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Since the end of the 20th century, more attention has been paid to inclusion and diversity at the workplace. With an increasing racial and ethnic diversification of the society in the era of globalization, and due to a series of reported discrimination and harassment cases that took place in some large US companies over the years, many firms started to implement various diversity programs aimed to increase the presence of minority populations at different organizational levels.
However, although diversification programs are widely implemented across the country, the results of the longitudinal assessment conducted by Harvard researchers indicate that there is no significant progress in the improvement of multicultural representation among managers in the majority of US enterprises. According to data provided by Dobbin (2017), about 17% of all managers in the private sector are white men, 12% are Asian men, and 10 % are white women.
At the same time, the representation of Hispanic and black women and men, as well as Asian women, is on average below 8% for each mentioned minority group (Dobbin, 2017). Although there was a slight increase in managerial representation of minorities since 1971 ranging from 2% to 4%, white male managers still dominate the labor market (Dobbin, 2017).
The barriers to greater workplace diversification can be many. For instance, members of minority groups can face discrimination and stereotyping or may suffer the consequences of inadequate education and skill preparation programs. Due to these external obstacles to the promotion they may also feel insecure or ineligible for applying for better jobs. No matter what the actual reasons are, statistical data make it clear that organizational diversification endeavors largely fail and that new solutions are required.
Statement of Issues
Most of the current diversification efforts are of procedural character, i.e., they mainly focus on the enforcement of standards and compliance with particular behavioral protocols. The most widespread activities include hiring tests, performance ratings, and grievance procedures. It was expected that the given HR practices would help reduce existing biases in employers because they allow evaluating applicants’ skills and knowledge objectively.
Nevertheless, Dobbin (2017) notes that even when all potential employees complete the same job tests, it does not necessarily mean that the candidate with the highest score will be hired. In this way, hiring tests do not resolve the problem of discrimination at all although they may cause some insignificant rise in managerial minority and women representation. The same results are associated with grievance procedures and performance assessment which show that, when managers have multicultural biases, these tools will not be of great help.
Diversity training is another commonly used method. Although it may raise the awareness of the problems pertaining to diversification in the course enrollees, this approach to workplace diversification has one major disadvantage, i.e., it can demotivate managers and does not address the root of the problem. As Dobbin and Kalev (2016) state, many of those training programs convey negative messages, e.g., “discriminate, and the company will pay the price” (para. 2).
In the compulsory courses, managers usually can only understand that if they will not behave in a particular manner and observe the rules, they or the company will suffer adverse consequences. In some cases, it may have an effect on the organization and improve the situation because such negative incentives can stimulate obedience through instilling fear. However, researchers reveal that many practitioners of mandatory diversity programs often respond to them with resistance and end up being more hostile towards other population groups (Dobbin & Kalev, 2016).
Point of View: HR Management
HR management plays an essential role in attracting and retaining a diverse workforce, as well as the promotion of current employees of different ethnicities and genders. Managers select and implement HR practices which can either stimulate greater staff diversification or create barriers to it. Thus, they should evaluate the efficacy of existing managerial activities and, in collaboration with the organization’s leaders, restructure employee education, motivation, and knowledge management systems in a way that leads to the acknowledgment of multicultural differences, reduced marginalization of particular population groups, and greater inclusion.
Areas of Consideration
In accordance with Porter’s Value Chain Model, HR management substantially supports the process of value creation (Jurevicius, 2013). Although it does not directly affect the production process like marketing, service, and sales do, it influences the organization’s capacity for innovation and improvement. It means that if the “value chain represents all the internal activities a firm engages in to produce goods and services,” HR management and workforce diversification, in particular, are the activities that maintain the healthy functioning of the value chain (Jurevicius, 2013, para. 2).
Moreover, the analysis of organizational differentiation capacity and advantages by using Porter’s model may reveal that diversification of personnel is an essential value creation activity as it demonstrates that the company uses fair recruitment practices and understands the principles of corporate social responsibility. In this way, staff diversification fosters better organizational image and consequently improves the firm’s ability to attract customers, partners, and talents.
Diversification may lead to other favorable results as well. Recent research findings reveal that “diversity is a key driver of innovation and is a critical component of being successful on a global scale” (Rizy, Feil, Sniderman, & Egan, n.d., p. 3). Employees with diverse backgrounds have different experiences and opinions. Thus, when they collaborate, they generate more innovative ideas and solve problems more efficiently. Therefore, diversification may significantly improve organizational competitiveness and result in gaining superior profits.
