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Managing Diversity

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Essay title: Managing Diversity

Introduction

Thirty years ago discrimination was a part of normal business activity. Work place diversity meant hire outside of your family not outside of your race. As a result, the federal government felt impelled to create employment laws. These new laws were implemented to eliminate discrimination and provide the means for advancement. As a consequence of this implementation, these laws have created possible barriers to maximizing the potential of every employee (Chan, 2000).

Recently, the concept of diversity has completely changed from before. It is predicted that by the year 2005, women, minorities, and the disabled will dominate the workforce ("Managing Diversity", 1999). Organizations that are viewed as biased against these groups will not attract the competent workforce. Today, it is vital that organizations prove its impartiality in order to be successful in a constantly changing business environment.

The previous process of handling diversity entailed expecting people to assimilate to the new cultures. They were forced to adapt to fit the mold of company's dominant culture. The new process treats diversity as an asset. Actually, good diversity management does not require employees to assimilate. It encourages them to develop their strengths and present innovative ideas ("Managing Diversity", 1999).

What is managing diversity?

"Workforce diversity management has become one of the pressing issues that managers must address" ("Managing Diversity", 1999). In my opinion, the most general definition of managing diversity is: Diversity management is a long-term process. It means extensively analyzing a company's current culture and changing those parts that limit cultural diversity. Also, it means recruiting new employees for the skills they can bring to the company rather than their cultural homogeneity. Lastly, it means working with a management team to help them understand that cultural diversity is a business issue, and their own careers will benefit from enabling their employees to reach their full potential ("Managing Diversity", 1999).

According to Dr. R. Roosevelt Thomas Jr., author of Beyond Race and Gender (1997), the problem of diversity is not limited to questions of race, gender, ethnicity, disabilities and sexual orientation. Differences that replenish energy and undermine productivity and performance in an organization extend to issues like personality styles (Gordon, 2000).

Diversity management contains three (3) components:

1. Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action programs direct attention to laws that guide recruitment and promotion.

2. Valuing differences centers on interpersonal qualities that shape management's relationships with their employees.

3. Managing diversity focuses on the diverse quality of employees' work-life needs such as childcare, family leave, and flexible holiday schedules. It requires setting policies and procedures that empowers managers to meet employees' needs (Galagan, 1999; Jenner, 1994; Wilkinson, 1999).

Organizations intending to survive will need to implement all of the components listed above. Managing diversity will eventually make Affirmative Action and valuing differences unnecessary (Thomas Jr., 2000). -

Why manage diversity?

Diversity needs to be managed as a result of the demographic changes in the workforce. Surveys have revealed that demographic changes will reshape the workforce and the marketplace. They include:

 An increase in the number of minorities and immigrants in the labor pool

 An increase in the number of women in the workforce

 A shift in values with more workers putting loyalty to career above of loyalty to the company and seeking more balance between work and home life

 Illiteracy is on the rise, and simultaneously many jobs require a more skilled work force

 An aging population overall

If a business is to succeed, these individual and cultural threads must be woven into corporate fabric (Overman, 1997). The disadvantage of not having a diversity strategy can be high turnover costs, dissatisfied workers who sabotage quality, or costly settlements in discrimination cases.

"Managing diversity is managing human resource needs," says Ben Harrison. (Jenner, 1994).

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