Although most organisations have done a lot to ensure that they have achieved diversity at the workplace, many complaints are still being made by individuals who have been discriminated at the workplace on the basis of their religion, sex, age, and ethnic background.
However, managing workforce diversity is a real challenge to any manager because employees are from different generations and each generation has its own unique attitudes. Like other organisations, Warburtons Company has also embraced the concept of workplace diversity, and this has had both positive and negative impacts on the organisation.
To start with, implementation of workforce diversity has helped the company to reduce absenteeism cases. The company has also not incurred litigation cost associated with a violation of laws regarding workplace diversity. Customer satisfaction has also increased owing to enhanced morale among the employees. On the other hand, the implementation of workforce diversity has led to cultural resistance and language barriers.
To better management workforce diversity, the management has employed a few strategies including diversity training programs, and mentoring sessions. There is need for the management to create culturally diverse teams in order to overcome negative consequences of a diverse workforce. Senior employees should also be trained on diversity management as a way of reducing costs incurred while hiring diversity professionals.
Diversity at the workplace refers to a situation whereby employees from diverse socio-cultural backgrounds are able to co-exist in harmony. Diversity involves such cultural elements as gender, race, color, ethnicity, age, and physical ability, among others.
In order for the workplace to be regarded as diverse, the organizational culture must enable all employees to pursue their individual career goals devoid of any race, gender, religion, nationality, or other factors that can affect their performance (Epstein 2008).
Globalization has seen the concept of diversity gain even more attention. This is because an increasingly larger number of organizations are going global in search of raw materials, affordable labor, and new markets. The following report wishes to explore the issue of workplace diversity with the Warburtons Company as a reference point. To start with, the report shall explore the literature of past studies on workplace diversity.
The various types of diversity will also be examined, such as age, ethnic/racial, sex/gender, and religious diversity. Next, both the positive and negative impacts of workplace diversity will be assessed, along with the strategies needed for managing workforce diversity. Finally, the report shall provide recommendations for dealing with the issue of workforce diversity.
Many organisations have achieved a lot in terms of ensuring diversity at the workplace. However, there still complaints regarding violations of equality at the workplace and as such, organisations are called upon implement policies and procedures that will enabled them achieve total equality. For this reason, there is need for organisations value diversity (Cox 2001).
To do so, organisations are called upon to ensure that they cerate awareness of the need for diversity at the workplace to their employees. This can be achieved through the adoption of educational programs. In addition, the management needs to guide their workforce in acknowledging and appreciating diversity among employees (Ollapally & Bhatnagar 2009, p. 457).
Many companies are now emphasizing on the need to embrace teamwork or group work in a bid to benefit from the competitive advantage that comes with a diverse workforce.
Some scholars have even suggested that companies should place emphasis on the recruitment exercise as the starting point for their diversity campaign. In this case, the management should endevour to recruit those employees who would be more open to diversity at the workplace.
In order for an organisation to manage diversity, managers should allow their diverse workforce to realize their full potential in undertaking the allocated responsibilities (Konrad, Prasad & Pringle 2006). Because an equitable work environment exists in a diverse organization, it also means that no employee can claim to have an advantage more than another employee.
Still, managing workforce diversity remains one of the most challenging responsibilities of a manager (Cox 2001). This is because the employees in the organisation have different demographic differences such as age, and sex, not to mention that their cultural and racial background may be very different.
In such a case, it is the responsibility of the manager to ensure that these differences do not bring divisions in the workforce (Pless & Maak 2004, p. 136). As such, managers in private and public organisations are called upon to ensure that they predict, understand and manage diversity at the workplace. It is important to note that differences in the workplace may end up complicating workplace relationships if not checked.
Kossek, Markel and McHugh (2003, p. 331) contend that the modern day workplace is made up of a workforce from different generations, each with its own unique attitudes. In addition, these generations shall also be motivated by different incentives. When a manager is handling issues of workplace diversity he/she should endeavor to acknowledge these differences in the workforce.
Most organisations are already aware that embracing diversity will go a long way towards influencing their bottom line positively. An organisation that has embraced diversity also tends to have more satisfied employees who in turn help the organisation to satisfy the needs of the customers (O’Leary & Weathington 2006, p. 4). As a result, the organization benefits from increased productivity.
Workplace diversity is beyond the issue of equity. It helps to create a workplace environment that values the differences among the various employees of an organization. In addition, such an environment also enables employees to maximize their potential (O’Leary & Weathington 2006, p. 5).
Consequently, this stimulates employees’ innovativeness and creativity and they are thus motivated to achieve their personal career goals and in the process, help the organisation to achieve its goals as well.
Managing diversity involves getting employees to deliver to their maximum potential because there is already an ideal working environment in place. It involves changing the infrastructure and culture of an organization to enable employee to deliver high levels of productivity.
