The United Kingdom labor market has been significantly influenced by the need to promote diversity and equal opportunity for their employees. According to Schedlitzki and Edwards, the concepts of diversity and equal opportunity are significantly different although they both focus on creating an enabling environment for employees irrespective of their gender, race, religious affiliation, or any other demographical differences.1 Both have become critical aspects of human resource management, especially when a firm has a diversified workforce. They help in eliminating dissatisfaction among workers, unnecessary differences, and tension that may affect the effective performance of employees. In this paper, the researcher seeks to compare and contrast equal opportunities approaches and diversity management approaches in the workplace within the UK labor market.
Understanding the Concepts of Equal Opportunities and Diversity Management
It is necessary to start by understanding the two concepts and their relevance in the modern workplace environment. The concept of equal opportunity focuses on creating a workplace environment where one’s gender, age, race, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, or any other demographical factor does not define how one is treated.2 Traditionally, men were considered superior to women as they were perceived to be physically stronger and more intelligent. It was also common for the minorities such as people of color to be considered inferior to whites. For a long time, Muslims have been closely associated with acts of terror, especially because of suicide bombings witnessed in the country and other parts of the world.3 As such, some employers would discriminate against such employees. Equal opportunity seeks to eliminate such stereotypical beliefs and creates an environment where everyone can flourish. The human resource manager focuses on an individual’s capacity instead of their demographical classification.
Diversity is another popular concept that human resource managers have to take into consideration in the workplace. The concept acknowledges that there is diversity among employees in terms of their gender, race, religion, political affiliation, or such related demographical classification. Instead of ignoring these differences, it seeks to find ways of utilizing them to achieve growth and to promote career development for employees.4 In this case, the manager will focus on how a female employee can effectively take advantage of their gender to facilitate organizational growth. A woman is in a better position to understand the needs of female customers. Similarly, an Islamic client can help a firm to find a way of effectively serving the growing number of Islamic clients. Instead of their demography being a factor that creates differences, it becomes their strength.5 As they help a firm to understand and effectively serve different niches in the market, they also create avenues for career growth.
Comparing Equal Opportunities Approaches and Diversity Management Approaches in the Workplace
An effective manager in the current labor market in the United Kingdom must understand how the concepts of equal opportunity and diversity management. They must understand how these factors affect the morale and general performance of their organization. They also need to know how they affect the image of their firm in the current competitive business environment. It is necessary to start by analyzing equal opportunity and diversity management approaches.
Equal Opportunity Approaches
Achieving equal opportunity within an organization requires deliberate steps to be taken by those who are in the management. In the UK labor market, there is a growing wave for firms to create equal opportunities for their workers irrespective of their demographical classification.6 The following are some of the major approaches that a firm can use to promote equal opportunities:
The creation of a culture of inclusion and fairness is one of the common approaches. This approach requires the management to inculcate a culture of inclusiveness among employees. One should not consider their gender, race, or age as a factor that makes them superior to others. Instead, they need to realize that every employee has a right to opportunities that a firm has to offer.7 The principle of fairness should define actions that employees and managers take, especially in the recruitment and promotion processes. There should be a deliberate effort to help those who may face challenges in undertaking their duties.
Regular training is essential when trying to promote equal opportunity for workers. It is normal for the management to promote employees who are highly skilled, self-driven, and experienced in specific fields. Most of these desired skills are gained through regular training.8 The management needs to take all the employees through relevant training. It makes it possible for everyone to gain the needed expertise that can facilitate their career growth. It makes all employees realize that they have equal opportunity to climb the career ladder, depending on the effort that they place.
Identification and elimination of unconscious biases are essential in promoting equal opportunities for all employees. According to Price and Karna, one of the major challenges that organizations face in their quest to promote equal opportunities is the existence of unconscious biases.9 Many managers or junior employees may not even realize that they are biased against people of a specific gender, race, religion, age, or religious affiliation. In this approach, the management is expected to talk about these biases and their dangers.10 Talking about them helps those who are unconsciously biased to understand the existence of the problem and the need to eliminate it.
