Almost Heaven PLC is one of the leading beverage manufacturing and distributing companies in the United States. Founded in 2000 by Charles Madison, the company has grown to become one of the dominant players in the industry. However, the market has numerous challenges that the firm has to overcome to ensure that it remains sustainable. Stiff market competition, new punitive government regulations, environmental concerns, and labor union pressures are some of the major challenges that the organization has to overcome. Hussain et al. explain that in every competitive market, a firm has to find a way of outperforming its rivals in terms of efficiency in production, quality of products, and competitiveness in pricing (129). The management of Almost Heaven PLC understands these challenges and is always keen on finding ways to overcome them in the best way possible. It understands the need to ensure that its activities pose minimal threat to the environment while at the same time assuring it of attractive profits.
The management understands the significance of conducting regular market research and monitoring emerging technologies while at the same time understanding and observing new laws and regulations set by the government. In this paper, the focus is on addressing the challenge of managing a highly diversified workforce. According to Janićijević, the United States has one of the most diversified communities in the world because of the continued immigration (77). The difference in cultural practices and beliefs means that it is common to find cases where employees view the same issue from varied perspectives. Although the country has made impressive strides in fighting racism, cases of racial intolerance have been witnessed in the country in the recent past. Racial tension and other forms of intolerance to diversity in society are often spread to the workplace environment unless a firm has an effective mechanism of addressing it. Age, gender, and sometimes political affiliations may also cause conflicts when introducing a new policy in the market. Almost Heaven is one of the companies that are affected by the problem of conflicts arising from the inability to manage diversity effectively. As a beverage manufacturing firm, the company serves a highly diversified market, which means that it is critical for the management to embrace diversity within its workforce. The company also has to deal with the challenge of unionization in some parts of the country. This paper will focus on finding an effective solution to these human resource concerns.
History of Organization
Almost Heaven was founded in the year 2000 as a small retailer of beverage products for large companies such as the Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo. As these two major beverage rivals introduced new policies for their suppliers that required them to remain loyal to a specific company, Charles Madison decided to start his manufacturing firm. He named it Almost Heaven. He promised his customers quality products that were healthier than what the existing firms were offering. It had understood the expectations of customers and was willing to meet them in the best way possible. He started the company with two types of drinks, the Cola Fun and Sweet Lilly in 2006. These two products gained massive popularity in the market and by 2010, the firm had expanded its product portfolio to 8 other products.
The firm started experiencing massive growth in 2011 as it opened new production plants in various major cities across the United States. The firm used segmentation and targeting in its marketing strategy. It segmented the market, understood the specific needs of each segment, and then provided products that met their needs in the best way possible. This strategy proved effective in attracting a large pool of loyal customers. Unlike some of the major rivals that offer a wide range of products that target the general market, this firm has been very specific with its products. It is also important to note that the management of Almost Heaven has deliberately overcome the pressure to expand to the international market. Its operations have been limited to the United Kingdom. Currently, the firm has over 50,000 employees directly involved in the production and distribution of its products in the country. It has also made a profit of $ 980 million in 2020 at a time when many companies were registering net loss because of the effects of COVID 19. It has also ensured that all its employees have retained their jobs during this period when the world is battling the pandemic.
Almost Heaven is operating in one of the most competitive markets in the United States. Although the Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo are the leading companies with the global image, there are other numerous players which are not as popular as the leading two. In this environment, major companies have to find strategic ways of ensuring that their operations are sustainable despite the possible challenges that they have to face. In this section of the report, it is necessary to assess the environment in which the firm operates. The analysis will focus on the competition, regulations, opportunities, and the strategy that different firms use to achieve competitiveness in the market.
Competition in this industry is huge. Currently, the dominant player in this industry is Anheuser-Busch InBev which registered sales worth over $ 52.329 billion. Nestle was ranked second, with a sales value of 42.115 billion dollars. The Coca-Cola Company was the third with an estimated sales value of 37.266 billion dollars, while PepsiCo was fourth with a sales value of 30.894 billion dollars (Osterwalder et al. 41). These sales values were based on the official records that these companies provided in the financial year that ended on December 31, 2020. The values indicate that these firms were able to overcome the numerous challenges that the world faced during the pandemic of last year. It is also necessary to note that the leading four companies have an active presence in the global market.