If at all managers are to successfully manage workplace diversity, it is important that they replace an ethnocentric view with a culturally relative view (Cox 2001). There is need therefore to ensure that a manager takes into account such a shift in philosophy in planning and controlling the resources of the organization.
One of the best practices that a human resource manager can embrace in order to ensure that he/she is able to manage workplace diversity is motivational approaches (U. S. Department of Commerce 2000). Workplace motivation comes about when the individual needs of an employee have been fulfilled by the organization. This helps the workforce to complete organisational activities in an efficient and effective manner.
Because these needs differ from one individual to another, it is important for the human resource manager to encourage his/her workforce using different motivational tools. This helps to enhance the productivity of an organization.
Different employees come from different cultural backgrounds and as such, they come to the organisation with different values, expectations, and communication styles (Epstein 2008). It is the duty of the human resource manager to understand these employees and to ensure that they are fully integrated into the organizational culture. This helps to create an ideal working environment.
Although employees from diverse backgrounds may be characterized by the same organisational motivations, it is important for employers to appreciate the fact that there are also challenges that may accompany a diverse workforce. Diversity is crucial to organisations since with a diverse environment, employees are able to learn and benefit from the ideas of group members (Ragins 2002).
In addition, managers are slowly realizing that acknowledging differences amongst employees is also crucial in helping the company to achieve continuous improvement, high performance, improving creativity and effectiveness of the organisation (Mas & Moretti 2009, p. 114). This may call for the adoption of the right strategies to facilitate the achievement of diversity.
Many experts consider diversity programs as sound investment decisions. This has convinced an increasingly larger number of firms to adopt the concept of diversity, in a bid to acquire the associated benefits.
Types of diversity
My choice of a private organisation as a case study is Warburtons, a baking company with various branches across the UK. The following are the types of workforce diversity available at Warburtons:
At Warburtons, there are currently three generations of employees. These are the baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964), generations X (those born between 1965 and 1980, and generation Y (those born between 1981 and 2000). All of these employees have brought with them different worldviews, strengths, and differences to the workplace. Their workplace characteristics are also very different.
For example, with regard to the issue of work ethic and value, the baby boomers work efficiently, not to mention that most of them are workaholics. They also tend to question the authority, and have a desire for quality work (Kossek et al 2003). They are also good team players who like to communicate in person. They feel most motivated by such messages from managers as “you are needed” or “you are valued”.
On the other hand, members of generation X follow a work ethic and value whose mission is to eliminate the task at hand. They are also characterized by an entrepreneurial interactive style (Mas & Moretti 2009, p. 119). They like to receive feedback about their job and to them, the best reward is freedom.
The message from managers that seems to motivate them the most is “forget the rules” and “do it your way”. In contrast, members of generation Y are characterized by a multitasking work ethic (Ollapally & Bhatnagar 2009, p. 460). They tend to be entrepreneurial, goal oriented, and tolerant. For them, work is a fulfillment.
At Warburtons, we have employees from diverse ethnic/racial settings. The management does not discriminate on account of one’s racial or ethnic background. Consequently, we have Britons, Asians, people of and African descent working at the different branches of Warburtons.
Our company believes in religious diversity. People of different faith have been employed by the company. Usually, this is not a very big issue considering that Warburton is not a fait-based company. As such, it does not seek employees who subscribe to certain religious or ideological values. I have worked with some workmates who are Catholics by faith, while others are Protestants, Muslims, and even non-believers.
Warburtons is an equal opportunity employer. Males work alongside their female counterparts. The most important thing is to possess the skill, experience, and passion that are normally required by the management to undertake a given task at hand. The company treats each employee as a unique individual.
This makes employees to feel appreciated. As a result, the company has benefited from creating a gender balance at the workplace as evidenced by enhanced employee morale and team performance, higher employee retention rates, reduced cases of sexual harassment, and enhanced diversity recruitment.
Impact of workforce diversity
Embracing workforce diversity has had its positive and negative impacts on Warburtons
Implementation of workforce diversity has helped Warburtons to avoid some of the litigation costs associated with discrimination on the basis of sex, age, religion, and disability, among other forms of discrimination.
In addition, workforce diversity has also enabled Warburtons to enhance access to newer segments of the market. This is because the firm has come to be associated as a diverse workplace and as such, customers readily accept it and would want to be associated with a firm that values diversity amongst the workforce.
The company has also benefited from reduced absenteeism rates, because employees feel appreciates and hence, they are motivated to report to work every day. Labour turnover at Warburtons has also reduced markedly, and this has enabled the company to rise above labour shortages.
Workforce diversity has also allowed Warburtons to realize improved customer satisfactions and service levels. In addition, there has also been enhanced creativity and innovations amongst the employees because the management recognizes their differences and allows them to do their job the best way they know how.
This has enabled the company to not only attract, but also retain talented individuals. The company’s corporate reputation has also improved, in effect strengthening its cultural values as well.