Promoting equality and fairness in the recruitment process. Köllen explains that at the initial stage of hiring employees, a firm should ensure that it gives people an equal opportunity to work for the firm.11 The composition of the population of the firm should be a perfect reflection of the society in terms of gender, race, religious affiliation, and other demographical classifications. One’s gender or age should not be a factor that qualifies or disqualifies them from the job as long as they can do it. When equity is promoted at this stage, employees will realize that they have equal opportunities to achieve career growth at the firm.
Diversity Management Approaches
The United Kingdom labor market has embraced the concept of diversity management as a way of enhancing sustainable growth. However, different companies use different strategies based on what the human resource manager believes works best for the firm. The following are some of the main ways of managing diversity in an organization:
Identity blindness has been one of the common approaches in managing diversity in the workplace. In this strategy, the manager does not emphasize the gender, race, or any other demographics of a worker. Instead, the emphasis is placed on the individual capacity and performance of an employee.12 In such an environment, an employee knows that their promotion will be based on their effort and unique skills as opposed to their gender or skin color. The strategy is meant to promote a culture where employees realize that the demographics of an individual cannot be considered a strength or weakness.
Assimilation is one of the oldest strategies for managing diversity in socio-economic and political settings. In this case, the minority groups are assisted to understand and embrace a culture that the firm has set. Allen explains that the strategy involves teaching new employees a language of the majority, helping them to embrace organizational practices.13 It creates a uniform cultural practice within a given organization. It helps in creating uniformity and a sense of equity.
Inclusive differentiation is a relatively new strategy that is rapidly gaining popularity in managing diversity. In this case, the HRM unit acknowledges and appreciates the differences that exist in terms of age, race, gender, religious beliefs, and sexual orientation among others.14 However, it also acknowledges the significance of each of these groups in a firm’s success. It means that when trying to address specific problems, the management will focus on the group that has the best capacity to address them. When developing a product for men, male employees will be involved because they have the best capacity to understand the needs of these clients.
Equitable transformation is another relatively new strategy for managing diversity. As Allen observes, it starts by appreciating that in the society, there are those from advantaged and others from disadvantaged backgrounds.15 The goal of the manager is to help those from disadvantaged backgrounds to achieve success in the organization without making others feel disenfranchised. It seeks to promote equity and fairness but in a way that promotes unity among workers.
Comparing the Two in the Workplace Environment
The analysis of equal opportunities approaches and diversity management approaches show that they have a lot in common in a workplace environment. As shown in the analysis above, the two focus on creating an equal environment for growth among employees. They seek to ensure that demographical classification does not define one’s career path. Instead, such a worker is defined based on individual effort, unique skills, and commitment to the firm.16 They remind workers that their success in the firm directly depends on what they deliver instead of who they are.
Equal opportunities and diversity management both focus on creating unity among employees. Price and Karna explain that a firm that cannot promote equity and manage diversity among workers breeds chaos and division among workers.17 A section of the employees will constantly feel entitled to various benefits while another group will constantly feel neglected and disenfranchised. The two divisions will constantly focus on bringing each other down instead of helping the firm to achieve its vision and mission.18 Creating unity among employees creates peace and enhances the performance of workers.
The two approaches both seek to promote competitiveness among employees. In both cases, employees are made to realize that their demographical classification, especially gender, race, and religious classification, does not define their ability to get promoted in the workplace. Instead, they must demonstrate their effort, unique skills, and commitment to the firm to achieve career growth.19 In such an environment, employees will focus on improving their skills instead of prioritizing who they are. As such, the enhanced competitiveness of employees enhances their overall performance within the firm.