Competition in this industry has been getting increasingly stiff over the years. Although the leading firms have been successful in dominating the industry for the past several decades, their competitive strategies have not stopped other firms from getting into the American market. It is important to note that in the last ranking of the world’s largest beverage companies, the first two were not American firms. Anheuser-Busch InBev is a Belgian company while Nestle is from Switzerland. It means that the market has been receptive to foreign companies keen on tapping into the existing opportunities in the market (Roome et al. 6). Numerous other local firms have emerged over the years, targeting specific market segments or specific geographical locations in the country which are not effectively served by the existing players. Despite the challenge of a highly competitive market, Almost Heaven has managed to achieve growth, and it is currently experiencing attractive sales increase in the market.
The market has strict regulations that individual players must observe to ensure that their operations are within the law. The United States has enacted various laws and regulations meant to protect consumers from unfair practices in the market. The Federal Trade Commission Act and the Consumer Protection Act are some of the major pieces of legislation that strictly guide the operations of companies in this industry (Rošker 158). The Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform are the other pieces of legislation that these firms have to observe (Zhu and Chhachhar 144). They are meant to ensure that the operations of these firms are beneficial to their customers. These laws are also meant to protect consumers from substandard products or unfair pricing in the market. They also ensure that customers always get what they are promised by a firm. It means that it is illegal for a firm to provide misleading information to customers in their promotional campaigns.
The current administration has promised to strictly implement environmental laws as a way of protecting the world from global warming and climate change. One of the regulations that guide the operations of a firm is the Clean Air Act of 1963 (Harper 83). This legislation focuses on limiting the amount of greenhouse gases that a firm emits within a given period. It has also introduced strict regulations regarding poisonous gases from the industrial sector. It is the responsibility of every firm to ensure that their industrial operations do not pose any significant challenge to the environment. The Clean Water Act of 1972 was enacted to limit the discharge of industrial effluents (pollutants) into the country’s surface water (Figueroa et al. 87). The goal was to ensure that industrial activities in the country do not negatively affect rivers, streams, wetlands, lakes, and the coastal line. The beverage firms in this country are often subjected to regular strict supervision to ensure that their operations do not pose any threat to the environment. Other major pieces of legislation that guide the operations of companies in this market include the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act and the Endangered Species Act (Sharma 44). Others include the Emergency Planning & Community Right-to-Know, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA) (Reiche et al. 65). The government has remained very strict in ensuring that OSHA is observed in the industrial sector to ensure that employees are protected from any physical harm when they are in the workplace. Firms such as Almost Heaven and its rivals in the market have to ensure that workers are not exposed to poisonous gases or an environment where they can be physically harmed while they are on their daily duties.
The market presents massive opportunities that firms can tap into to achieve sustainable growth. According to Bailey et al., the United States has remained the most attractive market for many major companies around the world because of various factors (59). One of them is that the country has one of the highest purchasing powers in the world (Falco and Mastrandrea 76). The massive population of more than 300,000 also makes it an attractive market for many companies. Sharma explains that unlike in China where the government directly controls the business activities of large companies, the United States government has always avoided directly interfering in the business operations of companies as long as they follow the set regulations in the country (86). Firms are always assured that there will be no direct or indirect interference from the government.
Almost Heaven faces numerous growth opportunities in this market. One of them is the ease of access to highly skilled labor in the country. The labor market in the United States has been growing over the years. Cogin et al. argue that one of the most important success factors for a firm is the level of skill and competence of its human resource (98). The company has invested in identifying skilled employees and subjecting them to regular training to ensure that they acquire the skills needed to deliver quality services. These employees have played a critical role in enhancing the success of the firm. Ease of access to the capital market is another growth opportunity that this firm has. Accessing the capital market has been essential when the firm needs loans to facilitate its expansion initiatives. The popularity of this company’s products in the market is another major strength that has enabled it to attract a large pool of loyal customers. The management of this firm currently considers the United States an attractive market that can sustain its operations without the need to consider expanding to other markets within the region or around the world.
The strategy that a firm takes in the market defines its ability to fully take advantage of the existing opportunities while at the same time overcoming challenges that it may face in its operations. The strategy is often defined by the firm’s mission and vision in the market. The mission of Almost Heaven is to provide healthy beverages for its consumers in specific segments of the market. Segmentation has been one of the most defining strategies that this company has been using in this competitive market. Instead of producing beverages meant for the larger market, it has been targeting specific market segments. One of the major market segments that this company target is the youth. The firm has a wide range of drinks that are meant to serve the youth. The company also targets children between the ages of 8 to 11 with specific drinks that they find appealing. In each segment, the firm uses different promotional strategies that will be most effective in convincing the targeted audience.
