· The biggest demographic change in the United States is the rise of the majority-minority; 92% of U.S. population growth is attributed to ethnic groups, while the growth in the working-age population will be as much as 83 percent (Loehr, 2015).
· By 2020, minorities are projected to make up 40 percent of the civilian labor force (Loehr, 2015).
While ethnic diversity is unquestionably an essential component of a diversified workforce, “creating a work environment that values diversity is not as simple as hiring individuals with a range of skin tones and language skills” (Na, 2015). Instead, by diversity we mean “valuing, respecting, and appreciating the differences (such as age, culture, education, ethnicity, experience, gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation, among others) that make people unique” (McNett, 2005).
Benefits of Diversity
One benefit of diversity is that organizations that recognize its importance will be able to compete more effectively for qualified individuals, enhancing their very survival. Indeed, companies that are leading the way in embracing diversity already have come to understand that “when you have a homogeneous company, it can be very difficult to get diverse candidates to even apply” (Gaudiano and Hunt, 2017).
The imperative to rework human resources strategies with diversity in mind, further stems from the growing recognition that “only in an environment of diverse perspectives, human experiences, and thinking styles can the conversations that generate the insight and new ideas required for innovation be sparked” (Na, 2015). That is, “diverse work groups often have more and better ideas because of broader backgrounds and experiences” (Kokemuller, 2017).
Moreover, “workplaces in which employees represent the basic makeup of the community population are typically better received by customers and the public (Kokemuller, 2017). The same holds true for companies working with global markets, as ethnic and cultural diversity often provides them with a better understanding of their global customers.
There is no single approach to working with diversity. “It is not only how a company defines diversity, but what it does with the experiences of being a diverse organization, that delivers on the promise” (Thomas and Ely, 1996). Foremost to improved outcomes is the need to obtain top management support and integrate diversity into all company functions. Beyond these initial steps, the best strategies for working with diversity are (Wentling, 1997):
- training and education programs
- organizational policies that mandate fairness and equity for all employees
- mentoring programs for minority employees
- more systematic career guidance and planning programs
- performance appraisal systems that are non-discriminatory
- outreach programs, such as internship programs, scholarships, targeting recruitment in the community, and lectures at schools.
Importantly, all forms of training should include awareness-building, skill development, application, and support (Wentling, 1997). Creating a corporate culture that supports diversity is especially important, as the “potential benefits of training will not be likely to occur unless trainees return to a supportive environment for applying what they have learned” (Wentling, 1997).
Company leaders who are cultivating diversity in their workplace clearly understand the benefits, including improved employee recruitment, innovation, and connectedness with diverse consumer groups. However, because of the growing diversity in our society, the ability of U.S. companies to leverage the incredible resource that those who are ‘different’ can offer is becoming ever more urgent.
Gaudiano, P and Hunt, E. (2017, April 10). The Top Eight Excuses that Inhibit Workplace Diversity. Forbes. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/gaudianohunt/2017/04/10/the-top-eight-excuses-that-inhibit-workplace-diversity/#43cfedc24899
Kokemuller, N. (2017). What is Diversity and How Does It Impact Work? Chron. Retrieved from: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/diversity-impact-work-15985.html
Loehr, A. (2015, April 22) These Four Workplace Trends Will Change Your Organization: Are You Ready? [Web log post]. Retrieved from: http://www.anneloehr.com/2015/04/22/four-workplace-trends/
McNett, J. (2005) Diversity in The Workplace: Ethics, Pragmatism, Or Some of Both? Understanding and managing diversity: readings, cases, and exercises. - Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson Prentice Hall
Na, Y. (2015, June 30). Diversity in the workplace, no longer optional. Flamingo. Retrieved from: http://flamingogroup.com/diversity-in-the-workplace-no-longer-optional
Thomas, D.A. and Ely, R. (1996, September-October). Making Difference Matter: A New Paradigm for Managing Diversity. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from: https://hbr.org/1996/09/making-differences-matter-a-new-paradigm-for-managing-diversity