This essay argues that quality and diversity have become strategic organizational issues for business today. Market globalization reinforces the importance of intercultural communication, since majority of big corporations employ people from a variety of backgrounds. For this reason, management of diversity is one of the most important human resources tasks. Visionary and effective diversity management reduces the probability of conflict in organizations and increases efficiency, productivity, and employee satisfaction.
Elashmawi and Harris (1998) acknowledge the impact of diverse workforce on market and underline the fact that successful companies should go to great length to avoid ‘multicultural business clashes that occur between people from diverse cultural backgrounds’ (p. 62). In the contemporary workplace, failure of an organization can be in many cases attribute to ineffective management of diversity: ‘When there is weak leadership and management of diversity within an organization, a variety of problems and issues can arise’ (Sonnenschein, 1999, p. 25).
Development of healthy, tolerant and productive organizational culture is only possible under the conditions of visionary intercultural management. The elements of a successful model of diversity management, as suggested by Cox (2001), include sensitive leadership, education, aligning systems and practices, and follow-up activities. Inability to adhere to this model might have far-reaching negative implications for business operations. As concerns practical measures aimed at utilizing the potential of a diverse workforce, there is a number of ways to manage diversity in the workplace.
First of all, the process starts with recruitment. Underutilized minorities, women, and disabled citizens often possess unique skills crucial to a company’s success. It is important to make the job look attractive to the abovementioned groups and encourage them to come to an interview. It is also necessary to ensure that interviewees are not stereotyped on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, skin color, age, disability, or sexual orientation. Finally, it is a must to make all the appropriate arrangement for disabled employees starting with the day of interview.
Secondly, developing intercultural skills among managers and employees is of paramount importance. In a multinational environment, employees are likely to have different experiences and sums of knowledge. Problems might include misunderstanding of basic terms of cooperation and prejudices against other team members. To avoid them, management should establish a clear framework for cooperation and enforce ethical standards. Intercultural awareness and competence among managers and employees can be achieved through specific training programs.
Managers can understand the culture of their employees better by gaining insights into its origins, including history, religion, and politics. Knowledge of the issues of race, ethnicity, and religion are invaluable for effective leaders. The most effective way to comprehend a different culture is to compare and contrast it with one’s own your cultural identity. People with a deep understanding of their cultural self are likely to possess strong intercultural skills: ‘[A]s you learn to understand and accept your own culture, your intercultural communication improves’ (Jandt, 2006, p. 85).
William Sonnenschein (1999) suggests that teambuilding and enhanced communication are the first steps towards the effective use of cultural diversity for competitive advantage. Teambuilding activities can improve socialization and counter negative perceptions employees might have about their colleagues. If a working environment is multilingual, all employees shall have the perception that they are not discriminated on the basis of language.
This can be achieved by using only one working language or providing effective interpretation. Finally, there should be certain institutional adjustments made for effective management of diversity. Many companies have set up special position of Equity Officer responsible for monitoring workplace situation; employees can also report cases of discrimination to this person. If discrimination cannot be stopped by conventional dispute resolution methods, Equity Officer is mandated to take appropriate legal action.
It is of paramount importance to communicate to employees that any violation of equity or workplace ethics will be immediately and severely punished: alternatively, incivility will grow at an exponential rate (Bensimon, 1994, Andersson and Pearson, 1999). Special arrangements should be made for managers in charge of a foreign operation in a different country. In order to minimize the impact of culture sock on global managers, a company should train them in intercultural awareness and provide support at the initial stages of working in a new location.
If a company succeeds in building an inclusive work environment, it will be able to attract and retain a talented workforce, reflecting the growing diversity of worldwide business community, and encourage creative thinking and cooperation. In such an environment, mutual respect is the key principle, and every employee’s contribution is valued. Diversity management can be an effective way to tackle many problems facing many contemporary organizations, including high stress levels among employees, low job satisfaction, absenteeism, and high turnover. As Thomas and Ely (2003, p. 62) put it, effective diversity management ‘will lift morale, bring greater access to new segments of the marketplace, and enhance productivity. ’
However, if the company fails to manage diversity efficiently, it might suffer from negative consumer image, loss of advertising revenue, discrimination suits, litigation expenses (in both time and money), and legal fees and settlements (Magazine Publishers of America, 2008). Therefore, diversity should be regarded as a strategic resource for successful organizations. Managing diversity is one of the most crucial human resources tasks in the contemporary workplace.