The management of Almost Heaven understands that competition in the market is stiff. As such, its expansion strategy has also involved reducing competitive rivalry in specific regions and segments of the market. In 2016, the company acquired Teneez Fun, a soft drink company that specifically focuses on the Youth. The move not only expanded its market share in the country but also enabled it to expand its product portfolio. It was able to add new products that were already popular in the market within a short period. In 2019, the company acquired, Ellena PLC, another beverage company that focused on meeting the needs of customers in rural areas within the United States. Acquiring the infrastructure and employees in these regions enabled Almost Heaven to expand its market share. These strategies have enabled this firm to become one of the major players in the industry.
The success of a firm in overcoming market challenges depends on the effectiveness of the management and the commitment of its employees. As shown in the chart below, at the helm of leadership of this company is Charles Madison who is the founder and the current chief executive officer. Lilian Smith is the chief financial officer of the company. Edwin Mealy is the current head of the marketing department, while Debora Melly is the chief operations officer. James Jackson is the logistics director. These individuals have been responsible for defining the strategic direction of the company despite the numerous existing challenges. Susan Davidson is the head of the human resource department.
It is important to note that each of these individuals has unique traits. Charles is an introvert that rarely engages in social gatherings. However, he remains an accessible manager whenever his attention is needed by junior officers and he is always present at all board meetings. When important decisions are made. He prefers delegating some duties to departmental heads. On the other hand, Edwin is a social person who is always at ease in the presence of the masses. He likes mingling with his junior officers and rarely delegates his responsibilities. Lilian’s personality can be defined as that of a strict person who always wants everything done on time and in the right way. She always supervises the work of her superiors and does not mind helping them understand specific responsibilities in a way that is expected by the top leadership of the firm. Debora is just as social as Edwin. However, she is sometimes unpredictable, especially when it comes to making critical decisions. Her unpredictability often keeps her junior employees alert and willing to change whenever it is necessary to do so. Susan is a strict but approachable person. She has been keen on promoting diversity at the company. Despite the differences in personality of these top executives, they have learned to work as a unit to ensure that the mission and vision of the firm are realized.
The top executives of this firm have formed an entity with specific values that define the operations of the firm. One of the major values that it cherishes is integrity. The management always emphasizes the need to all the stakeholders, especially its employees, to be truthful at all times as a way of enhancing trust. When handling customers, they have to provide reliable information and respond to their questions in the most sincere way possible. The public relations department is always under the directive to provide truthful information to the masses even if it may have a negative impact on the firm in the short term. Employees and top managers are also expected to be truthful in internal communication. The management has created an environment where trust is considered top propriety by the stakeholders.
Diversity is another value that the firm cherishes. The top management unit of this firm has created an environment where everyone, irrespective of gender, age, race, religious affiliation, or any other demographical classification feels respected and valued. Racism and gender discrimination have been major issues in the United States (Figueroa et al. 5). The company understands that in a diversified country, a firm can only achieve sustainable success if it embraces diversity. As such, its policies emphasize the same. Collaboration is another value that key people in this firm have embraced. At the top management level, these individuals value teamwork and everyone is encouraged to share their ideas when trying to solve various challenges. The same practice has been spread across the firm and it is always strengthened by regular retreats to help promote team spirit.
Individual top managers have varying abilities, making them suitable for the positions they are holding. Although Charles is an introvert, he is a skilled debater, capable of listening to the needs of his subordinates and responding to them accordingly. On the other hand, Lilian’s strictness has enabled her to create an environment where everyone feels that they have to strictly follow rules and regulations of the firm. Although she is unpredictable, Debora has a unique ability to introduce and sustain change within the organization. She understands how to make people appreciate the need for change. She also knows how to assist employees to shift from one platform of operations to the next. Edwin is a social man who has the ability to collect information from people he interacts with easily. He works well in a diversified environment and has played a critical role in encouraging people to understand and embrace diversity. Susan has a unique capacity to understand the needs and expectations of employees in different settings. She is a strict but considerate person who always assists new employees to adapt to the company’s environment.
Formal Organizational Arrangements
It is important to analyze the formal organizational arrangement of Almost Heaven. It helps in determining the flow of information from the top management unit to the junior-most employees and back. The organizational structure also helps in determining the common leadership structure and style that the firm uses. Osterwalder et al. explain that in the United States, open-door policy and unstructured leadership style are gaining popularity as firms realize that employees can work effectively without strict supervision (74). It was necessary to determine if the claim is true at this firm based on its leadership principles.
