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Workforce Diversity Management

(A Roadmap to its effective management)


This study is intended to highlight the diversity concept precisely workforce diversity, importance of workforce diversity and how it can be managed effectively in order to get most from it. It would concentrate on the issues involved in diversity management at work and how these can be overcome so that an efficient and effective workforce can be created for giving an outstanding customer service. The study would also present the difference in United Kingdom and United States diversity management concept. Further, the basic theme is how topmost companies have come to recognise the importance of workforce diversity and what initiatives they are taking for its resourceful management and how companies have known the fact that a multicultural workforce if managed properly could be a competitive advantage for the company. Best practices followed by successful companies for workforce diversity would also be discussed.

What is Diversity and Diversity Management?

Diversity can be described as set of visible and non visible differences that exist between people of different race, culture, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, region, age religion, marital status, ethnicity, politics, disability, family structure, socio-economic differences, values etc. And when we talk about managing diversity, we are referring to the harnessing of these differences to create a productive environment in which everybody feels valued, where talents are fully utilised and in which organisational goals are met (Kandola and Fullerton 1998).

Importance of diversity can never be underestimated; diversity enables companies to use fresh thinking, creativity, and multiple perspectives to respond fast and effectively to emerging customer needs. By making diversity a competitive advantage, we can make the company a better place to work, better understand our diverse customers’ needs, give customers and community’s outstanding service and deliver more value to our stockholders. Nevertheless, benefits of diversity can never be harnessed until and unless it’s managed properly so diversity management is foremost important and essential. Effective diversity management makes sure that each employee is valued for his/her culture, traits and skill, and make them aware that they can fulfil their ambition and can readily contribute to company’s success, no matter to what caste, culture, gender, religion, age and ethnicity they belong to, Importance of diversity(Anon,1999). An efficient diversity management forces to create a work atmosphere where each employee is given equal opportunity.

Workforce Diversity in a European Context

This section would concentrate on macro level labour market patterns and trends across the Europe, revealing the presence of inequalities of outcome within and between social groups like women, minority ethnic workers, disabled people ,older people and gays and lesbians. There is diversity on a large scale in organisations in Europe. This section would only discuss above five social groups at work in European context.

Women’s employment: patterns and trends

There is a slight similarity between UK and Europe in accordance to women to women labour participation in market. Number of women employed in European countries has risen from 50 percent to 55.6 percent from early 1990’s (EC, 2004).And it has been anticipated that it would continue to rise the percentage can go upto 60 in 2010.Whereas, the number of males employed has declined and this can be as a result of increasing unemployment rate in the Europe which has been a concern for European Commission Agenda 2000. It has revealed that almost two-thirds of jobs created in EU go to women (EC, 2001)

However, this increasing participation of women in employment does not mean that women have equality too, in the labour market. Women across EU are lowest paid, love lowest status and are given most vulnerable jobs. And in UK there has been an increase of women’s employment in part-time jobs. The year 1990 accounted for most of female participation in part-time jobs (EC, 1997a), where the percentage of women employment in part-time jobs grew from 28 percent to 36 percent (EC,2004), which rose 41 percent (Fagan and Burchell , 2004). Whereas, for men employment in part-time jobs was 7percent (which increased by 2 percent since 1990).The growth in temporary and fixed term working was taken almost equally by men and women in EU, (EC, 2001).

In EU women still face horizontal and vertical segregation; they continue to work in female dominated professions (Hakin, 1992; Fagan and Burchell, 2002). They are given more jobs which involve nurturing, caring and service activities, whereas, men take over management jobs and technical and manual jobs. Women take over two-third of service, clerical and sales jobs and three quarters of health and education jobs. Males dominate jobs in utilities, construction, transport, agriculture and manufacturing. (Fagan and Burcell, 2002).Across Europe women are increasing their participation in management and in particular in professional occupations like, medicine, law and accountancy.

Vertical segregation is still distinct in European countries, where female participation is 30 percent in management jobs and 25.4 percent seats in parliament, (EC, 2004).

Also, the wage gap between males and females is 16 percent where males have high wages in comparison to females, (EC, 2004).

Minority Ethnic Employment: patterns and trends

It is a very complex task to identify different ethnic groups on a European scale than on UK scale, broadly because Europe is migration continent and has highly segregated national labour markets, along ethnic and national lines. Five percent of working age resident people in European Union are ‘foreign’ workers or non national which accounts for 20-37 million people (Wrench et al., 2003). Whereas majority of these are from EU member states or from other parts of Europe. Whereas, workers from ‘third country nationals (outside of Europe) account for quite a significant segment of non nationals. The Africans account for a quarter and Asian about a tenth of non-nationals (EC, 1997a; 21).people from France, the UK, the Netherlands have history of colonial migration. So, they have more open and extensive citizenship rights. Second are people from countries like Austria, Denmark, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Luxembourg (‘active guest worker’) and in 1960s and 70s these migrants from these countries were precisely encouraged to fill jobs. Finally, from countries like Greece, Italy, Finland, Portugal, and Eire (‘new migration’ countries) substantial immigration took place since 1980.

Non-Western nationals (i.e. non EU) are the most disadvantageous in labour market of Europe. They are mainly given ‘three D jobs’-dangerous, dirty and demanding (Wrench et al 2003:6). These minority ethnic workers are most unprotected and vulnerable workers in the EU. These have higher rate of unemployment and have lower rate of economy than majority population and they are lowest paid and have lowest status jobs.(Wrench et al.2003).Particularly certain groups like Afghanis, Iranians, Iraqis and Somalis face 50 percent of unemployment rate, as do Roma and travellers (Wrench et al.,2003:6).Bangladeshi have 45 percent UK labour force participation rate as compared to 80 percent of majority ethnic rate which across the whole of UK is the widest.

