Diversity and Multiculturalism in the Workplace


Diversity and multiculturalism are terms that are often used interchangeably, but there is a significant difference between them. Diversity is the general differentiation between people which can include various characteristics. Meanwhile, multiculturalism is a deeper delve into the concept focusing on inclusiveness and inequality. This report will investigate the differences between the two and compare them.

Diversity will be examined from the perspective of the workplace, determining its benefits of enhanced productivity and the challenges of establishing communication. Several HRM practices will be described with methods of how they can be improved to improve diversity management within a company. Diversity is a complex idea that goes beyond traditional views of hiring minorities. It requires a carefully crafted approach and tremendous cultural shifts to ensure the sustainability of such human resource change.


Cultural diversity is defined as a variety of cultural and ethnic groups present in a social setting. The modern world thrives on cultural diversity as transportation, communication, and technology have greatly improved the ability of people to connect and travel around the world. Culture is considered to inherently influence behavior and personal values which contributes to specific practices. Globalization of the economy is a primary driving force to cultural diversity in business as companies expand their operations and seek out new talent. Diversity and multiculturalism are closely intertwined aspects in the modern workplace which can offer significant benefits but pose several challenges, thus requiring the need for identifying diversity principles and applying them competently into human resource management (HRM) practices.


Diversity is by definition, the differences between individuals which can include gender, race, orientation, religion, background, socioeconomic status, and other characteristics. From a human resource approach, diversity is often examined as meeting compliance with standards from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). A diverse staff in a workplace ultimately means a wide variation of characteristics and backgrounds from employees, each offering unique experiences and a set of skills. Therefore, diversity ensures that different perspectives can be highly beneficial in a range of business and decision-making scenarios (Human resource management, 2016). Diversity in this context attempts to combine the critical differences and push them towards a common goal.

Diversity in the workplace is a critical aspect that is the objective of many businesses. With its numerous benefits described later in this report, diversity helps to provide innovation, attract a range of talent, and shift the workplace culture and worldview of the whole organization. However, diversity is extremely difficult to achieve, despite genuine and comprehensive strategies that have been developed and attempted by large companies. One particular error in this is due to enterprises failing to align diversity needs with organizational goals, which is further instigated by a difference in the design and implementation of diversity policies (Shemla, 2018).

The definition of diversity itself implies significant differences among individuals which can explain the difficulty for one organization appealing to a diverse group of individuals. An organization must be united by common goals and characteristics that similar types of people are likely to share. Therefore, while some diversity is expected, it is likely the majority of employees in most organizations will be homogenous depending on the region and sector of operation.


Multiculturalism is a more complex concept and an extension of diversity wherein a social group, the differences are not only recognized and accepted but also promoted. The term describes the action of going beyond acknowledge but highlights the necessity to comprehend and respect individuals despite their differences. In turn, this leads to inclusion and a serene and efficient co-existence amongst people with a focus on the advantages of each background.

Also, an important aspect of multiculturalism is the realization that society has an unequal distribution of power among individuals based on their characteristics and race. The concept portrays the social system as one of the advantages based on race and gender among other traits that provide power and privilege in all contexts (Human resource management, 2016).

Similar to diversity, multiculturalism has profound impacts on the workplace, but from a slightly different perspective. It affects the workplace climate, deeply influencing employee attitudes to increase the proximal integration of practices. In other words, it fosters cohesiveness and respect, fostering honest communication and important conversations that positively impact interactions.

The workplace environment is enhanced since individuals feel welcomed and appreciated in a multiculturalism perspective, pushing them to be happier and more productive (Jackson & van de Vijver, 2018). In turn, multiculturalism improves customer service and the reputation of the company. Instead of a superficial marketing approach, multiculturalism offers a hands-on approach where consumers feel welcomed by diverse employees who speak their language or know unique customs.


Diversity seeks to identify the differences among individuals which can encompass race, ethnicity, appearance, gender, sexual orientation, culture, language, values, beliefs, religion, and political views among others. Multiculturalism is a subcategory of diversity, focusing on the culture within a more complex context of promoting inclusiveness, respect, and identifying inequality. The concepts are similar but paradoxically opposite. While diversity makes one aware of the differences and the benefits or disadvantages of being in a particular population segment, multiculturalism strives towards recognizing, understanding, and accepting these differences to live in a union.