Structure of the Organization and Physical Layout
Almost Heaven is using a standard organizational structure shown in figure 1 below. At the top of the management unit is the chief executive officer. He is the head of the organization and is responsible for approving major projects and defining the strategic direction of the firm. The company secretary is the chief legal officer of the firm and an adviser to the CEO and other top executives. The chief financial officer, chief operations officer, human resource manager, marketing director, and logistics director are the heads of the major departments in the organization. They report to the chief executive officer. Under them are mid-level managers and junior officers of the firm.
The company has specific rules and policies that guide its operations in the market. One of its defining policies is that the customer is the key to every action that all stakeholders in the company take. This policy informs the constant market research that the firm often conducts to determine the current and emerging needs of customers. In the past, the company would hire marketing companies to physically interact with customers and collect the information needed. Currently, the digital data platform has redefined the approach of data collection and processing (Sharma 75). The company is currently collecting market information from social media platforms. Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter have become effective platforms for data collection. They are better than traditional platforms because they enable the firm to directly respond to clients and engage them in discussion forums where misunderstandings and misinformation can be addressed.
Almost Heaven embraces an open-door policy in its human resources. Although there is a clear leadership structure from the top manager to the junior-most employee, the firm has a rule that allows all employees, irrespective of their managerial position, to directly engage senior managers, and vice versa, whenever that is necessary. That strategy had created an environment where employees feel respected and valued in the firm (Figueroa et al. 7). It also promotes creativity and innovativeness among workers because they can easily share their ideas with their superiors, which makes it easy to develop them into strategies or products. The open-door policy also enables the top managers to understand challenges that employees go through and how they can be addressed effectively. When making important policies in the firm, the top management unit often involves all employees. The rule is meant to ensure that all stakeholders own these new policies and feel that they have the responsibility to ensure that they are effectively implemented. Such a strategy also helps in minimizing cases of resistance, which are common when people feel that they were not consulted when enacting new strategies.
The company also introduced a new rule allowing official communications to be made through social media platforms. For a long time, Almost Heaven has been using social media platforms to promote its products and brand in the market. However, it has been reluctant when it comes to using these platforms in making official communications with its customers and among employees. However, it has become increasingly apparent that future communications will be defined by social media (Sharma 69). As such, the management has been keen on finding ways of making social media part of its official communication platforms. The firm currently allows its employees to make official communications with customers and amongst themselves.
Having a team of highly skilled employees requires a robust recruitment strategy. According to Figueroa et al. (9), different companies employ varying strategies to recruit employees to undertake various activities based on several factors. At Almost Heaven, the company has been employing a yearly recruitment strategy. Candidates would submit their applications at different times of the year. At the end of the financial year, the human resource department would review all the applications and develop a shortlist of candidates who will then go through further screening. They will be interviewed to determine their suitability for the position. At every stage of screening, each candidate would be assigned marks based on standard criteria. When the candidates’ credentials have been verified (for those who are successful enough to reach that stage), then the selection process will be based on their performance. Depending on the number of employees needed within that year, the company will select those who demonstrate they have the highest skills and talent in their pool. It is important to note that although recruitment is regularly conducted yearly when an urgent vacancy arises, the firm would hire urgently to meet the need. In such cases, the recruitment would consider potential candidates who are already in the database waiting for the screening process.
Employees form a critical component of a firm, especially when operating in a highly competitive business environment. The level of success of a firm is defined by the skills and competencies of its employees. Retaining highly skilled and talented employees require an effective remuneration strategy (Osterwalder et al. 121). At Almost Heaven, the firm has avoided the temptation of having a uniform remuneration plan. Instead, it uses a unique strategy that ensures everyone is paid based on their perceived value to the firm. The first basis upon which people are paid is the number of years they have spent in the firm. It means that those who have stayed longer in the firm get higher salaries than those who have been there for a short period.
The second criterion is the nature of the job that one does at the company. Accountants, engineers, and those who are responsible for specialized tasks earn less than cleaners, loaders, and the rest who are responsible for non-specialized tasks. The final criteria is an individual’s performance. The firm keeps a record of the performance of every employee in each department. Those who record high performance in their respective units of work and are considered invaluable earn higher salaries than those that the firm believes can easily be replaced. As such, it is not possible to find cases where employees of a similar cadre earning the same salary. This strategy tends to motivate employees to register improved performance because they know the firm is monitoring their performance and is keen on rewarding everyone’s effort.