Alternative Courses of Action
There are several courses of action that can be chosen to resolve the issues of barriers to staff diversification. First of all, Dobbin (2017) recommends shifting the focus from enforcement and compliance with the positive motivation of managers. Instead of forcing them to change their own behaviors and insist on mandatory training that only can make them resistant to change, it is better to engage managers in the solving of existing diversification problems. The advantage of this solution is that it can help deal with psychological barriers to change. However, to achieve success, it is still important to provide managers with sufficient knowledge regarding diversity, its benefits, and so on.
Secondly, to promote diverse individuals to managerial positions, it is important to improve organizational communication and value sharing practices. It means that the company’s leaders should not associate employee productivity with particular life circumstances and backgrounds but show the willingness to collaborate with different people. In other words, the management should not promote only those who have no family responsibilities and who do not need to take care of small children (e.g., middle-aged single men).
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Conversely, the management should send the message to all employees that they can be recognized no matter what needs and interests they may have outside the workplace. A significant advantage of this approach is that it seems to addresses the root of the issue, i.e., corporate values and the way they are shared and understood by employees at different levels. The major disadvantage is that in case the corporate culture does not integrate the principles of diversity at all, it may require a lot of efforts, investments, and time to change that.
Lastly, Dobbin (2017) suggests to design and actualize voluntary mentoring programs. Formal mentorship implies that higher rank managers, who are usually white males, will mentor employees subscribed to the program. Since most of the people volunteering to participate are either women or representatives of minority groups, through this program, they happen to know a lot about multicultural differences by continually collaborating with individuals with whom they would possibly not communicate in their regular lives.
Mentorship is based on close interactions between people and, therefore, it allows employees to experience the problem and also find a solution to it. It promotes sound communication and can potentially show the benefits of diversification to program participants. However, to make it work, a professional matching of mentors and mentorees is required. Otherwise, it will be difficult to develop transformational relationships.
Recommendation and Strategy
The implementation of a formal mentorship program seems to be the most well-balanced solution to diversity issues at the workplace because it both aims to develop professional skills and foster multicultural competence in employees. Nevertheless, as stated by Klasen and Clutterbuck (2012), when poorly structured and used without considering the interests of recipients or commitment to learning, mentoring can contrapose the formulated goals and become a “source of functional dependency” (p. xi). On the contrary, if it is well-organized, mentorship can help cultivate multicultural relationships and a greater understanding of cultural differences and professional roles. Thus, HR managers should guide the process of employee learning all the way through.
First of all, it is important to promote the program at all organizational levels by showing potential attendees the benefits associated with the involvement in mentorship. For higher management, these benefits will include greater employee motivation and satisfaction, organizational change, staff retention, and reduced costs of recruitment, etc. (Klasen & Clutterbuck, 2012). At the same time, mentorees can have a chance of increasing their promotional potential, improve communication, networking, and other skills (Klasen & Clutterbuck, 2012).
At this stage, the values of participating should be explicitly shown to candidates, and the ways of how to apply to the program should be clarified. Secondly, HR managers should develop a mentoring scheme outlining all learning goals, project mission, and vision.
Although the development of multicultural competence and elimination of biases are the desired outcomes of learning, they may not be the direct objectives of mentoring. Participants may rather aim to gain a particular set of skills relevant to their professional role and desired promotion. However, to achieve managerial diversification, HR managers should match mentors and mentees smartly based on both personal qualities of attendees, as well as their multicultural and professional characteristics.
Lastly, appropriate metrics for the assessment of success should be selected. For instance, some time (e.g., 3-6 months) after the program launch, HR managers can identify the degree of participants’ engagement using self-reports and analysis of personal perceptions of the program’s efficacy. Additionally, weekly or monthly meetings with mentorees and mentors can help identify and discontinue potentially toxic and unproductive relationships (Diversity inc., 2014).
The collected subjective data may allow identifying possible gaps in the learning course and mentorship schemes and make some corrections promptly. Later, within a 6-12 month period, the long-term outcomes can be estimated based on objective data about staff turnover, retention, and representation of different multicultural groups at distinct organizational levels. This assessment and follow-up plan can help design an effective training methodology and stimulate better elimination of existing cultural barriers.
Diversity Inc. (2014). Mentoring/sponsorship. Web.
Dobbin, F. (2017). Why diversity programs fail. Human Capital institute. Web.
Dobbin, F., & Kalev, A. (2016). Why diversity programs fail. Harvard Business Review. Web.
Jurevicius, O. (2013). Value chain analysis. Strategic Management Insight. Web.
Klasen, N., & Clutterbuck, D. (2012). Implementing mentoring schemes: A practical guide to successful programs. Oxford, England: Elsevier.
Rizy, C., Feil, S., Sniderman, B., & Egan, M. (n.d.). Global diversity and inclusion: Fostering innovation through a diverse workforce. Web.