As evident, the two concepts differ in their perspectives on the differences between individuals. However, for most people, the terms are interchangeable and are correlated with factors such as gender or race. Diversity is more a legal concept with policies aimed to increase minority presence and decrease discrimination. Meanwhile, multiculturalism is a theoretical and ethical approach to the issue, attempt to understand the root of inherent divides among people and within society.

As managers, it is important to recognize this and introduce policies that not only highlight diversity but nurturing multicultural compassion (Human resource management, 2016). The ultimate goal is that the concepts can be combined to avoid using minority numerical figures as a measure of diversity but utilizing HRM practices to shape better workplaces.

This would be the definition of an inclusive organization, where people can be themselves and contribute to the collective no matter their identity which makes them diverse. However, creating inclusion in a diverse organization will likely create conflict due to the tensions and challenges of such polarizing initiatives. Inclusion in this context is paradoxical since its components of identity self-expression, social boundaries, and comfort are inherently paradoxical (Ferdman, 2017). Therefore, the comparison of diversity and multiculturalism extends by definition to inclusion which an organization strives to achieve.

Analyzing Diversity

Although diversity is an HRM aspect that many companies hope to achieve due to its positive impacts on results and performance, it takes a deeper analysis to study why this occurs. At its core, workplace diversity can impact several operational and human management factors in a business. However, is a multifaceted issue, which poses its benefits and challenges that should be considered before implementing relevant diversity strategies.


Data from hundreds of companies suggests that there is a statistically significant relationship between diversity and financial success. Companies within the top quartile of gender diversity were 15 percent more likely to demonstrate better financial indicators in comparison to the national industry median, with the rate going up to 35 percent for racial or ethnic diversity (Hunt, Layton, & Prince, 2015). Diversity offers positive influences on a variety of organizational performance indicators and practices which ultimately leads to such companies demonstrating better results.

Diversity and relevant human management practices hold an advantage in talent recruitment. A strong focus on women and ethnic minorities helps to attract better talent to the workforce in the current competitive and scarce market. Diversity also improves employee satisfaction since such workplaces are usually more friendly, tolerant, and supportive of its workers, leading to both professional and personal fulfillment as well as fewer conflicts. Diversity helps strengthen customer orientation since the involvement of women and minorities in the decision-making process helps to reach large groups of consumers that are less targeted.

Furthermore, a diverse staff offers a greater customer perspective which allows management to respond to rapid market developments and conduct culturally appropriate campaigns. Also, the concept has generally been known to foster innovation and extend creativity since multicultural teams offer better approaches for problem-solving and ideas. Finally, diversity is known to improve a company’s image in the modern world of social media scrutiny, legal requirements, and overall social responsibility (Hunt, Layton, & Prince, 2015).


Diversity is a sensitive and complex concept, which can create significant problems for a company if not handled properly. Introducing diversity requires a significant cultural shift in the organization that could be met with resistance without proper strategies and training. A change management plan will have to be developed which is both costly and time-consuming. Disagreements and incompatibilities will likely arise among employees due to cultural, ethnic, religious, or value-based issues. As a result, the workplace can become a toxic environment due to prejudice and lead to decreased employee satisfaction which causes lower productivity and high turnover. Diverse and multicultural teams may experience challenges in communication due to cultural or language barriers.

Furthermore, to meet legal diversity requirements, companies must engage in selective practices, affirmative action, and potentially decline more viable candidates that restrict natural market competition and (Mor Barak, 2016). Ultimately, the extent of the disadvantages which a business experiences due to diversity can depend on several factors such as the region of operation and the competency of the mix of inclusion practices that HR implements.

Applying HRM Practices

Considering the aspects of diversity and multiculturism as well as examining the benefits and challenges of diversity are largely theoretical perspectives. The difficulty of competently applying the concepts to real-life HRM practice requires examination of various strategies that are used to implement diversity in the workplace. The interaction and relationships among managers, supervisors, and employees are guided by HRM and it is, therefore, the department’s responsibility to ensure relevant diversity practices are in place.