Goal Setting/Management by Objectives
The firm often reviews its goals and objectives based on various factors and challenges that it faces in the market. The firm uses management by objective (MBO) as a strategy for setting goals and objectives. MBO is a strategy that emphasizes the need to involve employees, irrespective of their position, in the decision-making process. The goal is to ensure that everyone feels to be part of the strategy and feels committed enough to implementing policies developed. It is an effective way of minimizing cases of resistance to change in the organization. As shown in figure 2 below, this strategy takes 4 steps.
The first step is to review the current organizational objectives. The aim at this stage is to determine if the current goals are still relevant towards achieving the vision and mission of the company. The company often involves all relevant stakeholders in the process. According to Reiche et al., sometimes weaknesses are often identified by some of the lowest-ranking officers in the company (112). As such, their involvement enables the company to have a thorough investigation of the internal processes and operational strategies. The second step is to set employee objectives (Figueroa et al. 10). When setting employee objectives, the goal is always to correct the identified gaps in the current strategies. Although the human resource department is often responsible for setting these objectives, the views, and opinions of employees themselves and top managers at other departments are also considered. Once the previous objectives are achieved, as each set of objectives is always time-bound, the team would then consider pursuing the next set of objectives based on the environment within which the firm is operating.
The next steps involve conduct monitoring and evaluation. Once new objectives are set, the operations of employees would be designed to achieve them. The assignments that they have to undertake and how individual employees should work within their respective teams should be based on the new objectives. The human resource management will monitor their performance and evaluate how well they are working in the new environment. The primary aim of the monitoring and evaluation process is to identify weaknesses of the employees and gaps in the assignments taken to help the management to develop appropriate remedies. The process also helps in identifying the effectiveness of recruits within the firm.
The last stage involves the reward. The company has been using the reward strategy to ensure that its employees are effectively motivated to engage effectively in the production process. Harper observes that the reward strategy has proven to be one of the best ways of ensuring that employees are effectively motivated to register the best performance (81). By the end of every financial year, the human resource department often identifies those who have registered the best performance based on the objectives that had been set at the beginning of the year. These individuals would then be offered a financial reward as a recognition of their effort. They will then be publicly recognized as a way of ensuring that they are celebrated. Reiche et al. believe that public recognition is one of the best ways of motivating employees (57). Almost Heaven has used this strategy successfully.
As explained in the section above, this company often conducts a regular evaluation of employees’ performance, especially by the end of the year. The company has been successful in introducing performance contracts among its employees. Based on the agreed objectives, every employee would commit to achieving a specific level of performance by the end of the year. The human resource unit will then review the output of every employee by the end of the year against the set objectives. Those whose performance is below the expectations are often reminded that they need to improve. In case the poor performance is consistent for several consecutive periods, they may be replaced if the option is available. The initial alternative is to take them through relevant forms of training to ensure that they have a set of skills that can enable them to improve their productivity. Employees whose performances are within expectations are often encouraged to improve to maintain their performance and continue enhancing their skills. Those whose performance exceeds expectations would be effectively rewarded as a way of ensuring that they are motivated appropriately.
Training & Development
The beverage industry remains one of the most competitive sectors in the United States. The sector has been growing because of its relevance in the country. The success of a firm in this competitive market depends on the skills, talents, and commitment of its employees (Reiche et al. 94). As such, Almost Heaven, just like many other competitive companies in the country, has been keen on sharpening the skills of its employees. Immediately after recruitment, the new employees often go through rigorous training at the firm’s campus in its headquarters. The training, which often takes 2 months, is meant to enable the recruits to understand the policies of the firm, its culture, approach to various tasks, especially handling employees, and to orient them to their specific assignments in different departments. The company has also been investing in the regular training of its regular workers after every three years. The training sessions are meant to equip its employees with new skills based on emerging trends in the market.
Almost Heaven introduced a scholarship plan in 2016 for its employees seeking to further their studies. Although everyone is qualified to get the financial assistance to further their education, the firm has been keen on selecting those who demonstrate high levels of loyalty and commitment to the firm for such programs. These developmental programs have enabled the company to empower its employees with unique skills. To ensure that such highly trained workers are retained in the firm, the company has introduced attractive remuneration packages. Employees are also given an environment where they are free to innovate. These strategies have been critical in ensuring that this firm retains a pool of highly skilled and self-motivated employees.