Contrasting Equal Opportunities Approaches and Diversity Management Approaches in the Workplace
It is important to note that there are differences in how these two approaches influence HRM within organizations. Understanding these differences makes it possible for the HR manager to understand how and when to apply them in an organizational setting. The discussion above shows that equal opportunity primarily focuses on creating an environment for all employees to achieve career growth. It eliminates barriers that limit growth opportunities for a section of employees while at the same time eliminating a sense of entitlement that others may have because of their race, gender, or religion.20 On the other hand, diversity approaches seek to create an enabling workplace environment. It seeks to eliminate factors that create challenges for employees to work together. It eliminates biases that make some workers feel rejected and dejected in their place of work.
The discussion above shows that diversity approaches largely acknowledge the differences that exist among employees and then try to find ways of making the best out of it without making anyone feel inferior. It reminds the workforce that diversity makes them unique and that they can use their uniqueness to achieve success in their endeavors.21 The firm reminds them that their uniqueness is needed in facilitating the sustainable growth of the firm.22 Although there is no disproportionate emphasis on one’s gender, there is a constant reminder that everyone is special the way they are and that they have a unique role in facilitating a firm’s success.
On the other hand, equal opportunity focuses on creating an environment where diversity is seen as a less important factor within the firm. It creates a workplace environment where gender, race, religion, and religion are not considered major factors in defining one capacity.23 It reminds everyone that they cannot achieve any special favors because of who they are. Instead, they have to demonstrate what they can do to the firm, which makes them stand out among the rest. The firm creates for the employees equal opportunities in terms of training, earnings, working hours, ability to engage in creative activities, and such other related factors. They are then expected to demonstrate their commitment and talent to earn specific promotional opportunities.
Diversity management and equal opportunities have become essential in the modern business environment. The discussion above demonstrates that companies in the UK are under immense pressure to eliminate all forms of discrimination in the workplace. There is a need to ensure that all employees feel respected and valued at work. However, one cannot eliminate diversity among employees. HR managers have to find ways of working with people of different races, ages, gender, political affiliation, religious beliefs, and sexual orientation. On the one hand, they have to ensure that they make use of these differences to ensure that they can serve their diversified customers in the best way possible. On the other hand, they have to ensure that these differences do not become a factor that defines the ability of an individual to achieve career growth. Instead, one’s success should be based on competence and commitment to the firm.
Allen M, ‘Decent Work: Gender and Equal Opportunity Policies and Outcomes’ (2021) 8(29) Decent Work 53-67.
Grebe-Grotefend N, Equal Opportunities Equals Diversity Management – Or Not? A Critical Evaluation of the Extent to Which These Concepts Differ Conceptually and Legally (München GRIN Verlag 2017).
Köllen T, ‘Worshipping Equality as Organizational Idolatry? A Nietzschean View of the Normative Foundations of the Diversity Management Paradigm’, (2020) 36(2) Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business 109.
Price K and Karna N, Planning Effective Instruction: Diversity Responsive Methods and Management (Boston Cengage 2019).
Schedlitzki D and Edwards G, Studying Leadership: Traditional and Critical Approaches (Sage Publications 2022).
- Schedlitzki Doris and Gareth Edwards, Studying Leadership: Traditional and Critical Approaches (Sage Publications 2022).
- Grebe-Grotefend Nicole, Equal Opportunities Equals Diversity Management – Or Not? A Critical Evaluation of the Extent to Which These Concepts Differ Conceptually and Legally (München GRIN Verlag 2017).
- Price Kay and Nelson Karna, Planning Effective Instruction: Diversity Responsive Methods and Management (Boston Cengage 2019).
- Köllen Thomas, ‘Worshipping Equality as Organizational Idolatry? A Nietzschean View of the Normative Foundations of the Diversity Management Paradigm’, (2020) 36(2) Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business 109.
- Ibid 109.
- Ibid 109.
- Allen Maria, ‘Decent Work: Gender and Equal Opportunity Policies and Outcomes’ (2021) 8(29) Decent Work 53.
- Ibid 58.
- Ibid 61.
- Ibid 65.
- Price Kay and Nelson Karna.
- Schedlitzki Doris and Gareth Edwards.
- Köllen Thomas.