Recruitment and Selection

Recruitment and selection are the most vital function of HR as it is used to attract the best candidates which directly affects the success of the company and helps to attain the competitive edge. This process is also directly influential on the diversity factor since potential employees are examined for their unique characteristics and backgrounds. Although anti-discriminatory laws prevent hiring practices based on race, age, gender, or other factors, organizational priorities to achieve and maintain diversity directly correlate with recruitment practices.

HR can influence a more diverse range of candidates by setting specific qualifications in terms of education, language knowledge, and experience. Furthermore, job advertisements can be placed in ethnic languages, and a multicultural manager selection committee can be formed, encouraging potential employees to realize that the company is seeking to diversify their workforce (Bhatti, Alshagawi, Zakariya, & Juhari, 2018).

Retention and Affirmative Action

Staffing must follow specific colorblind and gender-neutral policies to eliminate biases when working with any candidates or employees. Most Western countries and US states have a variety of equal employment legislation which prohibits discrimination during hiring or employment. Meanwhile, affirmative action establishes specific quotas, or at the very least incentives, for hiring minority groups as qualified staff to accurately represent demographical trends and outreach to vulnerable populations, enhancing diversity. HR departments usually cooperate with government authorities and have tools to ensure adequate hiring practices.

Meanwhile, to increase retention, HRM must implement employee inclusivity strategies, and introduce cultural training within an organization which would enhance tolerance and allows to better manage diversity-related conflicts (Downey, van der Werff, Thomas, & Plaut, 2014). In turn, this will dramatically affect the workplace culture, leading to a removal of barriers that will allow minorities to break the glass ceiling and establish a diverse presence in the company.

Pay and Benefits

In the context of diversity, fair and equal pay is an important aspect of HRM to ensure. Salary structures should not be dependent on diversity characteristics at all but focused on the role and responsibilities of each professional.

However, benefits can be modified to meet the needs of diverse groups, allowing employees to choose from. For example, Generation Y may be focused on saving more to prepare for financial challenges as well as desiring more wellness initiatives (Tillman, 2012). Rewards should support the promotion of diversity, with bonuses and sponsorships offered to employees who foster multicultural collaboration and contribute to the inclusivity of diversity practices. Performance bonuses should be equally calibrated across the diverse spectrum of employees to prevent unequal payouts.

Implications for HRM practice

Globalization and rapidly changing workforce compositions are pushing human resource management to evolve and find new solutions that would promote organizational change, diversity, and supporting a culturally-inclusive company climate. Diversity management policies must be implemented as it provides HR staff with the ability to manage employees from various backgrounds as well as helping to create harmony in multicultural working interactions. As diversity becomes a central component of national laws and social expectations, HRM will be expected to modify many of its numerous functions such as recruitment, training, record keeping, and conflict resolutions to adapt appropriately while remaining transparent and accountable (Abidi, Zaim, & Youssef, 2017).


Most managers would assume that a diverse workforce is only advantageous, simply from a perspective of promoting balance for the sake of innovation, opportunity, and legal or social mechanisms. However, some tradeoffs must be considered. Diversity, in all its senses, including gender, race, age, and education, can be a paradoxical concept.

Since diversity simply represents a spread of individuals based on one of the previously listed contexts in a specific environment, it does not necessarily mean that everyone is in an optimal place nor that they are provided with similar opportunities (Moreno, 2012). As evident in modern practice, many companies hire minorities or women in largely symbolical or dead-end roles, with true influence remaining in the hands of traditional population segments.

Despite the numerous benefits of diversity, the concept brings several challenges with it, which are difficult to easily resolve in the current society. Such aspects as equality concerns to optimal placement of individuals in the workplace for successful diversity management can be daunting for businesses that are now faced with external scrutiny. The ultimate challenge is being able to understand a delicate balance between equality and differential treatment (Ramos, Hewstone, Barreto, & Branscombe, 2016). As a result, cultural differences should be recognized, and meaningful measures implemented to drive cohesiveness among employees.


Diversity and multiculturalism remain separate but closely intertwined concepts in the context of the modern globalized economy and multicultural business practices. Diverse labor forces bring both positive aspects and certain challenges for enterprises, which must balance the legal, social, and cultural ramifications of diversity management. Inherently, this leads to the evolvement of HRM practices to recognize and address this trend, taking concrete steps in modifying and preparing companies to face increased diversity in the future.


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