Almost Heaven is a beverage manufacturing and distributing company. The process involves numerous tasks that have to be completed successfully to ensure that these products are made available to customers. These assignments have to be defined in clear terms. As such, numerous tasks require variety of skills and competencies. As such, it is critical to ensure that the firm has a team with a variety of skills to help in undertaking various responsibilities. The human resource department of this firm has been using various unique strategies of ensuring that the right team of employees is assembled. One of the strategies that the firm has been using is the job characteristic model.
Job Characteristics Model
This model has remained a popular tool for defining tasks, especially when it is necessary to have specialized employees responsible for various assignments. The model, also known as the VISAF model, identifies five stages of developing a team of uniquely skilled employees. The first step defines skill variety. It involves determining the level to which a given job requires a variety of skills (Sharma 39). Some assignments may require an employee to have more than one set of skills. For instance, a sales job may require an employee to have driving skills as well as the ability to communicate with customers and convince them to purchase a given product. Assignments that require a variety of skills are often defined at this firm and employees are taken through proper training to ensure that they have the necessary capacity to deliver.
The second step, as shown in the model below, is task identity. It involves determining the degree to which a given task will require one to complete a specific assignment from the initial stage to the end with a visible outcome (Reiche et al. 52). Some assignments are a long time and it may not be possible to assess their outcome within a short period, such as enabling a firm to become a leading player in a given industry. Others may be short-term such as making a successful entry into a given market. At Almost Heaven, the management has maintained a system of identifying the nature of tasks. Task significance is the next level of analysis. It involves assessing the level of impact that a given job will have on people and a firm. At this stage, the company often classifies assignments based on their impact on the firm’s stakeholders (shareholders, top managers, customers, and employees). As Harper observes, shareholders’ primary goal is to increase their profits, top managers always want to achieve expansion, and employees want attractive remuneration, while customers seek to have quality products at competitive prices (81). Tasks that meet the goals of these stakeholders in the best way possible are always prioritized.
The autonomy is another factor when defining job characteristics. It involves defining the level to which a firm offers freedom and independence to employees in terms of their performance (Sharma 51). Some tasks require close supervision because of their level of sensitivity while others can be completed with minimal supervision. Employees need to understand the level of sensitivity of their assignments. The last factor in this model is the feedback. It defines the degree to which a given task offers clear information to employees on what their performance is (Reiche et al. 112). An assignment such as convincing a specific customer to purchase a given product has clear feedback. By the end of the session, it will be easy to determine if one was successful. On the other hand, other assignments may not have such clear and instant ways of determining the performance of the employee. In such cases, the management of Almost Heaven often sets short-term goals that can easily be assessed. Figure 3 below is a VISAF model.
Intrinsic motivation is essential in enhancing the performance of employees. The use of financial rewards is a common strategy that the company often uses. Workers who register impressive performance are often paid bonuses by the end of the year. It is a sign that the management is appreciative of their effort and is willing to reward it. Promotion is another strategy that Almost Heaven uses to motivate workers. Those who are highly committed to the firm and are willing to achieve career growth are often rewarded accordingly. These strategies have been effective in creating a pool of skilled and self-driven employees.
Internal Work Motivation
The management has created an internal work motivation system meant to enhance the productivity of employees. One such strategy is matching employees’ skills and personal preferences with their assignments. When assigning them specific roles, the human resource unit always assesses their skills to determine that they match. As Sharma notes, it is necessary to ensure that employees are also engaged to ensure that they would prefer working in specific departments (67). When an individual is assigned a task they understand, they tend to be motivated to deliver higher performance.
The management of Almost Heaven has been keen on creating an environment where all its employees, irrespective of their religious or cultural background, gender, or age, feel comfortable while working at this firm. The company has an informal organizational culture that encourages the need to embrace diversity. Osterwalder et al. believe that sometimes it is necessary to create an informal environment to encourage a given desirable practice without making people feel that they are coerced (34). At this company, the human resource department has been promoting a culture that makes it possible for employees to police themselves and to discourage all forms of extremism.
Work Group Properties
The top management unit has created a system where each department is expected to define its unique ways of operations as long as the primary goal is realized. Most of the tasks in the marketing unit, production department, and other departments in the firm are conducted in groups. Although there are no formal requirements in terms of the composition when forming these groups, there is always an informal policy that requires these groups to be diversified. In every group, it is always necessary to ensure that there is an effective representation of people of different gender, race, and age. Older people tend to be more experienced and capable of understanding how to address a given problem using various strategies, while the younger generation tends to be better at understanding and embracing emerging technologies.
