London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Daspro, E. (2009). A cross-cultural comparison of multinational firms’ recruitment practices in Mexico and the United States. Latin American Business Review, 10(1), 1-19.

Engstrom, D. F. (2011). The lost origin of American fair employment law: Regulatory choice and the making of modern civil rights 1943-1972. Stanford Law Review, 63(5), 1071-1143.

Gianfranco, W. (2013). Employee emotional labour and quitting intentions: moderating effects of gender and age. European Journal of Marketing, 47(8), 1213-1237.

HR transformation at AT&T Consumer Services. (2002). Human Resource Management International Digest, 10(5), 6-11.

Ivancevich, J. M., & Konopaske, R. (2013). Human resource management (12th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Irwin.

Koster, F., de Grip, A., & Fouarge, D. (2011). Does perceived support in employee development affect personal turnover? The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 22(11), 2403-2418.

McDonald, P., Charlesworth, S., & Cerise, S. (2011). Below the “tip of the iceberg”: Extra-legal responses to workplace sexual harassment. Women’s Studies International Forum, 34(4), 278-289.

Stephenson, R. (2014). . Web.

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