According to Herzing (1995) ethnicity and gender are interconnected as minority women have the most vulnerable pay and status as compared to women and men of ‘majority’ culture. This is based on the research done in Belgium, Netherlands, UK and Germany. Also, as minority ethnic groups face discrimination by employers and inside wider society and face unemployment, illegal work has also become a concern, especially in countries of Southern Europe.

Workers with Disability: Patterns and trends

It is very difficult to compare the definition and methodology followed in classifying disability in between the UK and Europe, as the collection of data methods used are different across different nations.

As per results based on the Eurbarometer(2003), a surveywhich involved around 16,000 interviews, people with disability in any form be it a learning difficulty, mental illness or even a physical handicap would be at a disadvantage in comparison with ‘normal’ people. This would usually follow suit in terms of recruitment, performance appraisal, training and even promotions.

According to statistics as mentioned in EIRO (2001), the people of the overall employees consist of very few disadvantaged workers.

A significant number of the disabled employees were usually those who “lost out” whilst working at the same firm and due to their disability were not able to move across different organizations despite available opportunities. This highlights the restriction of mobility in the labour market for the disabled. However, according to Hyde (1996), there might be a section of individuals who might take advantage of the situation and for the social benefits attached on the long term and potray their disability for real, which may point out on the accuracy of the scale of measurement being used as well. Henceforth, to predict a more accurate figure, there is still much work to be done in classifying disability.

Older Workers: Patterns and Trends

One can build a relation between age and disability. According to EIRO (2001), approximately half of the total disabled workers classified in Europe fall under the age group between 50 and 64.

The major issue to be dealt with would be to promote participation of the available population, for the fact that the age group of those available reflects to be on a higher side. Hugman (1994:1) observed certain trends such as increasing number of population aged over 65years, an increment in life expectancy and growth in number of older people.

For a sudden fall in the number of young adults over the past decade, it has further been estimated that half the working age population across members of the EU would remain less than 40 years of age by the year 2015.(EC, 1999).

As, suggested by Moore et al. (1994:1) the labour participation has been inversely proportional to the growth in terms of their increasing numbers. Further more in comparison to countries like Japan, which has around 44 percent participation of old-aged workers; members such as Italy have experienced abysmal statistics with 10 percent results. According to the Euro barometer (2003), 71 percent of respondents think there are fewer chances in recruitment opportunities, promotions, performance appraisal and even training, for people of 50 years of age.

Gay and Lesbian Workers: Patterns and Trends

The European Union is very strict against any discrimination against individuals on basis of their sexual orientation.

However, as per ILGA (2003) reports only member states as Belgium and France have been able to comply with the minimum standards of what has been laid by the EU.

ILGA (2004) identified differentiation between individuals based on these grounds wherein homosexual were denied equal opportunities towards a job application.

There needs to be a more concise and accurate legislation be passed for ending this discrimination completely.

Euro barometer (2003) survey across 17 countries has already indicated 5 percent of the working population being witness to discrimination on grounds of sexuality.

Same sex spouses are denied the same benefits as being made available to “normal” couples, which again as pointed out by ILGA (2004) potrays more direct discrimination to be actively prevalent.

Diversity Management: A Critical Approach

As discussed above, we saw that in EU the workforce diversity is not been harnessed properly, as it is very difficult to make all EU to be great with diversity management. Diversity creates an environment in the organization where different ideas and views born inspite of difference in caste, religion, gender, culture, nationality and race. The benefits from a diverse-workforce cannot be explored until and unless the diversity is not management i.e. the existed differences are not are not compiled in such a manner which makes each employee feel as part of the culture of the organization, this can be done only if there is no discrimination and each employee is given equal opportunity, (NCVO, 2005).

The above definitions of Managing Diversity contrasts with 1960s and 1970s assimilation theories, which looked upon organisation and society as generally a melting-pot. According to Nkomo(1991) as they led to conviction that assimilation is a one-way process which requires minorities to accept the practices of majority and the norms. If a crowd or group wasn’t looked upon as to have assimilated then it was presumed that the problem lies with the crowed or group and not in the dominant culture.

According to Kandola and Fullerton, managing diversity, if it has an overriding image of an organisation, sees it as a mosaic. Differences come together to create a hole organisation in much the same way that single pieces of a mosaic come together to make a pattern. And each piece is acknowledged, accepted and has a place in the whole structure.

Under diversity management it is important that each employee has equal opportunity, however, several authors looked upon on managing diversity, differently than equal opportunity in several ways (Ross and Schneider 1992; Hall and Parker 1993; Jamieson and O’Mara 1991; Dickson 1992; Thomas1990):

  • Firstly, equal opportunity concentrates on the issues related to discrimination whereas, diversity management makes sure that all people maximise their potential and contribution towards the organisation.
  • Secondly, diversity management is a notion that embraces a broad collection of people, whereas, equal opportunity about and for ethnic minority women and disabled people.
  • Thirdly, diversity management focuses on movement within the organisation, on the culture of organisation, and in fulfilling business goals or objectives and on the other hand equal opportunity just focuses on the numbers of differently employed groups.
  • Fourth, managing diversity is a concern for all employees, particularly managers within a company or organisation. Whereas, equal opportunity is a concern of mainly personnel practitioners and also of human resource practitioners.

Importance of Workforce Diversity and perceived benefits

What is diversity?

Importance of diversity

Importance of diversity at work

Why effective management of workforce diversity is essential

Issues involved in diversity management

How can issues be overcome and steps for effective diversity management

European n us diversity concept.

Cases of certain multinational companies which are taking initiatives towards managing workforce diversity and have set examples. best practices .critically evaluate

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