Norms, Sanctions, and Status Hierarchy
The company has also created some norms meant to promote diversity in its operations. One of them is the prohibition of language that people of a given gender or race may consider offensive. Although there is a clear status of hierarchy in terms of one’s managerial position, the open-door policy that it uses means that it is easy to share ideas among all employees when necessary. The management of this firm has also been keen on fighting the formation of cliques defined based on people’s race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or other demographical classifications that may lead to divisions.
Leadership within the Informal Organization
At Almost Heaven, there is an informal leadership that has been created to facilitate the effective implementation of different tasks. Most of the tasks are often conducted as projects. These projects would be handed to specific individuals with the right skills in each of these departments. In these projects, there will be a project manager responsible for guiding the activities of that particular team. In most cases, the project manager is an employee who is not holding any managerial position. The strategy is meant to equip them with leadership skills. When the project is completed, they will assume their normal positions within the firm. When there is another project, another employee would be granted the opportunity to be the leader. However, factors such as organization skills, team spirit, communication skills, and other traits are often considered before granting a leadership role to a given employee.
The company has also encouraged inter-group relations. The ability to meet customers’ expectations in the best way depends partly on how information is shared within the firm. The marketing unit, especially those who are involved in sales, regularly interact with customers (Reiche et al. 92). They are in the best position to understand their needs based on the feedback they get. Information that such groups collect is often shared with other teams in other departments. Teams in the production department need the information to help them redefine their products and production strategies. They also need it to define the amount of output needed within a specific period. Teams in the logistics unit need the information to plan how to ensure that products are made available in different geographic locations depending on the demand.
The output of employees is often defined by various factors. According to Sharma, one of the critical factors that define the output of employees is their level of satisfaction and happiness (90). When employees are happy and satisfied, they tend to perform better even if they are not highly skilled. On the other hand, when they are constantly subjected to an environment where they feel unappreciated, their performance will drop. The management of Almost Heaven has invested in empowering its employees and in creating an enabling environment where they can work without feeling disparaged.
Specific traits of employees define their productivity. One such trait is absenteeism, as Falco and Mastrandrea (86) observe. When employees fail to regularly report to work, their performance will significantly drop. The quality of their work will also drop. At Almost Heaven, the human resource department has created an environment that discourages absenteeism among workers. Although all workers are entitled to annual paid leave and sick leave, other cases of absenteeism are highly discouraged. Most of the activities at this firm (manufacturing, transportation, and sales) require the physical presence of employees. As such, they are required to be presented at their respective workstations.
The turnover of the employees at this firm has been inconsistent during this period of COVID-19. The management has noticed that some of the employees of this firm lack motivation because of the cases of discrimination that have been reported at this firm. Some of the employees feel that there are profiled because of their race, making it difficult for them to rise in ranks to senior managerial positions. Reiche et al. believe that when workers believe that they are unfairly denied promotion opportunities, their performance may significantly drop (45). Their effort will also drop when they feel unappreciated.
The effectiveness of the workforce at Almost Heaven experienced a significant drop in 2020 following the COVID-19 pandemic. The firm was forced to stop its operations when the country was under lockdown. Some of the employees lost their family members and colleagues during the period. Casual employees who were not provided with a medical cover were significantly discouraged during this period as they struggled to meet their medical cover during this period. The firm’s profits dropped significantly while the return on assets within the same period also dropped compared to that of the previous financial period. The firm’s market share has not performed as badly as other financial indicators as the products of the company have remained popular within the country.
The overall performance of Almost Heaven has been relatively undefined within the past year. While the profits and effectiveness of individual employees have dropped, the overall market share of the firm has not been negatively affected. The firm’s market share increased significantly within that period, especially after it acquired other firms. The management believes that the drop in performance of its employees is attributed to the challenges that the human resource department has experienced over the recent past.
Analysis of Organization
Almost Heaven has achieved impressive growth over the past two decades. The firm has impressive growth opportunities despite the numerous challenges that it faces in the market. However, the analysis shows that it is facing a major challenge when it comes to managing diversity. Some of its employees have complained that they feel racially profiled. They have blamed the human resource unit for failing to grant them the promotion that they feel they deserve. While the company has promoted team spirit among its employees, a section of workers has reported cases of racial discrimination when selecting project managers and other team leaders. The situation has resulted in the formation of undesirable cliques on the basis of race, religion, age, and other demographical classification. The management appreciates the existence of this problem and has made a concerted effort to address it. It is necessary to assess the strength and weaknesses of these strategies that the firm is using to address this major challenge.