Since the workforce at Warburtons is made up of employees from different countries and cultures, this has led to an increase in language barriers and communication filters. Consequently, this has affected both the internal as well as the external communication processes in the organisation. Another limitation of embracing workforce diversity at Warburtons is that issue of cultural resistance.
This creates poor workplace morale and affects working relationships negatively. In addition, the company has over the years spent a lot of money to f hire outside professionals and consultants in a bid to integrate diversity at the workplace. Other costs that the company has incurred include money spent to train employees on diversity management.
Strategies for managing workforce diversity
In a bid to manage workforce diversity at Warburtons, the management has employed a number of strategies to facilitate the success of this mission. One such strategy is diversity training program aimed at changing the behaviour and attitude of the employees. The intention is to minimise subtle types of exclusion and discrimination that may stand in the way of effective working relationships.
Ford and Fisher (1996) recognise three forms of diversity training objectives. One objective involves programs that enhance assimilation by providing education to minority cultures on the goals and norms to minority cultures that characterises dominant cultures.
The other form of diversity training stresses on multiculturalism. In this case, people of different cultural backgrounds are allowed to retain fundamental components of their culture. The third form of training involves topics that include prejudice, stereotyping, attitudes and communication styles.
The management at Warburtons has recognized the need to combine a number of diversity initiatives in order to achieve the most effective training requirements.
It is important to ensure that diversity training is not used as a standalone strategy; rather it ought to be part of a firm’s comprehensive diversity strategy (Jayne & Dipboye 2004, p. 411). However, when used as part of an organisation’s comprehensive strategy, diversity training has the potential to move the organisation forward.
Another strategy of managing workforce diversity that the management at Warburtons has adopted is mentoring. In this case, the aim is to bring change at the individual level.
The management matches senior employees (in this case, the mentor) with junior employees. The aim is to ensure that the under-represented demographic groups are able to break through the ‘glass ceiling’ at the organization (European Commission 2003).
On the other hand, formal mentoring programs involve the establishment of a structure that allows for pairing of individuals. In their study that involved carrying out of a mail survey to determine mentoring, Ragins, Cotton and Miller (2000) revealed that when employees are satisfied with a mentoring program, this has a strong influence on some of their career attitudes, including job satisfaction, commitment, perception of organisational justice, as well as intention to turnover.
On the other hand, Ragins (2002) has noted that individuals belonging to the conventional out-groups may not benefit much form formal human resource diversity strategies. For this reason, it is important for organisations to recognise those mentoring programs that will enable employees deal with their jobs and their lives as well.
The company also considers education as a vital tool in providing employees with the necessary skills to deal with the issue of workplace diversity. In addition, educating employees on the need to embrace cultural diversity also helps them to fully understand the nature of the cultural mix at the workplace (Kreitz 2008, p. 104).
In addition, educating employees on the need to embrace diversity at the workplace enables employees integrate well with other employees within the company. This creates an ideal working environment whereby employees are able to accomplish their jobs effectively, not to mention that they also have a chance to advance in their careers.
There is need for organisations to ensure that their employees are able to access the most significant skills that will enable them to work well in a multicultural environment (Epstein 2008). This is important, so that employees can fully understand and appreciate the values, cultures, attitudes, beliefs, strengths, weaknesses, and behaviours of their fellow employees.
The management at Warburtons also developed a number of organisational policies that ensures that all employees are treated with fairness and equality. Diversity experts concur that there is need for an organisation to keep on revising its organisational procedures and policies in order to accommodate the diverse needs of their diverse workforce (Kossek 2003, p. 335).
They include changing recruitment policies to allow the organisation undertake the recruitment exercise while fully conscious of the need to have a diverse workforce.
Whereas the issue of diversity with regard to recruitment has not really been a big issue at Warburtons, nonetheless, the organisation has deemed it necessary to make a number of policy changes in order sustain diversity amongst its workforce. Some of these changes have to do with implementation of flexible working hours, as well as ensuring that all the workers have access to pay equity.
Managers are always concerned with the issue of ensuring diversity at the workplace. To do so, managers must ensure that the workforce is motivated enough to work in a diverse environment characterised by individuals from different cultural, racial/ethnic, and religious backgrounds. The various types of workplace diversity available at Warburtons have been explored.
The company has a workforce from diverse age, gender/sex, religious and ethnic backgrounds. In order to sustain diversity at the workplace, some of the strategies that the company has adopted include employee training programs on diversity, mentoring programs, and the adoption of organisational policies that ensures that all employees are treated with fairness and equality.
Although the company has endeavoured to enhance workplace diversity by adopting appropriate strategies, there are certain areas that need to be addressed.
- In order to overcome the challenges of cultural resistance that is still present among the company’s workforce, the management at Warburtons should consider creating teams made up of employees from diverse cultural backgrounds. This will help them to gel and appreciate their differences.
- The company should also train some of the senior employees on diversity management so that they can in turn train other employees in future. This will help the organisations to cut down on the cost of having to hire diversity management professions and consultants every year.
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