Strengths, Weaknesses, Incongruences
The firm has used various strategies to fight racism and other forms of discrimination. One of them is the use of teams to help promote integration. The main strength of this strategy is that it enables people from diverse backgrounds to work as a unit and to understand one another’s background. Such platforms make it possible to address existing stereotypes (Falco and Mastrandrea 75). They get to understand that despite the differences in gender, age, and race, they have a lot in common that can enable them to work together for the mutual success of the firm. However, the main weakness of this approach is that it may exacerbate the differences if care is not taken to address conflicts that may arise from time to time.
A major weakness in addressing this problem is the refusal by a section of the stakeholders of the firm, including some top executives, to accept that the problem exists. Some of these stakeholders believe that the firm has done everything within its powers to promote diversity and to fight all forms of diversity. They believe that everyone has been offered the same platform to achieve career growth at the firm. Indeed the composition of top executives at the company, as shown in figure 1 above, shows that both men and women are effectively represented at the top level of management. However, the same cannot be said when the analysis is done in terms of race. Only one person is of African American race in the top managerial level and there is no representation of the Hispanics. It may reaffirm the claim that the firm has failed to provide equal career growth opportunities to minorities in the country. It validates their claim that a section of the employees is unfairly favored at the expense of the rest of the population.
The incongruences at the human resource unit can best be assessed using Nadler & Tushman model. It has widely been used to diagnose the performance of firms to identify specific weaknesses and find appropriate solutions. This model identifies four primary components of performance, and they include task, people, culture, and structure (Sharma 43). The four have to fit together to achieve congruence in an organization. The assessment has revealed that these four factors do not fit together because one of them (people) is affected by the problem of racial intolerance. Some workers feel that they are discriminated against and denied promotional opportunities. Such a feeling often has a direct negative impact on the performance of such employees. Although the other components of N&T (task, culture, and structure) are registering satisfactory performance, the fourth factor has a major weakness that still has to be addressed. The management will need to find a way of ensuring that everyone feels respected and valued. Promotional strategies should be clearly articulated to ensure that no one feels that they are denied the opportunity to achieve career growth primarily because of their race, religious beliefs, gender, age, political affiliation, or any other demographical classification.
The challenge of managing diversity in the workplace is not a unique problem to Almost Heaven. Numerous companies in the United States are faced with the same problem. Falco and Mastrandrea explain that racism is still a major problem in the country despite the major improvements that the country has registered in fighting this vice (78). African Americans still feel racially profiled by the police, in the education sector, and at workplaces. Although most companies prefer not to publicly discuss the issue, they are struggling with the problem silently. Almost Heaven has decided to face the problem directly and find a way of addressing it. The analysis that the HR department conducted revealed that the problem was worsened in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic when it was noted that the majority of casual laborers who lacked job security and insurance cover were Hispanics and African Americans. The HR department introduced a diversity management unit to help find a lasting solution to the problem.
The top management unit, through the HR department, has reiterated its commitment to ensuring that it has a diversified workforce. One of the ways in which this department has used to enhance diversity is what it describes as a fair employment strategy. In this approach to hiring new workers, the firm always selects those who are most qualified for specific jobs irrespective of their demographical classification. However, it sometimes deviates slightly from the strict merit-based criteria to consider diversity as a factor. As such, an individual who was ranked second may be selected for the job instead of the top candidate to ensure that there is gender, race, or age balance at the firm.
The top management unit must find a way of addressing this problem to ensure that all its employees feel valued and that they all have equal opportunities to achieve career growth. The action plan for this firm should be broken down into short-term and long-term strategies that will offer lasting solutions. Everyone should be actively involved in the process of solving this problem.
Developing short-term goals may help in defining small gains needed to achieve the primary goal. The following recommendations should be considered:
- The firm should encourage the creation of diversified teams to help promote diversity in the workplace. Regular employee retreats may help in promoting diversity;
- The company should invest in training employees to make them understand their value and role in the firm. On-job training should be emphasized to help employees gain practical skills.
The following long-term goals can also help in solving the problem that has been identified:
- The human resource department should clearly articulate the promotional strategy that it has been using. It should be based on qualifications and performance of the workers;
- The recruitment strategy should be redefined to ensure that the firm has a diversified workforce. All forms of discrimination should be avoided at all costs in the recruitment process.
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